15 Rules to Writing Subject Lines

A typical subject line only allows you 50 characters, including spaces, and this is all that could be standing between you and your reader’s attention. So, how are you going to ensure that this little line is going to work for you and not against you?

A strong subject line will prevent your email being discarded to the junk file or even deleted. Make sure you read through our 15 golden rules to create your own sparkling line for your next email marketing campaign.

Rule 1: Look to your local newspaper

Grab a copy of your local newspaper and take a look at the headlines. You will see that an effective headline clearly states the most important facts about the story in only a few words, and this is exactly what your subject line should do. Tell them what they can expect from your email in a short, sharp and succinct line.

Rule 2: There is not one rule for all

What may work extremely well for one email campaign cannot be relied upon to do the same for every campaign you run. For example, a subject line which is about a discount offer is not going to work for an up-sell or a news update.

Rule 3: Test, test and test again

It is important that you test your subject lines as much as possible to try and determine any trends or patterns which may be occurring.  If possible try and pre-test your subject lines. Why not add an extra day to creating your email campaign in order to try and test the response to various subject lines?

Rule 4: Don’t repeat yourself in the ‘from’ line

Your ‘from’ line allows your recipient to know who has sent them the email and your subject line lets them know what it is about. If your company name is present in the ‘from’ line then there is no need for it to feature in your subject line. However, it is worth thinking about branding your subject line, for example, with the name of your email newsletter. This will enable it to catch your recipients’ attention when scanning their inbox.

Research has found that recipients take a look at the ‘from’ line first before, the subject line, when they choose to open an email.

Rule 5: Most important information first

A subject line will generally allow you a minimum of 50 characters including spaces, although some allow more, 50 is the minimum. Therefore, it is important to employ these first 50 for your most key facts.

Rule 6: Open rates are not 100% reliable for subject-line success

Take a look at all the subject which are associated with your highest conversion rates, these can be click through, sales, downloads etc. If you look deep enough you may find in your web analytics that some things do not add up. You might find that there is an email with a low open rate but received a high sales-per-order rate.

This may suggest that your subject line appealed to a small section of your target audience. It is important to remember that your end goal is no always high open rates but to have the people who do read your email to take the action you desire.

Rule 7: Personalisation

In order to personalize your subject line, base it upon your users’ product preferences, their interests or past purchases. However, it is important not to do this too heavily as they may have bought their last item as a gift for someone else. One technique is to make it easy for your recipients to modify their data and preferences so they receive information they want and will find interesting.

Rule 8: Set a deadline

Creating a sense of urgency in your emails will drive your recipients to act. Include lines such as ‘Order by midnight’ or ‘5 Days left’ to push your readers to purchase.

Rule 9: Beware of spam filters

Experienced email marketers will know that there is not much difference between a ‘catchy’ subject line and a ‘spammy’ subject line. It is important to run your subject line and the email of your content through a content checker. This will act to highlight any ‘spam-like’ words and phrases which you may have used. One thing which will set off the spam filters is using all capital letters in your subject lines and using more punctuation than necessary such as exclamation marks.

Rule 10: ‘Free’ should not totally be avoided

Although employing the word ‘free’ for the 1st word of your subject line will set off the spam filters, using it elsewhere is perfectly fine. It is also true that your recipients will respond well the ‘free’ so it is a shame not to make use of this response.

Rule 11: Always be honest

It is important not to lie to or mislead your recipients with your subject line regarding the content of your email. If you make false claims your recipients will begin to distrust you and either reach for the delete or the report-spam button when you send them messages.

Rule 12: Always plan ahead and test

Most of the time people do not realise the importance of the subject line and throw something together last minute. But this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. A sharp, interesting, relevant and enticing subject line takes time to create and can have a huge impact regarding the success of your overall campaign.

It is also best practice to test your subject lines, however if you are struggling for time try and use an informal testing group such as your marketing team.

Rule 13: Review previous campaigns

Take a look at the success of your previous campaigns and which subject lines you used. What was your average click through rate? Which campaign led to the highest number of conversions? Look through your web analytics reports to discover which titles attracted the most attention etc.

This information should help you decide what kind of content to include in your future campaigns and which strategies are going to be the most effective.

Rule 14: Don’t go quiet

If you send your emails more often than monthly or quarterly you will be able to build a conversation with your recipients. Viewing your reports will enable you to see just what they are interested in and so featuring this info, keywords etc in your emails and subject lines will enable you to capture their attention more easily.

Also, a higher email frequency enables you to create dialogue which can be continued across your campaign.

Rule 15:  Do your emails pass the must-open test?

It is very uncommon to meet someone nowadays who opens every email that arrives in their inbox, which means that you must appeal to their curiosity to make them open your message.

Referring back to rule 14, if you have been able to build a conversation with your recipients then a reference to the subject should entice them enough to open it up to read the next installment.

A great way to see if your subject line does pass this test is to run the following experiments:

1.The must-read test

This is when a subscriber does not open your email but feels like they have missed out on something special for not doing so and regret their decision.

2.The unbulk bulk-folder test

This is when, if your email ends up in the bulk folder, will the combination of your ‘from’ line and subject line create trust and curiosity to encourage the recipient to place it in their inbox?

By Lee Callender
Tuesday, 15 October 2013 13:02
Catagory: Delivery
Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.
Basic HTML code is allowed.