Creating Effective Email Subject Lines

Boring subject lines lead to deleted emails and misleading ones will annoy your customers, which is never a good idea. This makes writing email subject lines a bit of an art form and it’s not easy to get right.

It’s actually easier to explain what not to do than to demonstrate how to do it right, so let’s start with that.

There are a number of words that immediately put people off because they feel like they are about to be sold to or asked for money. So words such as Donate, Give, Buy, Charity, Join and Assistance all start off on the wrong footing. There are other words that don’t put people off but don’t encourage them to read warmly either, such as Confirm, Social and Invite.

Another thing people don’t like is to be shouted at, or reminded they are being a bit silly. So avoid capitals, bold and exclamation marks. And don’t say Last Chance! A bit surprising that one perhaps, it seems to be because people don’t like being reminded of something you will already have told them about. Maybe they didn’t want to buy first time round so telling them it’s their last chance does not endear you to them.

Long subject lines are also not well received. Many people read their emails on their phone which doesn’t leave many characters with which to communicate a message. The optimum amount is up to 15 characters with an absolute maximum of 30.

Personalisation can also be tricky. Some people like seeing their name, others already know who they are so don’t need to be told. The big danger here is getting the details wrong. I often receive emails which have a username rather than my first name, which looks plain daft. Some households also have a communal email address so it’s really easy to get it wrong. Unless you have complete confidence in the quality of your database, my advice is to steer clear of personalisation in the subject line.

By all means tailor the content of your emails to different customer requirements, but be careful of the personal details you include.

Finally, avoid obvious spam phrases as these will send your email straight to the spam filter and may get you blacklisted. Spam phrases include words such as Free and anything remotely adult, such as Longer-lasting. Details of how to avoid being classed as a spammer will be given in a future blog posting.

So what does make a good subject line? Honest, clear, short and succinct, basically. ‘New offers’ is fine, as is ‘Latest News’. Bulletin and Video also seem to work well.

But the best approach to ensuring your emails get opened is actually very simple; only send things to people that they would actually like to receive and tell them what it is they’re getting. If they like you and what you offer, they’ll open it. If you trick them they might open it – but only once.