Let’s face it, without email subject line best practices in place, making your email marketing campaign a success can and will prove to be a difficult task. If people don’t find your subject lines interesting or enticing enough, they may trash your emails without reading them. Or even worse, label them as spam.
Salesforce reports that a whopping 64% of email recipients decide to open emails and 69% mark emails as spam — solely based on the subject line.
In short, your subject line can make or break your campaign. It is that important.
So why take it for granted? Why not spend some time tweaking and perfecting email subject line best practices?
It’s no surprise that 86% of email marketers say they A/B split test a subject line when running an email marketing campaign, easily making it one of the most tested elements.
If you browse through your own inbox, you may notice that not all subject lines are written with patience and skill. Some are bad, some are average, and some are simply outstanding.
What does that say? If you invest time into crafting great subject lines using email subject lines best practices, your efforts will pay off.
When you create and use quality subject lines, you have a better chance of getting noticed by your recipients because there is simply less competition in the inbox.
Think of your subject line as a headline of a newspaper article. If it grabs your interest, you are compelled to read the whole of it. If not, you stop right there and flip the page.
Your job is to make each of your subject lines so good that your recipients shouldn’t feel the need to stop reading. They should continue to read further towards your email copy and be compelled to take action.
Now, writing great subject lines isn’t rocket science. Does it necessarily mean it’s easy? No, of course not.
But if you put in the effort to apply the right hacks you can create subject lines that are totally worth it. Your business will thank you for it.
In the following article we discuss some of the most effective email subject line best practices that you should keep in mind.
These eight hacks may seem simple but can make a huge difference to your campaign, so don’t take them for granted.
Hack #1: Keep It Simple, Short and Straightforward
Given that people receive a ton of email everyday, it’s easy to have your message get lost in the inbox and never get opened. Which is why you should try to keep your subject line short and to the point; it’ll help you get noticed and make your own mark.
Don’t unnecessarily complicate it by trying to write something too clever. Your aim is to get your emails opened, not impress your subscribers with your English writing skills.
Also, keep in mind that long subject lines don’t go too well with email contacts. You should already know that subject lines that are too long are shortened or truncated, especially when opened on mobile. Since a whopping 66% people are accessing email via their mobile device, it makes sense to create meaningful subject lines with fewer characters.
So how long is too long when talking about email subject line best practices? What’s the sweet spot that you should be aiming for?
According to a research study done by Return Path, the optimal length of an email subject line is 65 characters. Subject lines that are between 60 to 70 characters long tend to get a higher open rate.
Brevity is the name of the game when it comes to email subject line best practices. So remove unnecessary words and see if you can say more with less. For example, if you’re regularly sending out a newsletter on the same time and on the same day of the week, you may want to drop the word “newsletter” from your subject line.
Think out of the box yet be straightforward in your approach for best results.
Hack #2: Create a Real Sense of Urgency
When talking about email subject line best practices, how you can forget the importance of invoking urgency?
There’s no doubt that it’s easier to get people to open your emails when they sense some type of urgency. Your subject line needs to send a “message” to a recipient that there is little time to waste. However, this created urgency needs to sound authentic and real, not forced or artificial.
One of the many studies conducted by the Email Institute found that email subject lines that have a sense of urgency in them can boost open rates by 22%, which is a significant increase.
So how do you go about instilling urgency in your email recipients without putting your reputation on the line? How do you make them feel the importance of opening your email right away?
- Limited Discount: People don’t want to miss out on a 40% or 50% of sale, especially when it is time bound. Regardless of what product or service you’re selling, using your subject line to showcase a time-sensitive sale or discount offers makes your emails seem more urgent.
- Limited Quantity: When your recipients see that “there are only 5 seats left” or “last 10 widgets in stock”, they know they need to act fast before the opportunity to buy the product or service runs out. Using your subject line to reflect the limited quantity of what you’re selling is a great way to get more opens, and ultimately, more sales.
- Limited Time: If you’re running a service that people can avail, you can limit the time they have to sign up or join it. Your subject line tells them that they have only so many hours or days left before the opportunity would be gone for good.
Using your subject lines the smart way can help you convert more of your subscribers into customers or clients. It not only helps you get more open rates but also lets you push more people through the sales cycle.
Lastly, one of the most important rules of creating urgency is to make sure the deadline to act upon is close. Or else the whole purpose of injecting urgency into your campaign is lost.
Hack #3: Personalize the Smart Way
Personalization is a powerful method to not only get your email subject line get noticed, but also boost your email open rates. According to Campaign Monitor, emails that use personalized subject lines have a 26% higher chance to be opened.
If you use recipient related details in the subject line, you’ll find that the response is almost always better. It makes your recipients curious enough to check out your email content, which is the first step to making your overall campaign profitable.
Also, email personalization is effective because it shows that you’re not just another spammer. And that you actually care. It’s one of those email subject line best practices that has stood the test of time.
The most popular or common way to to personalize is by using a recipient’s name. A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest sound, regardless of the language they speak. So why not leverage it for your own advantage?
You can also include social media handles in the subject lines. This is another way to stand out from the rest of the emails in your recipient’s inbox. For instance, Twitter sends their emails to their subscribers with their respective Twitter handle or username in the subject lines. And based on studies, it has proven positive effect in open rate.
With the current technology, it’s easy to personalize email subject lines with the recipient’s name. Doing so leads to more people opening and clicking through your emails. Because it makes them feel valued and important.
No wonder marketing mavericks like Ramit Sethi religiously use this personalization tactic.
You can also personalize your email subject line using the location of your recipient. When they see their city is mentioned, they’ll sit up and take notice. Of course, this depends on what you seek to achieve with your campaign and if local marketing applies to your business.
There are many other ways you may choose to use personalization as one of your email subject line best practices, based on the information you have about your subscriber.
Here are a few examples that go beyond name and location when it comes personalization.
- Interests & passions
- Important dates (such as anniversary/birthday)
- Dollar amounts
- Event registration date/time
- Transaction history
However, it’s important to keep the personalization to a bare minimum. Because you have to keep it natural. If you go heavy with the personalization aspect, the whole strategy can backfire and raise a few eyebrows.
Your aim should be to show your recipient that you went beyond and took time to personalize the important bits. Make sure to do this in the most authentic way possible.
Hack #4: Conduct Regular A/B Split Tests
With the majority of email recipients opening emails based on the subject line alone, it makes sense to find out the best subject line to send to your list. This ensures that a good percentage of your emails don’t get trashed or end up in the junk folder.
The best way to discover winning email subject lines is to conduct A/B testing, where you simply test two versions of your subject line to see which one fetches a higher open rate.
While other email subject line best practices are about writing a great subject line, this one in particular is about finding the most relevant one for your campaign.
With A/B split testing capability built into modern email marketing software, conducting such tests are easy to conduct. Split testing lets you get a better understanding of your customers/subscribers, which gives you a better chance of writing subject lines tailored to them.
- Get Personal: Different email subscribers respond to emails differently, so it would be wise to test how you personalize your subject lines. Whether it’s the subscriber’s name or a specific interest, try testing different types of personalization tactics when crafting your subject line. For example, if you are a local restaurant then you may test with the location in the subject line against a limited time discount offer.
- Use Emojis: Emojis or emoticons have been known to increase open rates by 56% when used in a subject line, which means they work. Depending on the market you’re in and your target audience’s demographics, you may want to test using emojis to stand out in a typical crowded inbox.
- Ask Questions: This is an age old tactic to draw the attention of email recipients, and the best part is it works when done right. By asking a compelling question, you make people curious enough to learn more. The best part is this works perfectly well with all other email subject line best practices.
According to Venture Beat’s research study, adding a simple punctuation mark can increase your email open rate by 9 percent. Just make sure the “answer” to the question lies in your email copy because you don’t want anyone to feel “click-baited”.
- Leverage the Word Free: Do you regularly but hesitate to use the word free in your subject line? While it’s true that using “free” in your emails carelessly can trigger spam filters, it can actually work in your favor if you have a solid reputation with your email service provider.
You can test by using “free” in your subject lines to see if it helps you get higher open rates or if it is working the other way round. Given that it goes with your email marketing campaign, it is worth testing terms such as “free offer”, “free eBook” or “free delivery” in your subject line.
Hack #5: Tailor Subject Lines Based on Segmented Lists
Email marketing has become one of the most effective forms of marketing on the web. One of the reasons why it continues to give results is because it allows you to reach out to your target audience in the most precise manner via email list segmentation.
List segmentation is about segmenting or dividing your mailing list into specific groups of people based on different factors or characteristics such as age, location, and demographics.
When you communicate with your subscribers/customers via email, you’re sending out a message to them. List segmentation lets you make this message smarter and direct when compared to a generic email blast. It shows your email list that you care about their interests and want to deliver relevant information.
It takes some trial and error before you are able to effectively segment your email contacts, but once you do, the returns can be highly positive. MailChimp found that email list segmentation allowed their users to experience a significantly higher open rate (almost 19%) when they divided their lists based on data such as job title and location.
Every email marketer knows the importance of getting emails opened because no matter how good your copy is, it’s useless if nobody’s going to read it. Which obviously brings down the number of sales you get via email marketing.
By leveraging email list segmentation, you are able to create and send out laser-targeted subject lines that are tailored to different groups or segments. It not only helps you get a higher open rate but also gets you more leads and sales in the long run. Which naturally brings this tactic under the umbrella of email subject line best practices.
Here’s a real world example: SwayChic, which is a women’s fashion site, was able to increase their open rate by a staggering 40% by segmenting their lists based on their customer’s buying habits.
So, what data exactly works for list segmentation? The good thing is, there are no specific rules as such when it comes to segmenting your list. You’re only limited by your imagination. Any piece of data that you can connect to your subscriber’s email address could be used for this purpose.
You can segment your emails and tailor your subject lines based on:
- Job Title
- Free users
- Paid customers
- How they use your product
- What products they buy
- What time/day they buy
Remember, every customer is different and they have a different set of interests. They come from a highly unique background and have a different experience with your product or company. By sending out different emails via list segmentation, you will be able to personalize your email marketing campaign to a great extent using email subject line best practices.
Hack #6: Use the Power of Wit & Humor
Want to make your presence felt in your recipient’s inbox? Then show them you are different by being humorous, which is an underrated tactic amongst the many email subject line best practices.
No, we’re not talking about the typical subject line where you mention the amazing benefit your product or service offers in a not-so-funny way. We’re talking about that witty subject line that packs a punch and makes a memorable impression on the readers.
People love anything that makes them laugh or smirk, so why not inject humor in your subject lines?
Gone are the days when your subject lines had to be too professional and boring. Today, people are a lot more open to humor. So creating witty and funny subject lines can not only help you draw the attention of your subscribers, but also make your brand look unique amongst the many me-too-brands.
Any kind of witty wordplay can help bring out the feeling of fun and joy in your recipient, pushing them to open an email that they may have missed earlier.
Here’s a real world example of a humor being used in a subject line by Barkbox:
However, it’s extremely important that you don’t overdo the humor part when creating subject lines. Since humor is subjective, you need to keep it light and ensure that goes with your brand voice. You cannot afford to be too distinct. Your approach also depends on the industry that you are in.
Some industries such as business, marketing, and self-improvement are forgiving when humor is used smartly. For example, a huge brand like Virgin has always worked humor into its marketing communication without looking like an outcast. And then there are other industries where it gets difficult to use humor such as healthcare and finance. Nevertheless, with a bit of “out of the box thinking”, it can be done.
Once you find what type of humor is acceptable to your target audience, it can definitely help you increase the open rates.
Before you start creating those witty subject lines, make sure you have clear answers to the following questions:
- Is your audience open to humor and accepting witty messages?
- Will everyone on your email list grasp your wordplay and your intention behind it?
- Does your wordplay connect to your brand and is it relevant to the products you sell?
A survey done by MarketingLand 1,200 people showed that 60% of them found email humor acceptable.
Hack #7: Avoid Looking Like a Reply or Forward
If your brand uses this tactic of pretending to make your emails look like forwards or replies, you need to stop. Because most of the people you’re sending out these emails to are too smart to fall for this dubious tactic. Even if they did end up opening your emails, chances are high that they would dump them into their spam folder.
So yes, this is one failed tactic that doesn’t find a place in the list of email subject line best practices. Avoiding it makes total sense.
According to the annual email study conducted by Adestra, the click through rate on emails that pose as forward or reply is even lower than the average. While the reply subject line got a 42.6% lower click through rate, the forward one got a 60.9% lower CTR.
Hack #8: Write Subject Lines in Title Case
When writing your subject lines, you also need to consider the “case” you are writing them in.
Generally subject lines are written in the following three cases:
- Title case, where you capitalize the first letter of every word (Eg: Grab This Great Deal Before It’s Gone)
- Sentence case, where you capitalize only the first letter of the first word (Eg: Grab this great deal before it’s gone)
- Lower case, where none of the words are capitalized (Eg: grab this great deal before it’s gone)
Now, the reason why you should write your subject line in title case is because it makes your offer look more authentic. And adds a sense of strong authority to your voice. It sounds more professional and formal when compared to sentence case or the lower case, which give out an informal feel.
Also, there is enough data from various companies to support the fact that using title case in your subject line can actually help you boost your open rates. This is one of those email subject line best practices that can make a difference but is often ignored.
For instance, upon analyzing close to 115 million email subject lines, sales productivity platform YesWare found that title case not only had a positive effect on the open rate but also on the number of replies received. They noticed that using title case helped to reach an open rate of 54.3%, while subject lines written in lowercase only managed to reach 47.6%.
The bottom line is, you should not only focus on the matter of your subject line, but also how you write it. Because you never know what small factor can get more of your subscribers to open and read your emails.
Need more help generating subject lines for your email marketing campaign? Our specialists are ready to help your business grow, so contact us today to schedule a time to chat about how we can boost your marketing efforts.