Do people judge books by their cover? Of course they do. But a lot of it has to do with the book’s title. The same goes for emails. People do tend to judge the content of an email by reading the subject line. In fact, it has been found that more than 30% of your email subscribers will open your email solely based on the subject line. So we’re going to teach you how to ensure you have professional email subject lines that please customers.
Serious digital marketers know the importance of writing professional email subject lines that will improve their open rate. Which is why 47% of marketers claim that they test one subject line against another in order to optimize and improve the performance of their email marketing campaign.
In fact, the email subject line happens to be the most commonly tested email element.
The truth is, even though email subject lines look like they are a small part of your email message, they’re much more than that. Professional email subject lines will create a good first impression on your email subscribers, while the unprofessional ones may send your email directly to the trash.
In short, if you want to stand out and make your own mark in a crowded inbox, you should focus on creating good email subject lines that are relevant to the interest of your subscribers. The question is, how do you do that?
In the following article, we look into some of the most effective ways to write professional email subject lines that regularly get your emails opened, read, and clicked.
Most Effective Ways in Writing Professional Email Subject Lines
#1: Start with Action-Oriented Verbs
Professional email subject lines almost always demand action. In other words, they beg to be opened, which is why they are no different a regular call-to-action. So in order to create professional email subject lines, you need to use inspiring, action-oriented language that makes your subscribers click and open.
When you write a subject line, add an action verb, in the beginning, to make it more attractive and enticing. Your aim is not only to grab the attention of your subscribers but also to make your emails more click-worthy.
Actionable subject lines are catchy email subject lines by nature. Why? Because they help you inspire your subscribers and push them to take action. They not only create a sense of excitement but also some level of urgency.
For example, let’s say you run a small business selling natural cosmetics. And you run an email contest for your subscribers where you’re giving away some goodies. Your subject line for this email could be more passive such as “Natural Cosmetics Giveaway”, or something more actionable such as “Win Free Natural Cosmetics for One Year”.
See the difference? By simply adding an actionable verb to the start of the subject line makes it more enticing and click-worthy.
In a study conducted by Phrasee, they discovered that subject lines that had a call-to-action got the best response. The verbs that performed well included:
According to Howling Mad, when it comes to testing out email subject lines, marketers actually spend most of their time trying out various action-oriented phrases.
#2: Make Subscribers Feel ‘Exclusive’
When was the last time you made your subscribers feel special? It’s a known fact that exclusivity can make a big difference when it comes to get noticed by someone. And your email subscribers are no different.
People always have this need to “belong”. By making your email recipients feel like they are a part of an insider’s circle that is exclusive to them, they will be more receptive to what you say. Which can help them get more loyal to your brand and ultimately convert better when they see your email offers.
Your email subject line is a great place to tap into the power of exclusivity. Because by using the right phrases, you can make your subscribers feel privileged, and get them to open more of your emails.
Here are a few simple phrasing ideas that you can use to write professional email subject lines that can help you make your subscribers feel special.
- “Exclusive gift”
- “Free goody”
- “Special invite”
- “Insider’s look”
- “Private invitation”
- “Discount only for you”
- “For our esteemed customers”
It doesn’t matter how big or small your email list is, even you can leverage exclusivity to boost the email open rate. Just make sure all your subject lines actually live up to the “exclusive” promise after people open your email.
#3: Create a Sense of Urgency & Scarcity
We all agree that it’s important for email marketers to avoid being sketchy or spammy in their approach. Which is why you don’t find quality email subject lines written like infomercial headlines.
However, even if you don’t use shady language in your email content, there’s nothing wrong with infusing a sense of urgency and scarcity when you’re trying to create professional email subject lines. Because when something looks urgent and scarce, it demands attention and action. So if your subject line has these, it has a higher chance of getting clicked on — given that you spent time making it creative and relevant.
Still, you need to be careful when using such subject lines because there has to be a balance. Do it too much, and you’ll lose the charm and people will stop trusting you. Using them sparingly on the other hand, when there is a genuine reason, will help you take your email open rates to the next level. If you demand immediate action in your subject line, make sure it is real and not just way to get clicks.
According to a report published by MarketingSherpa’s, the top three kinds of subject lines that push subscribers to open emails contain one of the following:
- Free Product offer
- Familiar Brand Name
- Discount Offer
Creating a real sense of urgency in your email subject line is effective when it comes to getting your subscribers excited. But again, using too much urgency too soon is not the way to go. It can actually backfire.
While there’s no doubt urgency works, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of trust that you have built with your email list. When you offer one discount after another, your subscribers will stop taking your emails seriously. And it’ll hurt your chances of creating real urgency when needed. So be stable in your approach and use such subject lines in a minimal way for best results.
If you have used urgency/scarcity in the past, you should already know the basics of it. Even if you haven’t, then using them in your email subject lines is not at all difficult. However, if you still need help creating professional email subject lines which leverage scarcity, you can always contact us.
#4: Ask a Question that Begs to be Answered
Gone are the days when email inboxes used to only have messages only from the people you personally know. Today, inboxes are crowded due to the huge influx of messages that people receive every day. Many of these are from businesses like yours that want to grab the attention of the subscriber. An effective way to stand out from the rest and get noticed is to get readers interested with the help of a question.
When your subscribers see a relevant question, it naturally makes them want to know the answer, which lies on the other side of the subject line. They may not even want to read the complete email, but they’ll be compelled to click. Given that you have a strong email opening, you should be able to draw the reader in once they click.
However, make sure your “question-based” subject line isn’t deceptive. In other words, you need to actually answer the question in a way that makes your reader happy. It doesn’t matter even if the answer is a few lines or a partial one. You can always link back to your website at the end of the email.
Marketing Experiments, a web research lab, ran a subject line contest targeted towards marketers in their circle. They asked them for subject lines they could test, and then picked six entries out of the 900+ suggestions they received. The following six chosen subject lines were split-tested against one another.
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- Do your landing pages pass this test?
- [Optimization Summit] 3 Days to a Better Website ($300 Off Coupon Inside!)
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The winning subject line out of the six was the question based one: “Do your landing pages pass this test?”
It performed 125.9% better than the weakest one, and proved to be powerful mainly because:
- Even though the question asked was not open-ended, the reader couldn’t get the answer unless they opened the email.
- It was relevant to the readers’ interests, who were eager to learn about improving their landing page performance.
- It uses “loss aversion” in order to make the subscribers feel concerned about their landing pages.
Question-based subject lines work, but you should never overdo them. Mix and match with other types of subject lines to get the best results.
#5: Invoke a Level of Curiosity
Curiosity is in all of us. It’s human nature to want to find out what’s hidden. You can always create catchy email subject lines by infusing a level of curiosity in them.
Sometimes you need to be clear and straightforward with your subject lines in order to get the message out to your list. And that’s fine. But there are times when you can get a higher open rate if you are able to have an “air of mystery” around your email. If you can successfully stir interest and pique the natural curiosity of your subscribers, you’ll see a much better response.
The whole idea behind curiosity-driven subject lines is to not only grab the attention of the reader but also appeal to their innate sense of curiosity in a unique way. In other words, if you’re not giving them a firm reason to click and open emails, they simply won’t do it.
These subject lines should peak some interest in your readers, but stop at that. Tell them partially what’s in your email instead of giving away full information. Tease your way to a higher open rate.
Look around you, you’ll find many articles on the web that have titles that make you want to read them. These work because they make you curious enough to click on the link.
Let’s say that you’ve written a short research report on “social media” that you want to give away to your email list, and you email them with a subject line such as, “Download My Report on Social Media”. Do you think you’ll get many clicks? Of course not.
Instead, what if you wrote something like, “Never Before Seen Research on Social Media – Free for You”. See the difference? You can always do much better with a curiosity driven subject line.
See to it that all your email subject lines, that have a level of curiosity in them, also go with your brand image. Avoid being too obscure or else people may confuse your email as a spammy message.
#6: Get Controversial
All professional email subject lines have one thing in common, and that is that they grab attention. And being controversial is one of the most effective ways to do that.
However, when you infuse controversy in your subject line, you run the risk of being misunderstood. Because let’s face it; if you are using a subject that is too controversial, it has the potential to go wrong. It can backfire. But so can any marketing strategy if you do it wrong. And if you do manage to pull it off effectively, the payoff can be huge — a high open rate and lots of clicks.
There are three things that a controversial subject line can be that you cannot see in other types of subject lines:
- It naturally has the potential to be more unique than the other email subject lines found in the inbox. And it is rarely used since not everybody can make it work.
- It can be intriguing because we all want to get more details on something that is controversial, and maybe have our own strong opinion about it.
- It can catch your email recipients by surprise, because it is unexpected. Which makes it stand out of the crowd even more.
The idea is to know your audience like the back of your hand. And then use this information to create a subject line that is a mix of relevant information and real controversy.
When you’re choosing your controversy, make sure it is the right kind. In other words, instead of selecting something negative that can downright offend your audience, choose a subject line that has the potential to start a positive debate.
#7: Leverage the Power of Free
Your email list is an asset that you need to treat with respect and dignity. And the best way to do that is give them consistent value in the form of free offers. It’ll not only keep them happy with your relationship with them, but will also give them a real reason to open and read your emails time and again.
Unfortunately, the term free has gotten a bad rep due to spammy email marketers. Which is why you find some businesses avoiding it at all costs when it comes to using it in the subject line. They also don’t want their emails to end up in the junk folder.
However, when used right, the to achieve a higher open rate. If you look at the stats across various industries, you’ll find it can work in your favor, rather than against you.
Even though the inbox placement for subject lines containing “free” did not beat the other subject lines, but it came close. What does that tell you?
Adding the term “free” to your email subject lines is safe and it can help you create more professional email subject lines. Contrary to popular belief, if you haven’t sent spam emails in the past and have a good reputation, then your email won’t go to the recipients junk folder. It will in fact help you stop in their tracks, grab their attention, and give you a higher click-through rate.
#8: Keep them Short & Straightforward
When it comes to creating professional email subject lines, short naturally works better than long. This is regardless of the content of your subject line. Why? Because your readers may lose you or not grasp your point with a longer sentence. Avoiding unnecessary words and characters gives your email more chances of getting opened.
You may not “nail” the perfect, short subject line right away. So it is recommended that you write a few versions of it and then choose the most appropriate one. Because the last thing you want is your subject line to lose its meaning in your quest to practice brevity.
Now, the obvious question that comes up is, how long should your subject line be? Since you’re gunning for a high open rate here, studies have shown that email subject lines with 20 or fewer characters tend to get opened the most.
Another downside of having a long subject line is that your recipient may see a truncated version of it. Why? Because research shows that 55% of emails are opened via a mobile device.
Since mobile users are growing at a fast pace, you need to take them seriously. Even though your subject lines may look great on the desktop, they may not look the same on a mobile screen. So just the way it is important to optimize email content for mobile, it’s equally important to do the same for subject lines.
Overall, shorter subject lines win when it comes getting higher open rates.
#9: Take Advantage of Social Proof
There’s no doubt about the fact that social proof drives the behavior of people in our everyday lives. We, as human beings, need affirmation that the decision we are making is correct. Which is why we conform to the actions of others with a subconscious assumption that their actions are proof of “correct behavior”.
When we make decisions, our brain is looking for cues that it can use. While there are many such cues, one of the most effective or the strongest ones is to see and comprehend what others are doing.
Using social proof in email marketing is an underutilized method that can work great given that you do it right.
A highly results-oriented way to use social proof in email subject lines is by mentioning experts or important people. Do you know Bill Gates? Mark Zuckerberg? Or Steve Jobs? You definitely answered yes. These people are famous in their respective field that by just mentioning their names would make you think of a certain brand or industry. Influencer marketing is a happening tactic in the digital marketing world, because it’s working. You can use industry influencers name in your subject lines to pique your reader’s interest in your email. Just be sure to use this only when the message is really relevant to the person.
The reason why we take the recommendation or association of influencers seriously is because of what is known as the halo effect. Which is a cognitive bias, where people tend to judge the opinion of others based on the impression they have of them.
You must already be aware of how effective testimonials by known people work, and the kind of effect they have. These influencers are known in their industry and have a solid reputation to back what they are saying. And people know that they wouldn’t put their hard-earned reputation at stake. Due to this positive reputation, anything they do or say is seen even more positively.
What’s more, according to recent studies, your open rate can shoot through the roof by more than 460% if you mention a well-known customer in your email subject line.
In conclusion, if you follow the tips that we discussed above and use the right subject line at the right time, you should have no problem creating professional email subject lines again and again, for all your campaigns.
However, do keep in mind that it’s important to have your own style and personality when you create a subject line. You don’t want your emails to look like every other email. So focus on thinking out of the box and getting creative from time to time.
This is exactly what we do with all of our email marketing services. We take the time to get you to know you and your customers as well as we know ourselves to ensure we deliver emails they will want to open and read. Contact us to schedule a brief meeting to discuss how our experts can help you develop more professional email subject lines for your marketing.