A Better Subject Line in 60 Seconds

April 3rd, 2012 by Anthony Schneider

Email Subject LinesYour email subject line. It’s a front door, a salesperson, an ambassador.  But sometimes it’s a fool, an error, a speck of sand on a vast beach.

Here are 8 tips to make your subject line Don Draper not Al Bundy, caviar not tofu — in a word, better.

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Test for bad words:
Over 35% of spam is detected from email subject lines because of spam trigger words. Free, sex, video,  trial, sample, mortgage. Just say no. There are lots of ways to test against spam triggers. SpamAssassin is one of them. Here are longer lists of spam words from Mequoda, MarketingTech Blog, and SpamAssassin.

Keep it short:
The average email client only displays 38 to 47 characters in a subject line. And your beloved subscriber has a short attention span. Brevity is the soul of wit and the muse of a good subject line.

Use a brand or buzz:
A Marketing Sherpa study found that emails with branded subject lines are among the most opened and shared emails. Use your brand or the brand name of that study you are sharing. Or add something buzz-worthy.

Use content that resonates:
Content-related subject lines (“March Powertool Bonanza”) work better than generic ones (“March Newsletter”). You can use Google Analytics (or other analytics tools) to assess what content (pages and keywords) website visitors were most interested in. These are the topics that resonate with your audience — and a good place to start with your subject line.

Focus on the benefit of offer:
If your loyal subscribers open the email, what’s in it for them? A few examples:
Boost ROI Tenfold with Segmentation
10 Tips for Mobile Emails
Look Your Best – On Us

Find the controversy or intrigue:
Give people a reason to open that email by focusing on something memorable, intriguing or just plain outrageous. For example:
Eating French fries makes you healthier
10 reasons why the stock market will collapse in 2012
Introducing the 4-Hour Workweek

Make sure the rest of the email doesn’t suck:
As @Copyblogger puts it, “There’s something special in this jaded digital age about being invited into someone’s email inbox.” Don’t take that invitation or granted. Your subject line is only as good as the email that follows it.

Never stop testing:
Do A/B testing, look at what competitors are doing, look at open rates and other metrics, bottom line results, keep a log of subject lines you like.

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Send us your favorites — and the worst subject lines you’ve ever seen.

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