There are over 100 billion e-mails sent every day, and each one of those has a subject line that prefaces them to tell the recipients what to expect when they click.

If your company’s promotional emails or newsletters don’t seem to be gaining much traction, it could be because your readers see the subject line and decide to move on without ever opening your email.

To improve the value of your email marketing campaigns, here are a few tips on writing the best email subject lines.

1. Be Quick, Straightforward, and Concise

If the recipient of the newsletter wasn’t planning to read it of their own volition, they will likely glance over the subject line while checking their inbox. The best subject lines will quickly give the recipient a synopsis of the content while maintaining as much brevity as possible. Use the same philosophy for subject line construction as you would use for company tweets: 120 characters or less. Don’t include links in your subject line, since the email itself is the intended link to promote.

No one likes falling prey to the old bait and switch trick. Even if a reader would normally be interested in the information in your newsletter, expecting stories or information that vary widely from the actual content can leave them annoyed, and unwilling to open your emails again in the future. Clearly expressing the overall tone and nature of your email in the subject line can prevent that feeling of ire, so be as straightforward and clear as possible.

2. Avoid Typical Buzzwords and Spam Filter Triggers

You don’t want your reader, or their spam detectors, to filter out your emails because the subject lines make them read like an alert. We’re all familiar with subject lines that claim you can “Collect millions of dollars for free from Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg if you act now!” These click-bait style messages are typically filled with malware and phishing attempts, making them a prime target for an inbox’s spam filters. These words are chosen for their overall effectiveness in encouraging people to open links. Though they may be effective, it is best to steer clear of overly sensational language to avoid being flagged by spam filters.

3. Question Everything? Until Excitement Ensues!

Because you have less room to work with, it can help your subject lines to deviate from the standard declaratory statements. By phrasing your subject line as a question, you can encourage the reader to answer it for themselves. Even if they don’t send you an answer in reply, the question can pique interest or encourage a line of thought that demands more information which is conveniently located in the newsletter.

The use of exclamatory sentences ranges from those who will never use an exclamation point to those who sound like an early morning infomercial announcer. If you feel a sense of excitement about the content, feel free to show it in the subject line. Just take care not to go overboard and use them for every email!

4. Embrace the Company Spirit

Remember that every subject line reflects on the company who sends it, and once you send them out, they can exist forever in the alleyways of the Internet. Your email subject lines should always reflect the values of your business and your products or services in a way you can be proud of.

5. My all-time Top Subject Lines

Personalization is key; I always use the person’s first name. If you use MailChimp as your  email provider, insert this code into the subject line: *|FNAME|*,

TIP:  The comma is optional, however, it helps with my subject line format and I have on occasion forgotten it!

For illustrative purposes, I use the name, Susan.

TIP: When developing lists, the first and last are most memorable, not the first thing. As well, an odd number of lists is key.

The first subject line had a whopping 74.8% open rate and the last one was the second all-time best at  49.7%. Compare these with MailChimp’s benchmarks.

  1. Susan, I’m excited to share my first… (It was my first newsletter, sent in July 2014.)
  2. Susan, Rudolph is a girl… my interview in the Globe & Mail… (sent on December 24, 2014)
  3. Susan, what are your summer office hours? (I was surprised by how many people replied)
  4. Susan, learn how to get media interviews to promote your business (I referenced my CTV interview)
  5. Susan, Charlie Brown got it right when he said… (It was sent before Christmas.)
  6. Susan, my newsletter needs your feedback…
  7. Susan, Frustrated your website isn’t generating enough sales leads?

Now that you have read the blog, you’re ready to start writing your subject lines.

For more great small business marketing tips touch base with us today.

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Maureen McCabe
Maureen McCabe is a Toronto Marketing Consultant and founder of McCabe Marketing, who works with established small business owners and mid-sized companies to devise and deploy a custom Marketing Action Roadmap™.