Open Sesame! Perfecting Subject Lines for Better Open Rates


Published: August 19, 2015 Author: Jason Holicky - Hometown Design Studio Inc.
Open Sesame! Perfecting Subject Lines for Better Open Rates

There are almost 2 billion emails sent every single day. Depending on which study you read, every individual receives between 40 and 100 emails per day with those who receive emails at work falling at the higher end of the scale.

In other words, if you are trying to send marketing emails, you have a lot of competition for your recipients’ attention. The first hurdle you must overcome is getting your messages opened. It does not matter how hard you have worked on the content inside the message if nobody sees it. Here’s what you need to know to write email marketing subject lines that get clicked.

1. Trust Must Be Earned

Forget everything you have read about writing punchy subjects that are too exciting to be ignored. When it comes to email messages, your priority is to be trustworthy. When someone reads your email subject line, it should describe exactly what is inside the message without any exaggeration.

Besides the fact that it is illegal to use deceptive subject lines, when you over-promise what is inside the message, it will not take long before you start racking up unsubscribes and spam complaints. If you think nobody will open your message if you tell them what’s inside, reconsider your message.

2. Less is More

On the other hand, don’t get too talkative in your subject lines while you are trying to be descriptive. Constant Contact recommends that subject lines stay under 40 characters or between five and eight words.  Not only are shorter subject lines quick and easy for your recipients to read, but they are also more likely to be displayed in their entirety as most email clients and apps cut off subject lines that are too long.

3. Add Urgency (With Care)

By giving your recipients a reason to open your message now, they will be less likely to forget about it or have it buried under the next 20 messages that come in. The trick is to add just enough urgency without looking like a swindler. “Surprise! 24-Hour Sale Starts Now!” is good. “OMG! CLICK NOW HUGE SALE HURRY ENDS SOON!!!!!” is not so good.

4. The Jury is Out

There are a few things you can put in your subject lines that some experts say get great results, and others will tell you to avoid them entirely. Take numbers, for example. Pardot says to avoid using them because your messages might get lost in a sea of special offers while Constant Contact says that people like numbers because they are easy to understand. The jury is also out when it comes to things like special symbols, personalization, and using all capital letters.

Getting it Right

The best way to get to know what moves your customers is to split-test or A/B test with a segment of your audience. To do this, create two messages that are identical and change only one thing—such as using a first name in the subject line--and see which one gets the better response. That way, you can zero in on what your audience prefers.

Categories: Email Marketing
Tags: Subject Line, Email
About the Author

Jason co-founded Hometown Design Studio of New Lenox, IL in 2013. He spends his days guiding and consulting industrial clients and small businesses owners on their marketing strategy and projects. Jason enables everyone to be successful and grow their business by sharing his knowledge and experience.
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