Our email inbox is an all-in-one hub for everything we care about: work, family, friends, hobbies, news, entertainment, and more. Yet most of us have a love/hate relationship with email; on a daily basis, our inboxes are bombarded with email after email, all competing for our attention. So how do we tell which emails are important? How do we know which deserve our time?
Email subject lines are meant to be a brief insight into the content within, but many abuse their intended purpose by deceiving the reader to get more “opens,” hoping to promote one thing or another. Though, because we understand the frustration of sorting through our own inboxes, when it comes to writing our own subject lines, we should all strive to be better. By following a few simple guidelines, we can write subject lines that create curiosity and invite opens.
Keep Subject Lines Short and Sweet
Like it or not, the internet is not known for its patience. Twitter is the perfect example; we crave bite-sized morsels of information that are to the point. Because of this, subject lines should be concise. Avoid meandering, long-winded subject lines that are stuffed to the brim with details. Instead, tease the content within, inviting the reader to open it for more information. A good rule of thumb is to keep subject lines less than 50 characters.
- Bad — “Find out how to use our simple Facebook and Twitter tips to generate buzz around your brand!”
- Good — “Create buzz with our top 10 social media tips.”
Be Relevant to the Content
No one likes feeling deceived, but the moment when a reader realizes the subject line was simply a ploy to trick the reader into opening the email, trust is lost and the sender/subscriber relationship is damaged. Avoid this by being honest with your readers, making sure the subject line reflects what’s inside. Another reason to ensure your subject lines’ relevancy is that the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 makes it illegal to knowingly misrepresent your email’s content.
Believe it or not, this tip actually complements the previous one quite nicely. Adding a bit of mystery is a great way to entice the reader to open the email for new. It’s a way of teasing the content inside in an honest fashion. The element of mystery creates a question in the reader’s mind, and the email’s content should answer it.
- Bad — “Company XYZ wins our award for Best New Business!”
- Good — “Who won our award for Best New Business? Find out.”
Avoid Sounding “Spammy”
Email spam filters have become increasingly adept at catching spam emails over recent years. Most emails that even have the faintest odor of spammy-ness are quickly relegated to the “Spam” folder, never to be seen again. And for the ones that do make it into the inbox, we’re very good at recognizing when we’re being sold to, and are quick to delete offenders. To ensure your emails don’t meet this same fate, avoid using certain words that trigger spam filters in both email clients and in the minds of your readers.
Words and Phrases to Avoid
- “Percentage Off”
Switch It Up
Even the most successful email subject lines can get a bit stale after a while. And while it’s nice to maintain consistency across certain email series, it’s a good idea to leave a little room for creativity. Subscribers are less likely to click on an email subject line they’ve already clicked on once before, so do your best to make each one unique.
Crafting better email subject lines doesn’t have to be rocket science. Instead, use common sense. Rather than lying, be honest. Don’t be boring, be interesting. Keep it brief, not lengthy. Don’t spell it all out in one go. Instead, leave them wanting more. And most importantly, remember that your subscribers are people, not machines; there’s no magical combination of words that will ensure a 100% open rate. Take note of which subject lines grab your attention, the words and phrases that make you want to open one email versus another, and remember that subject lines are great when they appeal to our human nature and respect our intelligence.