Want More Opens and Clicks? Pay Attention to your Subject Lines

In email marketing, the use of subject lines is probably one of the most important aspects of an email campaign and plays a big part in whether or not the email broadcast is a success. However, sometimes it seems that many of the emails I receive, the sender treats the subject line as more of an afterthought than a chance to engage the reader (me!).

In fact, according to a 2007 Jupiter Research report*, more than one-third of your readers will open your email based on what you write in your subject line.

Here are some more facts from the Email Stat Center regarding subject lines:

  • Emails with shorter subject lines significantly outperformed emails with longer subject lines. – MailerMailer (2008)
  • Emails that had only the subject line personalized (12.4% Open Rate & 1.7% CTR) did worse than those with no personalization at all (13.5% Open Rate & 2.7% CTR). – MailerMailer (2008)
  • Seven in 10 US Internet users said they judged these “from” and “subject” lines when deciding whether to report an email as spam. – E-Mail Sender and Provider Coalition and Ipsos (December 2007)
  • Including the company name in the subject line can increase open rates by up to 32 percent to 60 percent over a subject line without branding. – Jupiter Research (2007)
  • Words that were identified as innocuous words that won’t trigger a spam filter, but will negatively affect your open rates. They are: Help, Percent off, and Reminder. – MailChimp (2007)

Because the subject lines are as important as the messages contained within the email, you should give them as much, if not more, attention. Going back through emails that I received and deleted or that ended up in my junk folder, I notice the same mistakes being made over and over again.

Uninspiring Subject Lines

Which one would you rather open?

“Trusty Traveler Newsletter: September 2008” or “The Trusty Traveler: Insider tips on Machu Picchu”

Monthly newsletter blah — Machu Picchu, heck yeah!

Think about how many emails you get in the course of a day or a week. If the subject of the newsletter doesn’t pique your interest, it will most likely be deleted. Also, don’t think about what would interest YOU, but what would interest your readers.

Unrecognizable ‘From’ Addresses

After being a chamber member for about six months, I called the main office to ask if I was on their mailing list because I had not been receiving any emails about upcoming events. The woman told me that indeed I was on the mailing list and to check my junk folder. I soon figured out why I had not been getting the emails: the “From” address was the office manager’s name and that the Subject line read “Tourism News.” No wonder they got deleted.

Most of the list manager programs will let you customize the “From” section so that you can add a “display name” which can include your name, the company name, or the publication name. Take a little time to make sure these are set up correctly for each of your publications.

Hypey Subject Lines

Hypey, salesy, or the emails that promise untold wealth, tons of traffic, you know the drill, have lost favor and sometimes border on spam. “Open NOW” “Must Read!”… there’s a fine line between a “hypey” email and a legitimate one when it comes to creating a sense of urgency.

Of course everyone’s subscriber list is different and people respond differently depending on many variables, but the goal should be to engage the reader, create a connection, communicate a message… and a bad subject line can result in lost subscribers and, in turn, lost profits. You should know your subscribers and what is acceptable and what isn’t. (Hint: When people start unsubscribing in droves, you should pay attention.) And if you don’t know what your readers want, you can always ask them using a survey program such as surveymonkey.com.

If you want to test your email campaigns to see how different subject lines compare, try running a split-test. Instructions on how to run a split-test can be found within your newsletter list manager ‘frequently asked questions’ section.

*35 percent of email users open messages because of what’s contained in the subject line. – Jupiter Research (2007) as referenced in the Email Stat Center.

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