They say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, but whoever coined that phrase clearly never met a shape-shifting time traveler with multiple personality disorder. Also, they probably didn’t do a whole lot of email marketing, because the subject line of every email presents a new opportunity to make a fresh, delightful, and engaging introduction to your contacts.
Your subject line (aside from your preview text and to some extent, your email address) is basically the sole deciding factor that determines whether your email is opened. The content within the email might be your life’s greatest work, or even cat pictures, but if the subject line doesn’t entice the recipient to open the email, the body of your message is completely irrelevant.
So how do you get your potential readers to open that newsletter/offer/invitation to your Game of Thrones themed midwinter meat and mead feast? Obviously, you’ve got to make a good first impression. You’ve got to nail that subject line, and we’ll show you exactly how:
Use the right number of characters
Most email marketers will tell you to keep your subject lines “short and sweet” to get right to the point. And if they don’t say “short and sweet,” they’ll use the phrase “clear and concise.” Those are the only two phrases that are ever used by email marketers, I’m pretty sure. Research indicates that a clear subject line beats a “clever” one by a landslide. Clear subject lines tend to receive 541 percent more clicks than clever or witty ones.
Aside from making your subject lines logical and laconic for the sake of readability, however, many email clients have distinct character limits.
Just about every email client will display your email in a different way, starting with the subject line. Depending on what platform your recipients use to check their email, your subject line might be truncated due to a character limit. For example, Gmail will show up to 70 characters in an email subject line, and Outlook can display 60. Since a good chunk of your readers will probably be viewing your messages on iPhone, however, you’ll most likely want to keep your subject lines to a cool 41 letters.
Of course, mobile users might not be relevant to you, depending on your industry or your readership, so it’s up to you to track which devices are opening your emails. Campaign Monitor created a handy reference chart to display the different character lengths on each of the most popular email platforms.
Avoid spammy words
While most email spam filters have become much more sophisticated than the simple subject line scanners of the late 2000s, there are still certain words that will definitely land your email in the spam folder.
Some of them are obvious. Any subject lines with the words “FREE” or “earn cash” will most likely be caught, but even honest offers like “50% off” can harm your deliverability. HubSpot has compiled an extensive (albeit somewhat old) list of words you shouldn’t use in your email subject line.
While we’re at it, never use dollar signs, ALL CAPS, or exclamation points. And not just because they’re stupid and lame; they’ll trigger spam filters as well.
Use personalization and localization
MailChimp says that personalizing an email by including the recipient’s first or last name in the subject line will improve your open rates. Additionally, their research shows that adding a city name into the subject is even better. Is there an easier way to make an immediate and personal connection with your reader? I don’t know, maybe a Legend of Zelda reference? Everyone loves Zelda, I think.
Some marketers like to think of subject lines as short calls to action. In which case, your language should inspire people to, like, literally do something. Using actionable verbiage allows the readers to envision themselves capitalizing on your offer. Rather than simply telling your readers “Your first beer is free,” say something like “Come drink with us. We’ll buy the first round.” It’s more personable, in that it implies a friendly connection between the sender and the recipient, and the call to action is clear: come drink with us. Sounds good to me!
Need help driving up those open rates? Looking to create a totally wicked email marketing campaign? We’re pretty knowledgeable on the subject. Contact AGENCY H Inbound today to open a discussion on how an inbound marketing strategy can help your business send the right message to the right contacts at the right time.