When your email lands in your customer’s inbox you have about two seconds to capture their attention and motivate them to take action. If you don’t, the reader will simply scroll on by and you will miss the chance to share your message and motivate a reader to action.
So how do you write the very best email subject line?
Keep your subject line short and sweet
One of the casualties of the digital age is the attention span of your reader. They just won’t hang around for the punch line of a long headline. Compounding the problem is the fact that most email clients, search engines, and social media sites will truncate long titles. How short? While different devices may display between 6 – 10 words, we see the best interaction when the subject line is between 4 and 7 words or a maximum of 50 characters.
With so few words to work with, it is important not to waste even one character on unnecessary information. Phrases like: “New blog post” or “News from” are a complete waste of words. And as readers skim down through their inbox they are likely to only read the first one or two words, so be sure to lead with something strong. Here are a few examples to help you write the best email subject line for your next campaign:
- Ultimate Guide to …..
- Avoid these mistakes
- What your competitors don’t know
- Hidden savings
Best Email Subject Line Themes
There are a number of popular themes for subject lines. They are popular because they work. Here are just a few of my favorites.
Keep it Personal
People want to feel special. A personalized email subject line can make your reader feel as if the message is just for them. While you may not always be able to create a completely unique subject line for the thousands of subscribers to your email program, a segmented list will allow you to create more targeted and personal communication.
Say goodbye to headlines which start with 5 Tips Every… And replace them with more focused subjects such as Tips for Parents of Toddlers, or Retirement Strategies of Single Boomers the more you can drive content to a narrow niche, the more likely your reader will identify with the content and open the email.
WIFM – What’s in it for Me
Your readers will open an email if they believe they will benefit from the information inside (Gain Headline) or suffer a loss if they don’t (Pain Headline). In a “Gain Headline” you must clearly outline the benefit. “Increase your open rates by 50% today” is much more compelling than “How to increase open rates.”
The flip side of a WIFM headline will focus on the pain which will occur if the reader ignores your email. It is human nature, the drive to avoid an unpleasant outcome is actually stronger than the drive to reach a positive one. So a headline which essentially promises a way to protect yourself from disaster works. One of my favorite pain headlines was written for a carpet cleaning company. “How to Ruin Your Carpet.” The hint of disaster peaked the curiosity of the readers.
Peak Their Curiosity
Writing a statement that piques one’s curiosity and makes them think, “Huh? What could this be about?” is effective if you can make them laugh or inform them after opening, but use it sparingly and make sure to deliver an expected punch – you don’t want to be deceptive.
One of our most effective headlines was this: Cocaine Marketing: It Takes More to Get High. It surprised and even shocked a few people. Many wondered if we were seriously talking about selling drugs. Both the email and corresponding blog post were some of our most well read.
Using words and phrases which communicate a sense of urgency or play on the reader’s fear of missing out will encourage your reader to act now, instead of putting it off until later – when there’s a chance of them forgetting it. If you’re offering something that is limited, spell this out in your subject line (Only Five Spots Left). Motivate readers to act immediately when you communicate a deadline or expiration date (Today Only).
Communicating urgency and scarcity may compel readers to click (or act) but limit the use to occasions which genuinely call for immediate action. If you overuse this tactic your readers will begin to ignore your messages. You will transform your best email subject line into your worst, simply by overuse.