Following on from our post about how your From Name and Subject Line act as the gatekeepers to your email campaigns, (Click here to read) we are now going to tell you the formula for creating the ultimate subject line so you can increase your chances of your campaign standing out, getting opened, and getting read.
As we’ve said before, prompting the open by getting past the first ‘gatekeepers’ is the primary goal, because you can’t count clickthroughs – much less sell something - if no-one opens your email.
So with so many people receiving many emails, deleting and filtering, how do you get your subscribers attention? A great subject line gets your email opened.
SUBJECT LINE MYTHS
Spam filters can be triggered by a variety of reasons, rarely will specific words like ‘sale’ or ‘free’ get you a one way ticket into the spam folder – filters are changing and it takes a combination of things to really mark your email as spam. So don’t be afraid to put in the odd exclamation mark, you can use all caps, even the word free or sale is fine.
The key is to use these words sparingly. Spam filters assign points to ‘spam’ words, and if the points exceed a certain threshold then the email is considered spam. However if you just use one or two of these words and symbols throughout your email or even just in the subject line, they won’t automatically mark your email as spam – you may have heard us say before that while content filtering is important, there are now other factors like your sender reputation and engagement metrics that are much more important.
You may have heard a lot of talk about geo-location lately – well collecting and using geo-location data to create more relevant and personal emails and subject lines can increase open rates. For example, the same email content can come to life when the subject line suggests it’s especially relevant for you. American retailer Urban Outfitters does this well with subject lines often calling out to me ‘Hey New Zealand – here’s our best sale yet’ or ‘We ship for free to Kiwis every day!’. Extrapolate that out to your regional customers and – well you see our point.
Subject lines framed as questions have often performed better in tests. Of course you won’t be asking just any old random question – consider your audience, their interests, what your campaign is about, and frame a question around that which will pique their interest and even better if they can respond in some way you can increase engagement. ‘How many ways can you wear this scarf?’ ‘What’s the best way to show the world you care?’.
Email marketing company MailerMailer found that longer subject lines had lower open rates and click through rates than those emails with shorter subject lines. They found emails with 28-39 characters in the subject line had the highest open and click through rates. Considering that is about how many characters of a subject line smartphones display, that is no surprise. So the golden rule of thumb is keep it shorter than 50 characters, or at least make your point early in the sentence!
STRATEGIES WITH A CAVEAT
✓ There has been a craze of sorts lately with people using ✶symbols✶ in clever ways in an effort to stand out in the inbox. If used appropriately and cleverly, ✈ symbols may get you more opens, but too many symbols might start driving people crazy so again use sparingly ☂ and only if relevant ☀. You can read our article about using symbols here.
We’ve heard recently that contrary to previous advice, using the recipient’s name in the subject line does not significantly improve open rates. If it clearly looks like a mail merge then it’s not very personalised at all and will probably have no effect, however if you use their name cleverly and in a relevant way, it may increase opens. In their July 2012 study, MailerMailer saw significantly lower click through and open rates for personalised subject lines compared to non personalised ones. We have many clients who use this technique every time and it works very well – the answer for you is TEST it!
GET THE OPENS
Keep it useful – why would your recipient want to open your email? Tell them.
Keep it short – remember the golden rule of 50 characters.
Keep it specific – make sure it is relevant and valuable to the recipient.
Keep it timely – with everything being instant now there really is no place for old news, old jokes, or old memes – keep it fresh.
Always have a call to action – people will respond when you tell them to do something. So ask yourself why are you emailing them? What do you want them to do? Make your CTA’s easy and ensure they make sense.
Test test test – use the A/B split test send function and test out different subject lines and learn what works for your audience.
Set expectations – clearly state what’s inside the email, and why the recipient should read it.
This advice along with the previous post on From Names and Subject lines will give you some things to work on, and we’re here if you want to talk about what works for you, what doesn’t work and how you might grow your response rates, and deliver great emails to happy customers!