Email open rates have been on the rise, and the most important factor in getting opens is using effective subject lines.
The importance of crafting a good subject line really canâ€™t be overstated. Just think about your own email habits. How many emails do you get on any given day that you see, and quickly abandon any intention of opening? Probably more than a few. That goes for everyone else too. If you canâ€™t hook the audience in with the subject line, the whole campaign is doomed before the message was even able to be received.
As far as length goes, there seems to be a general consensus in the industry that you should keep the length to somewhere in the 40 â€“ 50 character range (or less). A tool like the one at LetterCount.com is a quick and easy way to check the length.
â€œThe best email subject lines are short, descriptive and provide the reader with a reason to explore your message further,â€ says MailChimp. â€œSplashy or cheesy phrases more often cause your email to be ignored rather than make them stand out.â€
In a study, the company analysed the open rates for over 200 million emails. It found that that are three words you should avoid that wonâ€™t necessarily trigger spam filters, but will negatively impact open rates. These are Help, Percent Off, and Reminder. It also suggests avoiding all capital letters or exclamation marks, adding that questions can often perform better.
You should also avoid repetitive subject lines, it says. If youâ€™re sending the same campaign over and over again (such as reminders), open rates will likely decline with each send if they have the same or similar subject line each time.
While Mailchimp does generally concur with the 50-character limit, it found that for campaigns whose subscribes were highly targeted, readers â€œseemed to appreciateâ€ longer subject lines, so thatâ€™s something to consider.
It also found that personalisation like including a personâ€™s first or last name didnâ€™t significantly improve open rates, but providing localisation like city name, did.
Take a look at the best-performing and worst-performing subject lines from the Mailchimp study (in terms of open rates):
While she does advise against spammy use of exclamation marks (specifically using multiple ones), she cites several examples that use one each as effective subject lines, such as this one from Mother Earth Pillows: Essential Oilsâ€¦Learn what they do!
Her tips also include using: a deadline (â€œCruisinâ€™ 4 Critters is August 2nd Register Today!â€), a teaser (â€œDestination Weddingsâ€¦Want Rock Star Treatment?â€), a command (â€œJoin us at the MLH Scholars Luncheon!â€), a list (â€œ3 Tools to Simplify Your Marketingâ€), an announcement (â€œThe winners of the postcard contest areâ€¦â€), something unique (â€œTaza Hot Fudge And A Cherry On Top!â€), a joke ( â€œreal baseball fans eat burritosâ€), something unexpected (â€œJoin us for a Bling-ing good timeâ€ from The Basketry), or multimedia (â€œReel Works Kickstarter â€“ New Video!â€).
Hereâ€™s a quick visual on her recommendations.
6. Personalised (location or interest targeting)
7. Questions and other punctuation (including â€œfun symbolsâ€)
8. â€œMissing Outâ€ and other scarcity tactics
Check out the full article for additional insights into each of these styles.
Mequoda offers some additional style ideas, including: Reason Why (â€œ5 Reasons Why You Shouldâ€¦â€), Benefit (â€œLose Weight While You Sleepâ€), Testimonial (â€œWhy Arnold Palmer Uses Quaker State Motor Oilâ€), How To (â€œHow to Make a Fortune with a Foolish Ideaâ€), News (â€œFederal Home Loan Program Announcedâ€), Fascination (â€œDiscover the Ultimate Options Trading Systemâ€œ), and Seasonal (â€œYour New Yearâ€™s Resolutions for Losing Weightâ€).
Of course you could always go the BuzzFeed route. Hereâ€™s the three-word phrases it uses for article titles to get the most Facebook shares. Social media is different than email, but some of these are bound to have an impact in the realm of the latter. You know, if you want to go that way.
A recent Business Insider piece rounded up some advice from various professionals with tips including: writing the subject line first (to set the tone), placing the most important words at the beginning, eliminating filler words, being clear about the emailâ€™s topic, taking search and filter keywords into consideration, indicating if you need a response, personalising with the person or companyâ€™s name, creating urgency by limiting the timeframe, and rereading the subject line (nothing worse than a typo in the subject).
In the end, most of the tips in this article should be considered ideas, not gospel. Youâ€™re going to have to do some testing of your own and getting a feel for your own audience and how they respond to your messages. Then, tweak your strategy accordingly.