In an ideal world, we’d all have 100% email open rates. After all, they signed up, so they want to see what we have to say, right? If only things were that simple… Even if you’ve crafted the perfect squeeze page, written amazing content, and gently encouraged your readers to sign up via email… It’s all for nothing if they don’t read those emails. What must be done next—and arguably just as difficult, might I add—is to write subject lines that get your subscribers to actually open your emails. But don’t fret! With the right approach, you can craft email subject lines that will leave your readers hungry to discover what’s inside.
Being able to attract visitors to your website does not necessarily mean they’re ready to purchase your services or products. A beautiful and finely-optimized website certainly help, but it isn’t quite enough to sustain or grow your sales. The best way to do so is through email marketing; a 2012 study by Optify found that email had the highest conversion rate at 2.89%, a 41% greater yield than the second-highest conversion method, referrals. After gradually building a decently-sized list, now comes the time to begin your email campaign and do all you can to make sure your emails are opened.
First of all, it’s important to realize the love/hate relationship most of us have with our inboxes. We check our email often not because we want to, but because we have to. This is still true when it comes to things we enjoy, like emails from friends and family, newsletters related to our interests, etc. Email is an all-in-one hub that lets us stay current with the world around us, so we naturally spend a lot of time sorting through our inboxes. This leads us to our first rule for writing better, stronger subject lines.
1. Shorter Is Better
You’re busy. They’re busy. We’re all busy, so don’t waste time getting to the point. The longer the subject line, the more opportunity there is to “miss the mark” and get caught up in the little details. Don’t do it. Instead, try to reduce your subject lines to “just the facts, ma’am.” Ask yourself “what is the main point of this email?” Then do your best to write a short and sweet subject that does it justice.
2. Tell the Truth
Sometimes it can be tempting to say whatever it takes to get someone to open your emails. But we’ve all been the recipients of those emails: they say one thing in the title, but inside there’s nothing that meets its promise. Bummer, man. There’s no quicker way to lose subscribers than to lose trust. So make sure that the subject line reflects its content.
3. Don’t Trigger Mental Spam Alerts
Despite how great many email spam filters are (e.g. Gmail), there’s one filter that does an even better job, and grows stronger all the time: our brain. Even if something makes its way into our inbox, certain subject lines sound our mental alarms. Anything that’s overtly “salesy” is quickly seen. “Money,” “cash back,” “discount,” “free,” etc… Be careful when using words like these. And remember, email marketing does not equal spam.
4. Add a Bit of Mystery
Albert Einstein wrote that “the most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious,” and I happen to agree. Adding a bit of mystery to the subject line intrigues the reader, asking them to read on to find out more. Try to think of your subject line as a question, and the email’s content as the answer. So when writing a subject line, try to tease the content inside without giving too much away. Otherwise, why would the reader even open it?
5. Experiment Often
Even the best subject line practices get boring after a while. Rigid conformity takes the spontaneity and surprise out of most things, so try to mix up your efforts every now and then. This goes especially for a recurring series of emails, or emails with similar content. The reader should never read a subject line and think “wait, haven’t I read this before?” Make all your subject lines unique, and don’t be afraid to try something new or off-the-cuff. In short, try new things.
Remember when I said that these are the rules for writing great subject lines? Well, you know what they say about rules, right? They’re made to be broken. And these are no different. This may be controversial, but when all is said and done, it boils down to this:
Make it interesting.
Every idea we’ve talked about above, their goals are to promote interest. If your audience has seen the same email subject line more than once, what do you think the odds are of them opening that email? Probably slim to none. This happens to all of us; we sign up for an email newsletter, only to receive the same type of emails each week. And we simply click delete when more come in, until we eventually opt-out of the newsletter, and the sender loses a subscriber.
This happens all the time. And while a 100% subscriber retention rate is unrealistic, it’s a good bet that most of us can do a better job of writing subject lines. Get rid of what you’ve been told in the past, and just write what you feel is right, what you know to be true. Your readers are people, not walking wallets, so don’t treat them as such. Respect their time and intelligence. Provide value. Let the quality of your email content remind them why they signed up for the first place, and pay attention to the emails you personally open to get a feel for what makes an email subject line truly great.