Subject lines that will make you read that email

    Subject lines that will make you read that email

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    Does your inbox also store thousands of emails and the newsletters kinda scream for your attention? What gets you to open an email promotion and how much attention do you pay to its subject line?

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    In this article I will provide you with few tips on email subject lines that score high open rates. This blog post is for the brands and bloggers mainly, however you can apply those tips also in your work and daily life email communications!

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    Let’s start with the basics – how long should my email subject lines be? And is that very important?

    According to the popular email management service Mailchimp it’s highly recommended to use about 6 to 8 words in a subject line and that constitutes 45-50 characters. As a typical inbox reveals about 60 characters, it’s advisable to keep it short and sweet with up to 50 characters.

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    Research from Mailer Mailer has shown that emails’ subject lines containing 28-39 characters had highest click-through rates.

    No wonder, it’s about being short and sweet – our attention span keeps on being shorter. Take a look at this newsletter from Seatwave which looks interesting but perhaps could be worded in a different way to make me open it:

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    Think mobile too – where do you check your emails mostly? A mobile phone shows just 25 to 30 characters and since you don’t know how much of the subject line will

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    be viewable from a smartphone, it’s important to put the most important information at the beginning.

    This is how you see your standard emails on your desktop:

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    And this is what you end up seeing on your mobile phone (both iOS and Android phones):

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    Check how email notifications appear on your wearables such as the new Apple Watch – it’s a constant fight to grab your attention, so keep it short!

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    Be to the point

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    That’s something to consider not only when you communicate to your colleagues at work but also when you communicate to your customers. Make sure you clearly state with your subject lines what’s inside that email. Why should the person read it?

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    Be specific about the content of the email but most of all – make it short and intriguing to the reader – include a teaser or a clear call to action. Take a look at the product launch email from Jawbone with the subject line Introducing UP3™ with new colors and designs:

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    Perhaps not the most sexy title, however it’s very to the point and if you’re into sports gadgets – it will excite you to check it out. Note – there’s nothing more disappointing than opening up an email

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    and finding out that the information is not there. Or worse, we need to click-through to the website to hardly learn anything more. Make sure you deliver what you promise with your subject lines!

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    Balmain introduces new collection and quickly sends us an update on it. It’s quite informational and clear: Balmain SS16 collection.

    Madewell newsletter

    Madewell takes it to another level – check out their sweater collection and find out how “they’re wearing” them: How we’re wearing sweaters.

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    Identify yourself

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    Pay attention to who the sender is – is your username filled in correctly? Or do you read an email on your mobile from someone called “service” or “info”? Take a look at the screenshot below:

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    Although the subject line tells me right away that my order is on the way, if I open it up on my mobile I have no idea who the original sender was. Don’t miss those crucial details and make sure your company name is filled in when setting up your mailbox.

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    Try to make it more personalized if you care about 1 to 1 relationships with customers by filling in your name. Mike Stelzner from Social Media Examiner always puts his name in the daily newsletters:

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    You might be wondering why he does this as the name of the blog is not visible in the sender field. Take a closer look – his blog name is always at the beginning of the subject lines in the square brackets.

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    The disadvantage of this technique is that you’re missing a lot of characters upfront – so your readers need to be really curious to find out what’s to be read in the email.

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    Pay attention to preheaders and description fields

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    This is something that even big brands sometimes forget – email subject lines are not only about the lines themselves. Take a look at the short email preview and

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    preheader of the email which also appear in your inbox! If you’re not sure what I mean, take a look at this email from Madewell again:

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    Do you see this “View in browser” and “JCrew JCrew JCrew” descriptions? Does this bring any value to the receiver?

    Let’s first make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to terms. A preheader is

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    literally few words that follow the subject line and are meant to give you a little snippet of what the email contains before you actually open it. It remains the same once it’s been read. Take a look at this image from the Campaign Monitor:

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    When opening up the email, this short piece of text is usually visible in the first lines of the email itself:

    email subject lines preheader-text-in-email-hm

    Let’s look at some tips on how to tweak this preview a little:

    1. Change the text

    Most of the emails contain “View in browser” hyperlink at the top of the newsletter which is just a template design issue. Think outside the box and treat the preheader simply as an extension of your subject line:


    2. Keep it short

    Keep mobile in mind just like with your subject lines, don’t exaggerate on text. Looking at different email clients and devices, I’d recommend sticking to 35-50 characters.

    3. Change the position of the hyperlink

    Just like in point 1. you can either skip the “View in browser” option (assuming your email opens flawlessly) or just don’t display it on the top. This space is very important in terms of grabbing your readers’ attention – make sure you put valuable content there! You can change position, remove or change the text of the hyperlink when designing your email – either via an email management service like Campaign Monitor or Ongage or directly in the email template or with the help of HTML code.

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    Ways to frame your subject lines

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    There are different ways of putting your email subject line together than just with a simple short sentence. Be more creative and get the content that your audience wants. Here are some ideas for your next newsletters:

    1. Ask a Question

    This is a great technique when you know your customers well. What do they like? What are their needs? What does inspire them? Framing your email as a question that resonates with them is a great trick to get them open this email – I would open it;)

    subject lines questions

    2. Create a Sense of Urgency

    Old school marketing trick is still working – put pressure on your readers and see what wonders it does! Although I wouldn’t advise using this too often, it’s worth pushing it if you offer a mid-season sale or a special event. Remember, your readers (and probably you yourself) value receiving significant information in their private inboxes more than sales flyers.

    River Island newsletter

    Roxy newsletter

    3. Listings

    Just like some of my blog posts, the headlines are formed in a “list” form, that means, they clearly indicate how many points will be mentioned in the article. Although it sounds very simple, it’s a very effective technique, especially for blog updates. It shows the content is organized in short, easy to read bullet points as well as manages our time expectations.

    Feel free to experiment with number vs. typed in numerical value – although, it’s all about saving space!!

    Locowise newletter

    SME listings

    4. Make an Announcement

    If you have something new and exciting to share about your business or organization, channel that enthusiasm into your subject line. Sharing an announcement will make your email subscribers feel like they’re the first to know and will motivate them to read on for all the details: 

    Quicksilver Pro

    Hunter newsletter

    5. Use Humour

    Funny word combinations, puns or short jokes are always a great idea to sneak into your followers’ inboxes.

    I follow Chalene’s Johnson newsletter on online business tips. She’s definitely rocking my mailbox! Inspire yourself with some of her subject lines:

    Chalene Johnson emails

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    Something to test and something to avoid:

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    You might notice I didn’t include anything on capital letters or those funny icons. The next thing you should do after you read this blog post is establish what are you going to test in your subject lines. Set up a A/B split test campaign via your email management service or simply plan the next email sendouts that include different elements.

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    Instead of using e.g. symbols in your subject lines as your email marketing strategy, make sure you test it first. See if your open rates increase, same applies to number of emails sent out successfully. Check for symbols, using a combination of small and capital letters, special separators like “|” or “>” and words like “Click, “Sale”, “Free’.

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    McDonalds newsletter

    See if using placeholders like subscribers’ names work better.

    subject lines placeholders

    Read this article from on words that should be avoided in email subject lines. Remember, it’s not only about getting high open rates but also not harming your quality score that can make you end up in spam box. That’s not where you want to be found right? 

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    Tools, tools and tools!

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    There are tools to help you out, so make use of them! I’ve recently posted a blog post on Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule and it’s totally free! There’s also a special headline analyzer using Emotional Makreting Values ranks for different industries. Check spam filters from Litmus or directly when creating your email newsletter e.g. in Mailchimp.

    Let me know what works for you best and if the tactics above worked. Have you discovered something new about the subject lines? Drop a comment below!