The best subject lines

Let’s take a look at the best newsletter names for your emails – and ways to increase your opens and clicks by making a few changes to your subject lines.

First things first: Your from field

First, I want to emphasise the important job your from field plays in getting opened and clicked. It needs to offer instant recognition. By putting thought into your from field, you’ve taken some of the pressure off your subject line, because if you offer instant recognition (and have proven prior value in your emails) – there’s a good chance you’ll get opened based on that. In many cases though the subject line is hugely significant in the opening process for that specific email. (see my Newsweaver 90 on from fields)

How important are subject lines? Email subject lines are a form of headline. They are one of the first things your subscribers see when they go into their inbox. They perform the same function as a headline by attracting attention to what’s to be found inside the email and getting your recipient to open and read your email.

The best email subject lines: Describe what is inside the email.  Research shows that subject lines can have a huge impact on email opens and (more importantly) click-throughs.

General thoughts about the subject line:

>> MarketingSherpa found that the top three types of subject lines that compel subscribers to open emails contained one of these:

1. Discount Offer
2. Free Product Offer
3. Familiar Brand Name

>> To establish the importance of your email, the subject line should convey

Useful: Is the promised message valuable to the reader?
Ultra-specific: Does the reader know what’s being promised?
Unique: Is the promised message compelling and remarkable?
Urgent: Does the reader feel the need to read now?

>> Generally, avoid all caps, exclamation points and overly aggressive subject lines

While much depends on the filters set up at gateway and inbox level, even if emails do arrive in the inbox no problem, the human eye will react to these subject lines as feeling spammy.

>> personalize email subject lines

You can base this on the data fields you have, such as name, company name, users’ product or content preferences, interests, past purchases, web visits or links clicked.

>> Long or short subject lines?

The actual number of characters, or words, displayed in the subject line will depends on the email client (eg Outlook, Gmail), viewing device (mobile, desktop) and how the user has configured their setting. Therefore, use subject lines of short, medium or long length but make sure to include key information within the first 40 to 50 characters, or first 3-4 words, as these are the characters most likely to be viewed in preview panes or on mobile devices.

>> B2B vs B2C

A newly-published eConsultancy report finds that in B2B, the more words the better.  Anything over 16 words delivered on both opens and clicks. For B2C, a 20 word subject line performed very well,  delivering a 115% uplift in open rates and 85% uplift in clicks.  Also, apparently, money talks in the B2B sector, with subject lines containing monetary symbols, and monetary phrases such as “turnover”, “revenue” and “profit” all achieving strong results. The report suggests you avoid the words “B2B”, “Business” and “industry”.  (Source: eConsultancy Subject Line 2012 report)

Bottom line: TEST!

MarketingSherpa has found that marketers who test get a 68% Higher ROI on their email marketing programs. It’s an easy win, because testing the subject line is one of the easiest elements of an email to test and change.

Things to test:

  • Percentage vs. specific euro value
  • personalization vs. No personalization
  • Shorter Subject Lines vs. Longer Ones
  • Brand Names in Subject Lines
  • Deadlines (eg “This Friday” vs. “24 hours”)
  • Offers
  • Different product features/benefit

Measuring success – When testing your subject lines, don’t go just by opens, also check clicks. Aside from the issue of the images turned off – therefore not providing an open metric, it really is the clicks that reflect reader engagement and conversions. These conversions can be registrations, clicks to view newsletter articles, sales or downloads.