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Did You Know It’s Your Email Subject Line That Get Your Emails Opened?

Once your Email is dispatched, the Email Subject Line automatically jumps right up in importance. It’s your Email Subject Line which ensures that your email is opened and read.

Truth: Unless your Email is opened by the recipient its content will never be read.

Just pause for a moment to think of how you handle the contents of your inbox.

Here is what I normally do:

  • Scan the my inbox for new email
  • I look at sender’s name for each new email
  • I look at the Email Subject Line
  • Make my decision to open the email and read its content
    OR
  • Send the email directly to thrash

If your workflow to open and read emails OR quickly consign them to thrash is similar to mine you will realize that the Sender’s Name and Subject are two very important pieces of information in your inbox. These are what decide whether an email gets opened and scanned OR tanked.

The sender name is important as it drives your emails brand value. Regretfully this is not something one can change easily.

What can be changed again and again is the Email Subject Line. The Email Subject Line is important because testing and optimising the email subject line increases your Email Open Rate like nothing else can.

Unfortunately, more than 70% of email marketers do not split test their Email Subject Lines often.

If people just do not open your Email then all the great stuff you’ve created for them within the Email body just remains unseen.

Hence, zero open rate, zero conversions, zero opportunity for any business income generation.

Read my articles on 10 ways to get more opt-in subscribers will help you sky rocket your mailing list.

6 Email Subject Lines that Just Won’t Do

I found what Kara Wagner says about 6 Email Subject Lines that Just Won’t Do very interesting and worth a read.
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Email Subject Lines Are The Gatekeepers Of Email Campaigns

Okay so you have put in hours of effort in getting your email content segmentation – Just Right.

Email content segmentation being the way your email content flows within the email.

Then you’ve put in the extra hours to nail your email images and the content copy ensuring that both are just perfect.

Hey! there is little doubt that you want your emails actually read.

Unfortunately it’s your email subject line that recipients look at in their inboxes.

Many digital marketers specify that you should spend twice the amount of time on your Email Subject Line as you spend on creating your entire email.

That’s a big call…but nailing your Email Subject Line really does pays off.

In this post I’m going to give you five tips you can use immediately to write Email subject line that get your emails opened, read and ultimately converted into paying customers and hopefully your advocates.

1. Be Specific

Generally there are two types of emails businesses send their customers, specific notifications and newsletters.

When it comes to creating an email subject line for either of these types of email content, you have to be crystal clear about what your goal is.

When it comes to specific notification type emails the best approach is to have a subject line that is specific and let customers know exactly what they’re about to open.

This might sound counter-productive but by letting the recipient know why you’re sending them the email and what to expect when they open it, is the very best way to get their attention.

This does not mean your Email Subject line is actually five line paragraph. Since your email is actually targeting a relevant segment of customer, being upfront and honest always gets opens.

Take this example from LinkedIn:

LinkedIn lets you know exactly what the email is about. Reveals a little information to entice you. Then leaves you with a feeling that there is a lot more to learn.

Example From Linkedin
Diagram 1

This Email Subject line is effective because:

  • It’s upfront
  • Gets you excited
  • Makes you open the email to read more

Once the recipient has opened the email and begun reading its content then you as email content creator can direct their attention exactly as you desire.

Which is the whole exercise anyway. Mission accomplished.

When you’re going to be sending newsletters or one-off campaigns, generally not triggered by any particular event the subject lines must generally to be original and written to pique curiosity.

Raising curiosity is no mean feat but a general rule of thumb is to ask questions.

For example:

Kiva email subject line

Diagram 2

A part of their Mother’s Day campaign Kiva subject line used a single question to get into the recipient’s head.

After reading this Email Subject Line recipients wondered:

How good am I at what? – An awesome example of how asking a question can get recipients to open and read body of your email.

2. Localize, Personalize And Target

Almost every newsletter starts of with ‘Hey Ivan did you know . . . ‘ this is pretty standard today.

This does not mean you give up on personalization.

Personalization comes in many forms. Using customer attributes and actions to tailor your subject line AND the email content you’re sending is one of the most powerful things you can do to sky rocket click throughs.

When personalising your subject line, here are a few things you can A/B test.

First and last name: it might be a bit over the top but it’s always worth a try!

Alter the details in the subject line based on the recipient’s location: Summer vs. winter and holidays in different parts of the world (Mother’s Day isn’t the same date in every country)

Gender: Using men vs. women in the subject line of a clothing store’s newsletter or highlighting specific product names for each group are some basic examples.

Use details of the actions the customer has taken: What has the customer been doing on your website? What are their favourite products or what features are they yet to use?

Words That Help Increase The Email Open Rate

Research by Yesware came to a similar conclusion though they found that words like campaign and steps lead to higher open rates for their purposes.

Campaign Monitor studied more than 360,000 e-mail campaigns and found that invitation, introducing, we, and new were among the top performing words in regards to influence on open rates.

The appearance of we, in particular, highlights the importance of personalisation – you/your also factored high in their research.

Cumulatively, what the research suggests is that personalisation, time-sensitivity and highlighting special offers can play a big part in maximising open rates.

Equally important, however, is avoiding those words that don’t work – some of those can truly kill off your email driven marketing campaign before you’ve even begun.

There are numerous words that have the sure shot effect of lowering open rates. In a study conducted by MailChimp, they found that while the word free should be avoided as it can trigger some spam filters.

Three other words were found to have a large negative impact. Those words were help, percent off and reminder.

Yesware found calendar, online and interested reduced open rates while Phrasee highlighted report, webinar and monthly as poor performers.

There’s not a definitive common theme among these, but it does suggest that recipients are more and more attuned to advertising jargon, so much so they’re actively tuning out traditional marketing messaging.

If you’re sending the same email to your subscribers over and over again, you’re open rates are going to progressively decline unless you get creative with your subject lines.

How big of a decline can you expect? As part of MailChimp’s study, which analysed the open rates of over 200 million e-mails, they sent out the same invite several times to measure the progressive impact. In the first send out, the open rate was 8%, for the second, 6.3%, then 5.1% on the third and 3.5% on the fourth.

Repeating the same message over and over is not an effective tactic to increase your email open rate. If you want to remind people of your offer, best to think of new ways to frame it in order to maximise the return value of your email marketing campaign.

3. Build Momentum (i.e. don’t email out of nowhere)

Using an Internet Email service like MailChimp in order to email your site visitors a series of really valuable, informative newsletters is an extremely powerful aspect of any email marketing strategy.

A series of valuable, useful, information packed email newsletters that gradually build and expand on a single topic gets your recipients to know who you are, gives you the opportunity to build momentum and increases your email open rates dramatically.

Using a series of interlinked and informative emails AND flagging this in the Email Subject Line definitely increases your email open and click through rates. This is just great for increasing conversion from leads to paying customers.

Unfortunately, most businesses send less emails than they could for fear of annoying customers.

Spend enough time ensuring your emails are helpful and you won’t have this problem, allowing you to send emails in series that really convert.

4. Test, Test, Test

Everyone and the baker says – Shorter email subject lines increase opens. The truth is, one can never be sure this holds true for your own audience.

MailChimp recently published a bunch of statistics on subject line length. Their findings state there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to subject line length. It’s completely relatively to your target audience so you need to draw your own conclusions.

If you want to really nail the Email Subject Line that works best for email opens then you should start doing A/B testing, in order to determine which Email Subject Line works best.

5. It’s Definitely Not Just About The Subject Line

These days email clients are getting pretty sexy and this means you actually have more than just the email subject line that you can work with to grab your recipient’s attention.

It’s important it is to consider factors outside email subject line length such as word choice AND the order of words in the email subject line as well.

Here’s the standard format of an email as your recipients will see it in Gmail (Gmail being the most commonly found email Id)

How your email recipients will see it in gmail.
Diagram 3

As shown in diagram 3, you should not only spend time optimising the email subject line itself but also the from field and the short preview.

Here are three things you should try:

  • Put the name of your company in the ‘from’ field: Rather than ‘Ivan Bayross’, I use ‘Ivan from DMTM’. Mentioning the name of your company can be good if your brand is recognisable and is always a great way of building consistency and trust.It keeps your recipients from guessing. Maximize the value you can draw your from email address.
  • Move the position of ‘Open in your browser’: Lots of email marketing templates have the ‘View in your browser’ link at the top of the body.This means that it is generally the text that shows up in the ‘short preview’ section of mail clients. Bear this in mind and consider moving the link to the bottom or slightly further down the email body (where it might actually be noticed).Use the ‘short preview’ to your advantage. Cleverly play with the email subject line of the ‘short preview’ to deliver additional value to the recipient.
  • Use an H1 tag that has meaning: Never waste ‘headings’ in the body of your email. Make sure you include a H1 tag or bold text at the top of your email content that is relevant. This must give a good idea of what the body of the email contains.

Please Leave Your Comments They Are A Huge Help

If you liked this Blog post, I’d love to read your comments. If you thought that this Blog post was not up to your expectations, I’d love to read your comments.

It’s your comments that helps me get better each day. Please pass on your bouquets or brickbats in the comments section right below.

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Ivan Bayross
Digital Marketing Evangelist, International Author & Business Mentor
I've been an entrepreneur for more than 33 years.

I've taught marketing and finance at a few MBA schools in Mumbai, India. These subjects are like a horse and carriage. You can't have one without the other.

I am technology savvy too as I am armed with an M.Tech from Manchester University, UK. In that sense, you could call me a geek-marketer, as I’m comfortable with both technology and marketing.

I have written and published 83+ books in tech and digital marketing. Many of these are available on Amazon.

I've been working in digital marketing for around 24+ years. I love to teach the subject, plus define, execute, and tweak digital marketing strategies for my own websites and my clients.

I'm moving my love for teaching to the web.
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4 responses on "Did You Know It’s Your Email Subject Line That Get Your Emails Opened?"

  1. For sure, subject lines are the gate keepers of email campaign. Once this is properly in place then the propensity to access and act on the mails increases. The subject line is what drives users’ anticipation or expectations.

    Creating the right subject lines for email campaigns should be simple, targeted and flexible. Thanks to the tips shared in this post, these points are expounded!

    I couldn’t agree with you more Ivan!

    In kingged.com, this post was shared, and i have left the above comment on it!

    • Hi Sunday,

      Yes that’s right. Newsletter subject lines are the gate keepers of any email campaign. Great subject lines get your newsletter emails opened.

      I so glad that you found the post useful Sunday.

      Thanks for commenting. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

  2. Hi, Ivan,

    Excellent content, my friend, and I especially liked how you emphasized the importance of the email subject line once it’s dispatched. Makes us really think about the process and the how critically important each part is, especially crafting the subject line.

    Firstly, I don’t use a template. I craft each email as if it were an email you’d receive from a friend. No headers, no footers, no social media links, etc. I’ve chosen personal branding, so from: Carol Amato is all that is necessary in my case. They know I represent CarolAmato.com.

    Thanks for the reminder to test, because that’s been a weakness of mine since day one. I do test, but not nearly enough, so this is a great wake up call.

    I do not care for emails that use first and last name. I realize that it’s a marketing tactic to be more “personal” – however, I’ve seen this go wrong far too often, and I receive:

    Hello {Firstname-fixed}. . .

    LOL! It’s happened to me many times, and I’m referring to top industry people sending these out. Faulty? Yep!

    Steering clear of that one…

    Thanks for sharing, and I’ll be Spreading the word…

    Have a great weekend.

    Ciao Ciao,
    Carol Amato

    • Hi Carol,

      I always love to rad your comments. They are so well structured and very conversational. I’m happy that the Blog post added some value to you Carol. That’s what all Bloggers really strive for. Choosing personal branding is perfect for getting your Emails opened. The effort/energy that goes into doing that however is tremendous. I guess the increase in the emails being opened is just reward.

      Testing is important but its not crucial to a great Email strategy. As long as you are getting great engagement with your email recipients you’ve got nothing to worry about. Keep a watchful eye on that statistic though. On the net, ignoring vital stats, can come back an bite.

      LOL, Use first name and last name only if there is a proper last name populated within the list. The safest being use only the first name as you’ve correctly pointed out.

      Every email that is written to – Ivan – almost always gets clicked on and opened. Emails that are written to – Ivan Bayross – on the other hand, I always read the – Subject line – and only then decide to open them or junk them. Yes, there is a great deal of power in – First Names.

      Thank you for sharing and spreading the word Carol. This is a great boost for me as a Blogger and I’m ever so grateful.

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