Are there best practices for writing terrific email subject lines? In a word, Yes!
While it’s true that that every email marketing campaign and audience is unique, there are some basic best practices that will work across most.
Never Re-Use Subject Lines
Recipients always remember who wasted their time. So, don’t waste people’s time reusing subject lines.
A repeated subject line sends recipients the message they’ve already read your email. What’s worse, is they may have ignored your email the first time. (Now they’re even more annoyed to notice the same subject line in their mail client).
The one exception is:
If you are delivering a recurring newsletter. Then keeping the subject line the same helps recipients quickly identify your email. (Which could trigger their decision to click through and read).
You can do A/B testing to figure out if this works for you or not. Keep the subject line the same for some recipients, switch it around for others and let your 3rd party email service provider inform you which works for you.
Aim For A Subject Line Of 5 To 7 Words Tops
Each email client has their own character count before they truncate long subject lines.
The ball park figure for a subject line that does not get truncated is five to seven words of about 8 characters each. Between 40 to 56 characters max and your subject line will never be truncated.
Avoid Salesy Sounding Subject Lines
To get people to read your emails your subject lines cannot be aggressive. You have to avoid exclusively salesy sounding email subject lines.
Recipients, like everyone else, are protective of their time and money. Your email subject lines and content should add measurable value to them first. Then you can try a salesy one.
To do this, always put your recipient’s needs first. Your subject line should state clearly what’s in it for them, instead of what’s in it for you.
Here’s a bad example on an email subject line:
Buy this awesome WordPress plugin right now!
That’s pushy, and does on indicate what value your WordPress plugin adds to the recipient.
Here’s a better, more conversational way of saying the same thing:
This WordPress plugin ensures all your webpage images download at blinding speeds.
Your webpage will take 75% less time load. Your site visitors on mobile devices will smile.
That sounds like it was written by someone who cares about the needs of the recipient.
Who explains the value add of their WordPress plugin to their recipient. If your WordPress plugin responds to the needs of your email recipients they will happily buy.
Use Action Verbs
Sometimes directing readers using a specific action can motivate your recipients to respond.
For example: You are one click away from multiplying your website income 3X.
Use Humor Thoughtfully
A lot of email marketers think they are funny. This might even be true among their friends.
That said, writing email subject lines tinged with humor is a difficult skill to master. If you are confident of your audience AND your skill to blend in humor in your subject lines go for it.
Otherwise it’s probably better to subject lines with humor blended in, to professionals.
Include A Surprising Statistic In Your Subject Line
Data doesn’t lie. If you have a statistic that sounds unreal or counter-intuitive, don’t hesitate an instant to use that in your subject line.
Just ensure that you present such a statistic in your subject line, in a way that isn’t misleading.
Here’s an example:
The tool 68% of marketers use isn’t what you think.
Reading that, a recipient should be curious to know:
What tool could that possibly be?
What does 68% of marketers know that the remaining 32% do not?
How can I avoid being part of the 32% that do not know?
The statistic blended into your subject line should be remarkable enough to be interesting, but not overblown in a way that’s misleading.
Write Your Subject Lines So They Read Clearly
People have short attention spans. Don’t make them think too hard to understand your subject line.
Use clear language. Keep your subject line succinct. Cut out any unnecessary words.
Let’s take a look at this subject line:
The best car for the average family of four is the new Mazda 6.
That’s a lot of the and for and other incidental words that could be cut out.
To simplify this subject line:
The new Mazda 6. The perfect family car.
This sentence says the exact same thing, except with fewer words. It’s tighter, punchier, and easier to read.
Any time you’re writing subject lines, ask yourself these two questions:
- Are there any non-essential words I can cut out?
- How can I tighten up what’s left, to say the same thing concisely?
Create Subject Lines Like A Human
Be conversational and write like a human being. Use language similar to what your target audience would use.
Don’t create subject lines that sound geeky enough to make your recipient’s feel inferior in any way.
Don’t Write Your Subject Line In ALL CAPS
On the Internet writing in ALL CAPS traditionally indicates that you are SHOUTING.
Your recipients will not take well to a subject line written in ALL CAPS.
You will see a high number of email ignores as well as a high number of unsubscribes if/when you do this.
HEY! IF YOU DON’T BREAK YOUR OWN CAPS LOCK KEY, I’LL COME OVER THERE AND BREAK IT FOR YOU.
Hey! I know it’s your keyboard. Just … please, stop writing email subject lines that scream in my face.