6 Secrets for a Must-Read Email Subject Line

Sarah McInerney

Head of Content

Sarah has almost three decades of experience in crafting compelling, engaging content specifically designed to boost sales and enhance brand loyalty. She’s also an expert in developing unique tone of voice that helps brands connect with their audiences. Her marketing and client service background has given Sarah a natural understanding of how to write content that makes readers take action. Whether it’s signing up to a mailing list, making an enquiry or donation or clicking the buy button, Sarah knows precisely how to convert with words. Pen down, Sarah is a proud member of the Essex Wildlife Trust and spends most of her free time enjoying inspiring walks through her local woodland and nature reserves, admiring everything that flaps, flutters and flowers.

The subject line in an email is perhaps the most crucial part of the entire campaign. With all of us receiving large volumes of emails each day, the subject line must capture attention and cut through the rest of the messages waiting in the inbox. It must be powerful enough to entice the reader to open the email and keep reading, with the optimum goal to gain a click through to the website and ultimately, a sale.

Here are 6 guidelines for crafting a strong email subject line:

  1. Keep it short – Generally, subject lines should be between 20 and 30 characters long, but some studies show the shorter the better. Anything longer than this is not going to capture the reader’s attention and will be cut off the screen, particularly on mobile phones.
  2. Capital letters and exclamation marks – Avoid using a subject line that is all in capital letters. Not only does this make the email difficult to read, but it can also make it look like spam. Similarly, keep exclamation marks to a minimum and use wisely.
  3. Personalisation – Yes, personalising emails is a good thing, but beware of using the recipient’s name too much within an email. It can be off-putting to appear over familiar.
  4. Urgency – Creating a sense of urgency about an offer in an email is a good thing, but avoid sounding too desperate. Using the phrase “last chance” in a subject line was recently found to be hugely detrimental to open rates as people obviously didn’t want to be reminded about an offer they’d missed out on.
  5. Wording – Choose your words wisely. Certain words such as “donation” or “free” can have a negative effect on open rates. Other words such as “news” or “bulletin” give the impression that the email will have strong content and so work well.
  6. Pique the reader’s interest – Subject lines don’t always have to contain a strong sales offer. Say something obscure that will make the recipient keep reading or ask a question that the reader will answer “yes” to. For example “Fed up trying to lose weight?”

It’s important to spend as much time on the subject line as it is on the email itself as this is the part that everyone will see. An effective subject line can mean the difference between a low and a high conversion rate.

Don’t forget that different subject lines and messages will work well for different industries and audiences so always have your reader in mind and think about what will work for them. A/B split testing with subject lines is advisable and can really help you to understand what works best for your audience.

If you need help with any aspect of your email campaigns, please get in touch.

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