7 Tips for Writing Compelling Email Subject Lines

There are a lot of factors that make up a successful email marketing strategy. But you could argue your subject lines are the most important part.

Subject lines may consist of a single line of text, but they serve as a gateway, a sneak peek that causes people to click, ignore, or delete. In fact, 47% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.

Everything I’m going to see below should be split tested. Are use ActiveCampaign because of their incredible split testing features, but must add responders have some form of this.

There are a lot of ways to optimize your subject lines to get more clicks, but a few factors are essential for success. Here are 7 tips to ensure you write great email subject lines every time.

Focus on your goals

Back in the “old days” of email marketing, it was once very common to use deceptive strategies to get people to click on an email. Marketers would come up with catchy subject lines that had little to do with the purpose of the email.

But that’s just annoying, right?

Instead of tricking your subscribers into clicking, your subject lines should relate to the ultimate goal of your email. If your goal is to promote your blog content, reflect that in your subject line. If your goal is to promote a sale, make that clear as well.

Here’s an example of a recent email I received from Audible that does this well:

From their subject line the goal is clear: they want me to use more of my credits!

Segment and personalize

Segmentation is one of the best ways to optimize your email marketing message, including your subject lines. Using your email marketing software, it’s possible to create sub-groups of subscribers based on their demographics, interests, and other factors. Then you can send out personalized messages to each based on these factors.

For example, say you run an ecommerce store. You can send out different promotional offers to your subscribers based on their past purchase history. Reflect this in your subject line to garner more clicks as well.

Addressing subscribers by name in subject lines is another way to personalize your message:

Offer value

When it comes to content marketing and social media, it’s best practice to avoid being overly promotional to your audience. But email is a whole different animal. In fact, 77% of people prefer to get permission-based promotional messages via email, more than direct mail, text, phone, or social media.

So now’s your opportunity to highlight sales, deals, and other promotional messages in your emails. Use your subject line to illustrate that your email offers value through sales, discounts, or other offers.

Inspire action

Your email subject lines have one main purpose: getting people to click. So you can focus your subject lines on achieving this by using psychological principles that inspire people to act. The main strategies are instilling a sense of urgency or curiosity in your copy.

You can instill urgency through your language (e.g. “See it now!” or “Act quickly!”) but an even better strategy is to highlight your offer is only available for a limited time. Here’s an example I love from Old Navy: Invoking curiosity in your subject lines is more of an art. You can ask a question people will really want to know the answer to, or offer a partial sneak peek of a compelling new piece of content.

Here’s an example of an email I got from Magzter that invokes curiosity in the subject line:

What is this new formula for success, and why is it controversial? I have to know, so I click through and read the content.

Make your audience feel important

Making your audience feel like they matter to you and your business is a great way to capture their long-term interest, and get more clicks on your emails. There are a lot of ways you can make your audience feel important, such as sending out “thank you” emails when they sign up, make a purchase, contribute to your online community, etc.

Here’s an example of a nice thank you email I received from a charity I support:To be honest, I haven’t donated to them in quite a while, but a re-engagement email like this can make me feel like my contributions still matter, and encourage me to act.

If you’re an online retailer, offering exclusive deals is another great way to make your audience feel important. Create a special promotion just for them, or invite them to an exclusive webinar, etc. Highlight this in your subject line to encourage more clicks and engagement.

Take advantage of your preview text

Many marketers forget that your subject line isn’t the only part of your email people will see before they click through. Whether on desktop or mobile devices, users will also see preview text — a snippet of the first line or so of your email, along with your subject line.

So, you should make the most of your preview text to help encourage clicks as well. Here’s an example of two emails, one making good use of their preview text and the other not:Apple Pay’s preview text just repeats the same message as their headline. Old Navy’s preview text uses the opportunity to highlight a secondary promotion.

Use your preview text as an opportunity to highlight additional info that you couldn’t fit into your main subject line.

A/B test different options

There’s no way to know for sure exactly what message and language are going to get your audience to click. So your best bet is to come up with a variety of subject lines, and A/B test them to see which is the most effective. Your email marketing software has built-in features that make A/B testing easy.

The quality of your subject lines can make or break your email marketing efforts. So it’s a wise idea to spend as much energy developing your subject lines as you do the rest of the email. If you follow these 7 tips from the beginning, you’ll be well along the road to success.

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