3 Email Subject Line Best Practices to Implement Today


There’s nothing wrong with having good fundamentals. They’re valuable for marketers at all skill levels.

A solid approach to the basics is the foundation for creativity. It’s why even the most skilled digital marketers with a background in email focus on their subject lines.

Email marketers know that email subject lines are a critical component of their success. It’s a tricky task to be creative with such limited room. But even with thousands of subscribers and hundreds of segmented lists, a marketer may scratch their head when it comes to what their next subject line could be.

This quest for the best subject lines is worth it, as it’s the part of your email most conducive to open rates – perhaps followed closely by your overall reputation as a sender.

The good news is there are guidelines for writing catchy email subject lines that check all the boxes. They’re punchy, proven, and personal.

Here are three email subject line best practices to improve your open rates, your chances of engagement, and the efficiency of your overall email strategy.

3 Strategies for Writing Email Subject Lines – Plus Bonus Tips

We’ll cover three of the core ideas behind writing the best email subject line. Along the way, we’ll discuss how using these strategies with email marketing functions can improve your chance of success.

Trying new strategies could mean mixing your segmentation strategy with a particular writing style or integrating automation (or related functions) into your subject line personalization.

1. Keep it Short (8 Words is a Good Target)

Let’s get started with the first (and arguably most important) tip for writing the best email subject lines.

Some would say this one goes without saying, but it’s easy to look past. Maybe you’re a long-form copywriter who likes to be expressive. You could be so feature-focused that your headlines always end up wordy because of your excitement.

But there’s no denying that a good headline is a short headline, this is for two reasons. The first is that subject lines can be cut off after a point – and on mobile, you may have even less room to say all you want.

If a subject line shows up in an inbox incomplete, it’s less likely the reader will open it. The sweet spot is between 6-10 words, so shoot for 8 give or take a couple. But if you’re optimizing for the mobile platform, going between 5-7 can be a better option.

There are also ways to trim down your subjects. If you can say something in fewer words, do. Redundancy will waste your space. Take the word “newsletter” for example. Studies have shown it makes open rates tank.  Plus, subscribers may already be expecting a newsletter. There’s no need to state it again.

Simple phrases can be “downsized” to help your subjects sound punchier and be more effective:

“We Wanted to Say Thank You for Being a Customer” could become “Thanks SO Much for Choosing Us.

“Don’t Miss Our Deal This Weekend, It’s Not Sticking Around” could become “Don’t Miss Our Weekend Deal.

If you’re worried being less wordy takes the punch out of your subjects, there are ways to get around this. You should consider using a relevant emoji, but only if it fits with the email. Used properly, they’ve been proven to boost read and response rates.

Don’t waste words on terms that gravitate to the spam folder. These terms to avoid include free, credit, prices, and more. On the contrary, try to add numbers (written as digits) when you can.

If you want to reinforce the impact of your subject line in the body as well, consider using the main takeaway in a graphic.

If you want to reinforce the impact of your subject line in the body as well, consider using the main takeaway in a graphic.

Source: Campaign Monitor

For an email about new merchandise that had just arrived, “just in” may seem a little underwhelming in a subject line – but given the limited space, it works. Adding it into a graphic reinforces the point and entices the reader to continue.

2. Test Your Subject Lines in Segments

As with all email practices, writing great email subject lines involves more than your skill level. It involves who your audience is. You may segment your subscriber list for common causes like drip campaigns, holiday-specific newsletters, and even lead targeting.

But it’s also wise to test your subject lines with A/B testing. Not only can you test different email subject lines, but you can test them among the segments that need the most improvement.

Curious about which is the best way to write one line? Try it on two different segments and see which gives you the metrics you need. Email subject line best practices are universal, but there is some room for variety. When comparisons are needed to give you the superior option, testing should be the first step.

If testing seems too cumbersome, try automation to alter subject lines in specific campaigns. Different styles could elicit different open rates in the same campaign. It’s a chance to see what’s working, and to give yourself some guidance for the future.

Don’t forget there are ways to test individual subject lines as well – free testing tools are plentiful.

Don’t forget there are ways to test individual subject lines as well – free testing tools are plentiful.

Source: Send Check It

Criteria may be different depending on which tester you use. When you are testing out subjects, make sure you’re using a tool optimized for email. The header of a blog, an academic paper, and an email will all be different. It goes to show how best practices are always dependent on what type of content you’re creating.

3. Personalize Subjects When Possible

It may not always be appropriate to address your subscriber by their name or mention their location in the subject line. This tip is about relevance – because when the opportunity does present itself, it’s a great way to improve open rates.

Consider common emails like the birthday or anniversary message. It’s easy to write catchy email subject lines for these – you have a name and a specific date to use.

If you’re delivering personalized offers, your readers may be more receptive. As you collect data about your mailing list, you can use it to tailor your subject lines accordingly.

How much more effective is it to address a longtime customer by name? Or mention how long they’ve been a customer? These are just a couple of the ways you can use personalization to write your subject lines.

If you’re the type of marketer who gathers data from subscribers via surveys, you could have even more personal data to use. Maybe you usually make B2C sales but are moving to B2B – surveys that reveal which industries your customers work in can help. This information lets you utilize more relevant keywords, and ensure your campaigns have a targeted feel.

Personalization is about relevance – you aren’t just sending emails around relevant events. You’re treating each email as a separate project and each subscriber as an individual. When you manage a large mailing list, it can be easy to lose track of personalization.

What are some ways to get more data? With an automation platform, you can see how users act on your site. Which pages do they frequent? Do they favor a certain product? How often do they browse before committing to a sale?

These facts make it much easier to send targeted emails that begin with very specific subject lines — looking for more insights? Choose a platform that integrates with databases like Salesforce, Google Analytics, and others.

When you get a lot of information on your subscribers, this is where event-trigger automation comes in handy. When we think of face-to-face conversations to elicit sales, we picture a person who knows where to take the conversation even if they get two polar opposite replies to a question.

Event triggers function the same way, letting you reach segments with consistency even if the subscribers in those segments react differently.

Writing the best email subject lines is not just about being a good copywriter or knowing your audience – it’s about blending email subject line best practices. Combine this with the proper email marketing tools, and you have a winning strategy.

Wrap Up: Email Subject Line Best Practices to Remember

Email may be the most popular lead-generating tool for many marketers. No matter how skillful a marketer becomes, they know the value of honing their subject lines.

To recap, the 3-step process of getting catchy email subject lines that work include:

  • Keep it short. A punchier, concise copy is better.
  • Test your headlines, and use A/B testing among segments for different subject lines
  • Personalize subjects with data insights

Your email subject lines can do a lot for your open rates, and your overall reputation as a sender. It’s good to know how to write engaging copy. But this is only part of the job. Mixing these writing practices with the proper support system can deliver the results marketers need.

A good subject line can be the start of an email journey. Learn how to create a journey your customers will enjoy.


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