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  by Florence Mendoza |

Guide to Writing Email Subject Lines


If you want subscribers to read your emails, then you have to convince them that what’s inside will provide value for them. The first thing they read will determine whether they want to even open your email, let alone buy your products and services. This guide will help you write subject lines that provide an enticing preview of what is to come and see a higher open rate in your campaigns.

Plan Your Email Marketing Campaigns in Advance

As with all marketing and business campaigns, newsletters and email marketing require planning. It’s a good idea to come up with a strategy that includes email subject line writing tactics. As you read on, you can get an idea of what this part of the strategy includes.

Think of Your First Campaigns as a Test to See What Works and What Doesn’t

By following the advice for crafting email subject lines that you read online, including tips from your email platform, you can see a spike in your email click through rate. This doesn’t mean that your work is done. Honing the craft of writing remarkable email subject lines is an ongoing process; different mailing lists recipients have different behaviors.

email subject lines

[Image sourced from MailChimp dashboard]

As you go through the task of creating headlines that are clickable, think of it as a test, keeping track of what you’ve written and the open rate for each campaign. Hold the thought that the subject lines aren’t necessarily the only reason why a reader might open a message; time and day of the week a campaign is sent can impact this as well.

Craft a Relevant Statement

The message in your subject should be in alignment with the information you share in your email. The first draft of a subject line should be a brief summary of what is to come. So, step one is to summarize your subject line to a single sentence, a preview of what’s in the email.

How Long Should You Make Your Subject Line?

One of the leading email marketing platforms suggests keeping your subject lines brief, so that readers don’t have to go digging to find out if they want to read your message. 50 characters or less is the recommended length for email subject lines. MyEmma email marketing platform says that, for mobile optimization, you have only 20-30 characters to get opened (Try frontloading, putting the most important words at the beginning if your subject line is longer). Your second step is to shorten the length of your subject lines to a width of approximately 50 characters or less. Remember this number when you finalize, since there is still more work to do.

Replace Spammy Terms with Powerful Words

The paradigm is that using words like “free” and “now,” can get your emails flagged by junk filters, sending them straight to the spam folder, where they will rarely even be seen. If you phrase your subject lines as a question and/or with powerful words, they are likely to perform better. AlchemyWorx did a study about which words helped boost email open rates, and here are some of the words that worked along with the open rate percentage vs average:

email marketing

This study also indicated that the following words could DECREASE the open rate:

writing email subject lines

So, once you’ve minimized your subject line to 50 characters or less, check for words that could sound like spam or just decrease the open rate, and replace them with more powerful and emotional words. CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer is a fun tool for testing the potential of the subject lines you come up with.

writing emails

Don’t Reuse the Same Subject Line

Generic subject lines are boring. If readers see, “X Newsletter,” over and over, even if the content is brilliant, it is only a matter of time before they stop opening. There’s not enough time in the day to make a gamble on reading something that brings no value to the table. Your subscribers will want to see originality in your emails, so give them that. Write a fresh new subject line for each email you send.

Look to Others for Inspiration

When you can’t think of a golden subject line for your emails, turn to others. One good place to look is in your own inbox. But, don’t just copy the sender because you like their marketing.Instead, think about which emails you wanted to open vs the ones you didn’t and why.

Keep in mind, whenever browsing your emails, that someone wrote these statements with purpose. Your own email inbox can give you valuable insight into the subject line crafting process. Subscribe to email lists from others in your niche for targeted ideas. Painters look to other artists for inspiration, and email marketing is no different; we’re all in this together.

Are You Creating Questions in Your Readers’ Minds?

Another place to look for inspiration is to blogs where marketers share their newsletter fails and wins. For example, Digital Marketer shared in their blog that “Can’t Make the Trip?” was their best subject line in 2014. Notice that it’s a question that leaves the reader with a sense of curiosity. In all headlines, email subjects included, it is always best to create questions in the mind of your reader, making them want to read on.

Analyze the Success of Your Campaigns

Your email marketing platform will provide valuable insights into the successes and failures of your campaigns. Pay attention to what is working well for you, and what isn’t. Did 11% of readers open your email that mentioned a change of internal policy vs only 8% when you offered an item for sale? What does this tell you about your readers in this list? While doing analysis like this, you create the room for practical changes and adjustments to your plan. The data provided in your analytics is concrete evidence of what is happening inside your mailing list, not one like yours or a general list of subscribers.

About the Author: Florence Mendoza is a content manager at Buy an Essay. She provides online marketing help to aspiring bloggers and web specialists.

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