11 Tips for Writing More Effective Email Subject Lines

Editorial Content

Emails are a great way to distribute custom content. The challenge is getting readers to open the message. Even if you’ve taken time to create useful, engaging content, your efforts go ignored if your audience sends the email straight to trash.

Many things can affect an email’s open rate, including the frequency of the email, the content of the email, and whom the message is for. Another major factor that helps get clicks is a strategic subject line. Here are tips for writing subject lines that inspire action.

1. Use the right keywords.

Adestra, a British marketing firm, surveyed more than 2.2 billion emails to identify keywords and phrases that elicited the most positive and negative responses from recipients. Download the report.

2. Be careful with content marketing terms.

Despite the popularity of content marketing, the Adestra study discovered that terms often associated with content, including “report,” “learn,” and “book” weren’t as effective. Their advice: If you’re a marketer, focus on differentiating your content to set it apart.

3. Focus on clarity, not cleverness.

Strive for straightforward subject lines that clearly describe what your email is about.

4. Deliver on your promise.

Never write misleading subject lines to achieve higher click-through rates. Subject lines should reflect the content inside the message.

5. Personalize it.

Connect with readers by addressing individuals or by tailoring content to specific locations. Don’t have this capability? Create a conversational tone with “you” and “your.”  

6. Keep it short.

As a general rule, limit subject lines to fewer than 50 characters, including spaces.

7. Steer clear of spam.

Make sure your email arrives in readers’ inboxes by avoiding excessive capitalization and punctuation. Also avoid certain “trigger” words. Visit HubSpot for a comprehensive list.

8. Ask the reader to act.

Use verbs to create actionable subject lines, and ask intriguing questions readers will want to know the answers to.

9. Create urgency.

Write subject lines that are time-sensitive without being too pushy. This is another strategy for inspiring action.

10. Know your audience.

Focus subject lines (and content) on subjects your audience is interested in. Explain how readers will benefit from opening the email.

11. Test your subject lines.

If you’re torn between two subject lines, split your audience in half and send a different subject line to each group. See which one performs best, and apply the same strategy to future subject lines. If you use an email service provider, review their feedback to determine which words, phrases, and formats resonate best with your audience.

Lexicon is an award-winning firm in Des Moines, Iowa, that specializes in content marketing.

  1. audience
  2. content marketing
  3. digital media
  4. editorial content
  5. marketing strategy

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