How effective are your subject lines?

Users decide within seconds, whether an email is worth reading or not. Are you able to catch the reader’s attention during this brief window?

We have compiled six tips for effective subject lines:

  • Tackle curiosity
    First of all, it is important to tackle the reader's interest. With subject lines, which only contain the words "Newsletter 201" or "Newsletter by Roger's Travel Ltd", this would prove difficult. Instead, the subject line should be used to tackle the interest of the readers: Write what the user will expect in the email and why he or she should open it.

    You should also clearly put the use for the reader in the foreground, e.g. with a subject line, such as, "Relax on the Island of Jersey and save 30%". Another option to tackle interest is the use of a question in the subject line.

  • Pay attention to the number of characters
    Keep an eye on the number of characters in the subject line - especially, when your newsletter targets private users and your subscriber list contains a large proportion of Webmail providers. GMX, for example, only displays 21 characters of a subject line. Hotmail displays 40 characters and Google Mail shows 87 characters. The number of displayed characters is often also limited when a desktop application is used to read the emails. Outlook in its classical three column preview and with a typical screen resolution displays between 40 and 50 characters. Be brief in your subject line and use exciting and attention-catching terms to start the sentence.

  • Create trust
    The phrasing in a subject line may well be a little exaggerated in order to have the required effect. However, beware of empty promises as they compromise your credibility and this may lead to lower open rates and unsubscriptions in the long term.

  • Avoid spam terminology
    Stay away from terms written entirely in upper case in the subject line, as spam filters react badly to them. Also, be careful with very commercial terms (free, hot) and exclamation marks.

  • Relevancy decides
    The best subject line is useless if the topic is not relevant for the recipient. You can increase relevancy by segmenting your address pool (e.g. by gender, age or location) or referencing current events, such as, holidays, festivals or political decisions.

  • Personalisation in the subject line?
    One’s own name is always an eye catcher – this also applies to subject lines. However, the effect of a personalised subject line can quickly wear off, if it is used too often. Also, think of an alternative subject line for recipients whose name is not available, so that those recipients will not receive a failed personalisation attempt in their subject line.
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