Just as we all admittedly sometimes judge a book by its cover, potential customers will judge an email by its subject line. They’re the first opportunity to hook and engage a recipient’s interest – so if the content is lacking, there’s a good chance the email will go un-opened.
We’ve all heard the saying about first impressions: they’re lasting. Though it may seem superficial, first impressions do impact our subsequent actions. So when it comes to emails, the subject line will determine if and how the recipient engages with the content, as they’re the first thing users see when they receive an email.
Because subject lines are so important to the effectiveness of an email, they’re worth a little extra attention to detail. First and foremost, subject lines must be attention-grabbing. And yes, this means clickbaity content!
Catchy and creative subject lines will help your email stand out amongst the hundreds of others pinging a recipient’s inbox. Need a few tips? Here are some of our best practices for writing the perfect email subject lines.
One way to grab the recipients’ attention while also adding a personal touch to an email is to personalize the subject line based on a subscriber’s information. One way to do this is to feature the name of the recipient. For example, “[Name], Your Discount Code Is Inside.” You could also target the location of the recipient. For example, make the subject line and the special offer location-specific like this: “It’s Winter in [Location]. Get 10% Off Winter Jackets.” This is a great way to leverage a subscriber’s personal information to make the recipient feel valued – and make the email that much more sentimental.
You could also consider signing the subject line with a sender’s name, like, “Here’s a Discount Just For You! From, [Name]).” This gives the email a human touch and appears to the recipient like a note written personally for them. If you choose to go this route, make sure the sender’s name will be familiar and easily recognized by the recipient. For example, someone they have worked with or spoken to previously.
Lead with the Important Information
Putting the most important words at the beginning of your subject line is a great way to get recipients interested and engaged right off the bat. This could be the recipient’s name (which serves as the attention-grabber) followed by the special offer included in the email. For example, “[Name], Get 10% Off with Code Inside.”
With a subject line like this, the two most important components of your email – the hook and the discount – are the first thing the reader sees. This way, you grab the recipient’s attention while simultaneously giving them a taste of what awaits inside the email.
Keep it Short
As with most things, short and sweet subject lines are the way to go, especially considering almost 50% of recipients open emails on a mobile device. Because of this, it’s important that subject lines are short enough to be read by users on phones or tablets. While computer inboxes usually will show 60-character subject lines, mobile devices will only show anywhere from 25-43 characters.
To play it safe, we recommend keeping your subject lines within this range. Subject lines that are 30-40 characters are a safe bet and still give you enough wiggle room for creativity.
Choose Your Words Wisely
There is no space to spare with such a concise character limit, so don’t waste it with wordy phrases or filler words. When it comes to writing catchy and creative subject lines within a character limit, every word counts. Since you have limited room to get your message across while also grabbing the attention of recipients, get right to the point.
To keep your subject line concise and effective, think of it this way: Every word needs to have a purpose and contribute something to the message.
One way to shorten a subject line while also baiting the recipient is to use numbers instead of words. Numbers are easier to read and stand out in the text, making them an effective point of convergence for recipients.
See for yourself which subject line grabs your attention:
- Sale Ends Today
- Last Chance to Save 15%
Because numbers set expectations and are much more deliberate, they let the recipient know exactly what is included in the email while also drawing their interest. Think of numbers as the eye candy of an email subject line!
Use Words with Meaning
As we’ve said, every word counts. With that being said, the words within a subject line need to generate emotion within the recipient. Whether that be a sense of urgency, FOMO, or curiosity, the words need to make the email irresistible to open. To do this, strategically use words to make it clear to recipients what they will miss out on if they ignore the email.
Here are a few examples to get you started:
- Don’t Miss Out On 15% Off
- Are You Really Going to Pass Up Free Shipping?
- Last Chance to Qualify For A Free Gift.
- 3 Things You Need to Know When Shopping for Furniture.
You could also consider asking a question to play on a recipient’s curiosity. Using words like “wondering how,” “want to know,” or “interested in” are all great lead-ins to get the recipient’s gears turning to entice them to open the email. You could even direct them to the information with phrases like “learn more here” or “find the answer inside.”
Don’t Withhold Information – Make The Offer Clear
Get right to it. When a customer’s inbox pings their mobile device with a new message from your brand, the first thing they are going to wonder is, “What are they offering?” Be completely transparent with recipients in the subject line and highlight the value you are presenting to them.
Feature the discount or special offer in the subject line to make it clear what they can gain from opening your email. If you withhold this information, customers may not be intrigued enough to search for the offer within the email themselves. If the offer is time-sensitive, you could also include the deadline or expiration date within the subject line.
Put simply, give the recipient the information they want in the easiest, most accessible way. They aren’t going to waste time sifting through an email to learn what is in it for them. So make this information the first thing they see.
The Use of Emojis
There is a lot of conflicting research on the usefulness of emojis in subject lines. While some say they are a fun and engaging visual aid, others argue they are distracting and take away from the message. Our best advice: just like with words, use emojis wisely and sparingly.
Only incorporate an emoji into your subject line if it is relevant to the content of your email or if it gives the message added value. A general rule of thumb is to stick to one emoji per subject line to avoid distracting readers from the message.
All Caps and Punctuation – There’s No Need to Shout!
Just like with emojis, the same goes for all caps and exclamation points. Overuse of capitalized words and exclamation marks in subject lines can be overwhelming for readers. It also feels forced, disingenuine, and comes across as a desperate attempt to make sales.
Though attention-grabbing, an email subject line like, “OPEN FOR A SURPRISE GIFT INSIDE!” is aggressive and reads like yelling. Don’t shout at your customers! You’ll just scare them away. There are better, more inviting ways of getting their attention.
Not to mention, all caps can also get your emails flagged or marked as spam. In this case, they won’t reach your target customer, anyways. So avoid this at all costs. Instead, play around with title case versus sentence case.
Another way to personalize your emails – and their subject lines – is by segmenting your mailing list. Automated email blasts can be overwhelming and misleading for customers if the subject doesn’t apply to them.
For example, consider a local pet store that sends an automated email to their entire mailing list with the subject line, “[Name] Throw Your Pup a Bone with 10% Off Dog Treats.” While this subject line appeals to and draws the attention of customers who own dogs, cat-owners may feel excluded, frustrated, or confused by this.
However, segmenting your mailing lists ensures your brand appropriately reaches and appeals to customers. This allows you to personalize your emails and subject lines based on your customer’s previous actions (their given information or products purchased). It will add value to the customer experience and make your email’s subject lines more relevant to the recipient – making it much more likely they’ll open your email.
Need A Little Inspiration?
If you’re still in need of some ideas, you could consider referring to some examples of emails and subject lines that have performed well for competing brands. Or – rather than relying on the competition, consult the experts at Zero Gravity Marketing for support. Our team is experienced in all the tricks and trades of email marketing, from subject lines to copy, mobile optimization, and more! Visit our site to learn more about our digital marketing services or contact us to discuss working together.