Arresting! Five top tips for a great email subject line

By Affilorama Group
Arresting! Five top tips for a great email subject line


If email marketing is one of the strings in your bow, you might be thinking it’s getting a little tired. You’re not getting the response you hoped for and you imagine that your list has been ‘all spammed out’. Well, maybe it’s just you need to rethink your subject lines. Forty characters could be standing between you and email campaign victories!

And anyone who thinks that email marketing is dead, hasn’t visited an inbox lately. Every day millions of free offers, exclusive deals and revolutionary products are being emailed to just about anyone with an email address, and it shows no signs of slowing.

Three big subject line blunders to avoid

  1. Emails that don’t get to the point – Emails that have vague or misleading content will get binned quicker than last week’s donuts. If you haven’t made it clear what you’re about your readers won’t bother to take the time to figure it out.
  2. Emails that use common spam words – True, you may actually sell Viagra but putting that in your subject line is a sure way to end up in someone’s junk mail folder. Other words such as free, guarantee, or exclamation marks, all CAPS and odd punctuation, can also be a quick way to have your email classed as junk.
  3. Emails without a call to action – When the subject line lacks a call to action and is more a dull ‘FYI’ type email it’s too easy for the reader to ignore. Chances are they won’t return to read it at a later time. So avoid ‘You might want to know about these new widgets’ subject lines.

Five tips for top subject lines

With the vast majority of emails being swallowed into the black hole of a spam filter or simply being ignored by the recipient it’s important that you set your emails apart. And one of the best ways to do this is through useful and compelling subject lines.

  1. Keep it short – Some experts recommend you stick to a maximum of 40 characters, since this is most email providers such as Yahoo and Hotmail will display to the reader, however BlackBerry’s and other mobile devices will only display 15 characters of a subject line, so brevity is the key!
  2. Don't be afraid to use your brand name – This is particularly true if you have strong brand recognition, in fact, many businesses enjoy good success with email campaigns by having their brand name up front.
  3. Create a sense of urgency – Readers need a reason to take notice of your email and why they need to action it now. By adding a time limit on your special offer you impel the reader to respond. A subject line such as ‘#1 Selling eBook – 80% off only today’ creates an excellent call to action.
  4. Make it specific – Hopefully your email lists are categorised into different client types that will allow you to talk directly to that specific group. For example if you have a client type that is into fly fishing, then use that in the subject line e.g. ‘Great offers on new range of fly rods’.
  5. Test your success – Creating compelling subject lines is not an exact science. You will need to try different approaches before finding one that works for your target audience. So segment your lists into different control groups and measure the click through. Click-through Rates (CTR) can also be a great way to identify new client types. If your subject line mentioned ‘complimentary tickets to the football’ it’s a safe bet those who clicked through were football fans.To prove that you will need to employ some trial and error in your efforts to find the perfect subject line, it has been reported that even negative subject lines can, interestingly enough, motivate readers to open your email. In one case, a company sent out an email with the subject line ‘Sorry but we have to say goodbye’ and enjoyed good success.

So pay attention to your subject line – it could be the most important 40 characters you write in your entire email marketing campaign!

ps Check out this list of the best and worst subject lines according to MailChimp, based on opening rates.

Kathaleen Dunford 14 years ago
Hey Jason,

Thanks for this top notch article. It helped add clarity to a cloudy area for me.

extra 14 years ago
thanks JasonDodd , u gave us great tip for the email
because i am all the time thinking very hard what to write on the subject
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