By Adam Osbourne, Senior Account Manager & Kevin Wray, Senior Vice President, Global Sales
Why Subject Lines Matter
It has everything to do with the flooded inbox. The average email user receives 65 emails per day according to Pingdom’s web-wide study last year. Your subject line for marketing emails, then, needs to be eye-catching enough to finesse a pause during the quick subject line scan that we all employ to get through the inbox deluge.
Increasing the challenge at hand is Gmail’s unsubscribe link. This link, placed right below the subject line, allows Gmail’s 425 million users to unsubscribe from your email without even opening it.
Bottom line: now, more than ever, email marketers need to get the subject line right.
After all, what is the point of creating a great campaign if nobody is going to see it?
#1 Keep it Short
Headlines, movie titles and book titles are memorable when they are short and snappy. The same rule applies to email subject lines. Keep it short.
A recent study by Mail Chimp took a look at over 200 million emails to analyze the relationship between subject lines and open rates. The first recommendation of the study? Keep the subject under 50 characters. With inboxes generally only showing the first 40-60 characters, a subject line cut short can be the deciding factor between opening and deleting your email.
#2 Catch the Mobile Wave
The view of the subject line is even smaller on a mobile device This fact is even more pertinent when coupled with this statistic reported by VB News: people read 65% of all their emails from their phone first.
So, take the mobile first design approach. This VB News article sums it up:
“Email open rates for commercial emails have surged since email-reading began shifting toward mobile devices. Thinking mobile-first for email, especially for brands, agencies, and marketers, is absolutely essential.”
#3 Be Wary of SPAM Words
Did you know that 69% of email users mark emails as spam based on the subject line alone?
That’s after your email makes it through the automatic SPAM filter.
Email providers assign black marks to “spam words” in both the subject line and the body of email. While not all emails that use spam words will end up in the spam folder, it turns out that users are just as sensitive as the filters in place. Use the wrong words and you risk getting marked as SPAM from your own subscribers and registered users!
Avoid phrases such as
- act now
- open immediately
- % off
Read the Mail Chimp Article that goes over these words in detail!
Frequent use of them will build black marks against your IP, harm its reputation and increase the chances of your email being delivered to the SPAM folder, either automatically or because of user-irritation.
Don’t risk it; choose your words carefully.
Other Ways to Beat SPAM Filters
- Monitor your email provider’s list of spam words regularly.
- Avoid using special characters such as #,^ or %. While good for Twitter and Instagram, they are not looked upon favorably by email providers.
- Read our Break the GMAIL Barrier Series.
- Use correct capitalization in subject lines and avoid ALL CAPS. Not only do SPAM filters dislike caps, but readers also find it offensive.
YES: £59 return ticket to Paris on Eurostar
NO: EUROSTAR TICKET TO PARIS ONLY £59
#4 Wordsmith It
The subject line is the window through which customers first see your content. Polish it up and make it an interesting view.
- Convey a sense of urgency that encourages open and click-through without delay. If you have deadlines or expiration dates, use them.
- Be precise about what’s inside.
YES: Enjoy holiday comfort food, wine and Yorkshire scenery £32 – offer ends tonight.
NO: LAST CHANCE for Great Holiday Experience. BUY NOW!
- Use wit and humor. A casual tone in your subject line helps you come across as engaging and personal. You can also use wit to build motivation and pique imagination.
COMMON: Bed-and Breakfast in Cambridge for only £150 per night!
TRY: Get engaged, revive an affair, or escape from the law in Cambridge. £150.
Most e-commerce sites tend to use the “common” approach, but do consider adding a little mystery or humor, and more people will open the package to see what is inside. If you are unsure of how risqué or silly you can get, conduct A-B tests with a few hundred users before blasting it out to the entire database.
One of the easiest ways to get customers to open your email is to make your subject line relevant to them. Include the subscriber’s location and interests in the subject line if and when you have them. If you know your subscribers name, you can add a variable to your subject line to display this for an extra personal touch.
#6 Keep it Relevant to Content
Subject lines must absolutely relate to the content of the email. Do not employ bait and switch tactics with subject lines. Staying consistent and relevant is not only essential to brand integrity, but also is necessary to comply with the CAN-SPAM act of 2003.
With 84% of 18-34 year olds using a preview pane in their inbox, you should ensure that the top half of the email (at least) relates to the content of the subject line. Follow this rule to avoid creating distrust in your subscribers in the long run and to avoid being quickly marked as SPAM in the short run.
What are your Best Practices for subject lines!
Kevin has managed our sales, marketing and partnership relationships since joining NimbleCommerce in 2009. As the Senior Vice President and Director of Global Sales, he brings a wealth of knowledge to our team with over 20 years of experience in e-commerce and online monetization. When not working, Kevin can be found practicing his golf swing or on the ski slopes.