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7 quick tips to craft the perfect email subject line

By Gareth Lockton

I have written before about how to grow your email subscription database, but once you have people to send your emails to, how do you actually get them to be opened and read?

18th century English poet and philosopher Samuel Coleridge once said:

Email subject lines: the best words in the best order.

Well, almost. Coleridge might have been talking about poetry, but he could just as easily been talking about modern day email marketing techniques.

MailChimp recently studied roughly 24 billion delivered emails with subject lines composed of approximately 22,000 distinct words. That’s a whole load of data, and it produces some fascinating results. We take a look at some of the key takeaway points below.

1. Get personal with your subscribers

It’s been a long-held thought that including the names of subscribers in email subject lines increases open rates. Understandable when you consider the amount of junk that arrives in our inboxes these days! While the study results reveal this to be true, interestingly, there is a big difference between using first names, last names or both.

The runaway winner here is subject lines that include both First Names AND Last Names. Highly personalised subject lines win, and the more personal you can make them, the better! This was true accross different industry sectors with varying success rates. All except the Legal sector, which surprisingly found that First Names actually had a negative affect on open rates.

Email Name Personalisation

2. Free doesn’t always help

Everyone likes free things, right? Well, actually no! It all depends on the industry, and the levels of trust that are associated with them. Using the word “Free” in your email subject lines is great for industry sectors such as Recruitment, Restaurants, Venues and Entertainment. Everyone is looking for a free night out!

But for the Travel, Medical and Finance industries, “Free“ actually puts people off opening the email. Nobody wants a dentist that operates for free! There must be some kind of catch, like being left with no front teeth!

Email Free

What is also interesting is that using the word “Freebie” instead of “free“ actually has a huge positive impact on open rates.

Email Free vs Freebie

3. Convey a sense of urgency

It sounds really simple, but people actually respond accordingly to the different levels of urgency you convey in a message. If you are sending an email campaign that is far more important than your regular old campaigns, marking it as “Urgent“ in the subject line will make more of your subscribers actually open the email. For those occasions when it is essential that your campaign is opened, increasing the urgency is a good tactic to use.

Email Urgency

4. Making an Announcement is exciting!

The choice of words you use when making an announcement or invitation can impact the open rate of your email. As can reminders and cancellations. An Announcement is exciting! A Reminder is boring. A cancellation? Well, who cares!

Email Announcements

5. Charity? Bah Humbug!

It’s sad to see, but, email subject lines based around “Charity“ have less chance of being opened. The more specific the suject is to asking subscribers to “Donate“, then there is even less chance. Whilst it seems that nothing effectively works here, the softly, softly approach with words like “Helping“ and “Fundraising“ seem to work best.

Email Charity

6. Everyone likes a Thank You

Pairs of words that are often used have different effects. An email with a nice “Thank You“ subject line always performs much better than letting subscribers know its their “Last Chance“ to grab an offer they have already been told about.

Email Word Pairs

7. Capitalisation barely matters

The difference between having one word, or a whole subject line, capitalised barely had any impact on email open rates.

Email Capitalisation

If you are just starting out with Email Marketing or already have an email campaign up and running and would like to know more about our services, please call 01457 854 418 or complete an enquiry form and we will call you back!