Email Marketing: The Dos and Don'ts of Email Subject Lines

Posted by Amy Peveto on December 30, 2010

The subject line of your email marketing campaign is an opportunity to make an impression -- and since the average user decides in 2 - 5 seconds if your email is worth a click, that impression needs to be a good one. Here are some quick hints to keep in mind when it comes time to write that subject line.

Be misleading - It’s important to create an interesting subject for your email; however, there’s a fine line between interesting and misleading. Don’t get so wrapped up in being creative that you mislead your readers, which may result in your losing potential leads. It’s better to have a straightforward title than an “interesting” one which disappoints your readers.

Tell the reader what to expect - When your readers click on an email, they expect to read content which relates directly to the subject line. Use your subject line to impart an important fact, or give a bite-size summary of the content beyond.

Be spammy - Email filters are on the lookout for emails with excessive capitalization and exclamation points. It’s great to be excited about a sale, award, or upcoming event; by keeping email subject lines pithy and free of unnecessary punctuation, email clients are less likely to filter out your email marketing as spam.

In addition, take care when configuring your “from” name (which appears next to your email’s subject line): according to DoubleClick, 60% of customers say the “from” name most often determines whether they open an email or delete it. Your email “from” name is another opportunity to present your brand; rather than setting all your emails to come from noreply, use a more personalized name that will give your readers a better idea of from whom your email is coming.

Be original - Don’t recycle your subject lines. Even if you have a particular line that performed well (high open and conversion rates, etc.), resist the temptation to copy and paste it into every email -- loyal readers will notice the recycling and may delete your newer emails, thinking they are something they’ve already read. Find out what made your best performing subject line so popular, and tweak it to suit subsequent emails.

...forget to spell check - Nothing ruins a snazzy subject line like a mispelling misspelling. Most word processors come with a spell check function -- use it! Your final product will be polished and professional.

Test your mailing - Most email marketing software allows you to send test emails. Before you send your email to your list, send a test to yourself. This allows you to make sure that your subject line is spelled and formatted correctly, and makes the impression you want it to.

Take testing one step further by splitting your email list into segments and testing different subject lines. By optimizing your subject lines for open, click-through, and conversion rates, you can maximize the effect of your email marketing.


What steps are you taking to ensure optimized email subject lines? Do you have more “Dos” or “Don’ts” to add to this list? Drop us a comment and let us know what you think.


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