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Email is still king in digital marketing, but with all the marketing emails, personal, and work messages that people get in their inbox, it’s hard for any brand to stand out. There’s nothing more frustrating than creating a great email campaign only to get abysmal email open rates.

We’ve all done it. You’re standing in line or trying to stay sane at a family outing and you casually break out your smartphone to weed through your email. There are several steps you go through to determine if a message is going to break the monotony of that moment or if it’s simply going to end up trashed. This is a quick decision, usually lasting less than three seconds. Based on the email’s subject you’re likely to either open it, delete it or mark it as important.

As an email marketer, this moment makes you quail. Will your subject line stand the true test? Will you get that all-important click? Subject lines, it would seem, have the ability to make or break your campaign. Yet, some troubling new research has come to light that reveals that subject lines are not as cut and dried as we marketers would like to think.

Did you know that a third of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone and 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line?

That’s why the critical first step to improving email marketing engagement is creating great email subject lines that compel your subscribers to find out more.

Here are several best practices to help you write enticing email subject lines to boost your open rates and get your emails read:

 

  1. Keep it Short and Sweet

More than half of emails are opened on a mobile device, so it’s important to consider your target audience and what device they commonly use to open their emails. Another study found that subject lines with 8-10 words have the highest open rates. The logic here is that allowing recipients to view your whole title, plain and simple, makes the email sound simple and honest.

Only include copy that you need and optimize subject lines for every device. For mobile devices, a 20 to 30-character count is ideal. But, if your target market mostly uses a desktop, you need to make sure not to exceed 50 characters.

 

  1. Analyze Past Email Subject Line Performance

It’s always a good idea to back your strategy with data analytics. Measure your email open rates, and take a look at the subject lines that performed well in the past. Chances are, your email subscribers liked the subject line, and it enticed them to open your email.

However, you should also note that email open rates are also affected by the relevance of the deal you’re offering and the day/time you sent the email. So, keep in mind that although subject lines are a primary factor, they’re not the only thing you should be paying attention to.

 

  1. Personalize and Localize!

Statistics show that a personalized subject line is 22.2% more likely to be opened, so make your subscribers feel special by tailoring your message uniquely. Include their name in the subject line and make sure that the email you’re sending is something that they’ve shown interest in.

You can also tailor your subject line according to your recipient’s specific location. Use “you” and “your” so that your recipient feels like you’re talking to them directly. This will help you build rapport with your subscriber and make them feel more familiar with your name and your brand.

“John, here are 7 marketing tips just for you!”

“An exclusive discount, just for you.”

“You’re going to love these restaurants in Boston.”

 

  1. Use Actionable Words

Your email subject line often works as a call-to-action that explicitly tells your readers what they need to do. Using actionable verbs like “get your free copy” or “find more customers” will encourage your subscribers to act then and there.

“Use this Exclusive Discount Coupon on Your Next Purchase.”

“Increase Your Conversion Rates”

 

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency

Communicating urgency in an email subject line can entice recipients to open your email. However, don’t use it too often, as recipients may think that your next time-limited offer won’t be so limited after all.

Choose specific occasions such as a business anniversary, Black Friday, or Christmas to schedule your giveaways or exclusive deals. Tapping into a recipient’s fear of loss also works well to compel immediate action.

“30% Off for the First 100 Customers”

“Offer Ends in 3 Days”

 

  1. Be Funny and Witty

People get a lot of emails in their inbox, and it’s hard for brands to stand out. But, how often does an email subject line make you smile?

Humor is one of the best ways to showcase your brand’s personality, and with a strong brand personality, relationship and trust building become a whole lot easier.

Don’t be afraid to insert wit and humor in your email subject line. It’s a great way for you to catch the attention of your recipient and get them to open your email.

“Where to Drink Beer Right Now (Sent at 6:45 am on a Wednesday)” – Easter Boston

“Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)” — Groupon

 

  1. Use Emojis 😊

People use emojis when texting or posting on social media, so why not use them in your email subject line?

It’s a cute and trendy way to get your recipient’s attention and pique their curiosity. In fact, 56% of brands that use emojis in their email subject lines experienced a higher unique open rate.

When your objective is to stand out, emojis can truly be a blessing.

 

Additional Tips to Improve Email Open Rates

  1. Be Mindful of List Segmentation

By doing this, you’ll create a more focused email list. You can segment your contacts by industry, purchase behavior, demographics, or by online behavior. When someone receives your email, the first thing that comes to their mind is how relevant the email is to them. If your email doesn’t address a topic that sparks immediate interest, you can be sure that it won’t get opened.

Great content marketing has always been about context, so the more specific you can be, the more success you can expect to have.

 

  1. Don’t Buy Leads, Earn Them

Acquiring a massive chunk of contacts makes your list vulnerable to uninterested leads. You can’t be sure if everyone on that list is interested in learning more about your business and its services and you don’t want to waste your time on irrelevant prospects. Of course, there might be a handful of occasions where buying leads is a good idea but make sure you’re asking the right questions.

You can use a number of strategies to earn leads including offering content downloads, running a contest, and creating a blog worth subscribing to. When leads are earned and not bought, you’ll be sure that they will be more engaged and interested in communicating with you.

 

  1. Keep Your List Fresh

Two things to consider when it comes to database decay: contacts might have changed their email address over time, or they don’t want to hear from you anymore. So you should update your contact list every six months or so.

If leads haven’t engaged with any of your communications in this period, it might be time to remove them from your email list. Another way to deal with this is to send a “check-up” email to ask the user if they’re still interested in receiving your emails.

 

  1. Contact One Person at a Time

Write your email as if you’re talking to one person. Although you’re aware that you’re sending the same email to a lot of people, the recipient might not realize this is so. If a user feels like they’re just another contact in an email blast, the likelihood of engagement is greatly reduced.

 

  1. Be Personal, Not Institutional

Some email users already filter emails as soon as they see an email address from a company. A good practice is to use an email address that represents a real person (i.e., bob@brand.com). People want to feel like they’re important, and one way to make them feel special is to personalize. Using first names in your emails is the first step to achieving this.

 

  1. Avoid Spam Filters

Nowadays, a lot of email servers have built-in spam filters. If your marketing email gets caught by these filters, your open rates will undoubtedly be low. You should avoid words like “free,” “sale,” “buy,” and “discount,” overlinking and a few other tactics.

 

  1. Find Your Timing

You’ll be surprised at how much timing matters in email marketing. There are a few things to consider like economic period, the day of the week, and the time of day. If you’re not choosing a good time to market a specific product or service, your open rate will plummet.

Emails should be sent on the middle days of the week (e.g., Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), either in the late morning or early afternoon for the highest chance of getting opened.

 

Subject Lines Matter

Your email subject line is the second thing your subscriber reads (after seeing who it’s from) when they receive your email. So, make sure that you tell your recipient what they can expect in your email, or use a little personality to reel them in.

Subject lines have so many other factors that influence open score than just length. Don’t get me wrong, length is a big part of it. But, sealing the deal with an email recipient can be as simple as just being creative. During Barack Obama’s campaign, the top performing subject line was ‘Hey :)’.

As you can see, the research is varied and doesn’t necessarily always agree! For us, we’ve found that 8-12 words tends to be our “sweet spot” for subject lines, but if you are sending your own mail you may want to take MailChimp’s advice and do an A/B split to see what works best for you.

By figuring out what your recipients respond to best, keeping things short and to the point and having a little fun- you can expect your campaigns to steadily improve. Entice them to open the email by conveying a sense of importance and relevance, and center it around the individual you’re sending the email to. Don’t forget to A/B test your email subject lines as well to determine what works and what doesn’t.

At the end of the day, if your emails aren’t getting opened, then your message isn’t being read. You have great content—you just need it to be seen!

Need to cover your email marketing bases? Download our FREE Checklist for Setting Up an Email Marketing Campaign today!

Checklist for Setting Up an Email Marketing Campaign