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Subject:

The Power of Subject Lines: Best Practices

From:

Jani M Kumpula <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

EmailRules Community <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 23:20:05 +0200

Content-Type:

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When sending opt-in newsletters or permission-based marketing messages to
your subscribers, one of the most important yet often overlooked details is
the subject line. Email communicators spend considerable resources designing
attractive HTML messages with special offers and compelling content. But all
that effort is lost if the subject line fails to entice the recipient to
even open the message. As email inboxes get increasingly cluttered, people
consistently rank the subject line as one of the most important factors that
determines whether they open an email message. With this in mind, here are
some best practices about writing more effective subject lines.

* Mention your company or organization in the subject line *

People will not subscribe to a newsletter or sign up to receive marketing
messages unless they know and trust the sender. Your company or organization
name is, therefore, one of your greatest assets. Including your company name
in the subject line increases recognition and reminds recipients who you are
and why they signed up to receive the newsletter in the first place. If you
are already clearly spelling out your company name in the From or Sender
line, a brand name or other similar identifier might be sufficient in the
subject line. 

* Keep the subject line short and simple *

Email clients differ in how much of the subject line they display. Short and
simple subject lines are thus much more effective than long-winded ones that
risk getting cut off in the middle. Most people value their time. A lengthy
subject line gives the impression that opening and reading a particular
newsletter will require a more substantial time investment than a newsletter
with a concise subject line.
 
* Focus on the recipient, not yourself *

Subject lines should communicate what the subscriber can gain from reading
the newsletter or marketing message. Instead of focusing on what you are
doing or offering, emphasize what's in it for the recipient. Making it clear
what your recipients can learn, how much they can save or what they can get
out of opening the message conveys the value proposition much more effectively.

* Highlight the content and stay on point *

Subject lines should describe what is inside the email message. There is
nothing wrong with creativity, but if you try to be too clever without
identifying the content and the reason why recipients should open the email
in the first place, the subject line will fail in its purpose. The purpose
is not only to get the recipient to open the message but also to read it
with interest. 

* Realize that subject lines are used for spam filtering *

Content-based spam filters are increasingly taking into account subject
lines to identify suspicious messages. To keep your permission-based
mailings from mistakenly being flagged as spam, avoid punctuation gimmicks,
all-caps words, potential trigger words such as "Free", "Alert", or "Low
Prices", and, of course, misspellings. Put yourself in the shoes of your
subscribers. If you didn't know the contents and paid no attention to the
sender name, how would you perceive the subject line?

* Test your subject lines with your audience *

Subject lines are one of the easiest variables to test. If you have the
capability, use A/B-split testing to randomly assign your subscribers into
two or more groups. Then send multiple versions of your newsletter or
marketing message to your subscribers, each with a unique subject line. You
can then use open-up tracking to measure their respective success rates.
There is nothing like actual, quantifiable data that shows what works better
for your particular audience.


In the end, it is important to recognize that everyone is different, which
leads me to my questions. What makes you want to open a newsletter or a
message from a company or organization from which you have agreed to receive
email? What types of subject lines do you find more effective? What types of
subject lines do you think miss the mark? Feel free to share your thoughts
and discuss your ideas right here on EmailRules.


Jani Kumpula
Senior Webmaster/User Interface Designer
L-Soft

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