Top 10 Tips to Subject Line Success

  1. TEST Long and Short Subject Lines

A lot of advice tells you to limit subject lines to 50 characters, but I’ve noticed good engagements with both short or long subject lines.

  1. Include a CTA

Although one of the key aspects of successful copywriting is telling readers what they need to do, this can get overlooked in subject lines, where your focus is often on catching attention rather than driving action. We found for one client that telling subscribers what to do by including a direct CTA helped to boost engagement. So rather than just saying ‘Summer Sale’ it became ‘Summer Sale – take a look at the latest offers’.

  1. Use questions

Using a question instantly makes your subject line look and feel very different in the inbox. It also helps you come up with completely new ways of promoting your email content. For example, you might go from ‘Save 50% today’ to ‘New favourite dress? Save 50% today’ – a jump that would have been hard to make without the framework of a question.

  1. Use original words

 Using original words in subject lines can boost click rates, yet less than a third of subject lines feature original words. Try using a thesaurus or taking inspiration from the dictionary definition to change some of your most-used words.

  1. Be creative with personalization

While first name personalisation is very common now, it can still have an effect if you don’t overuse it. You can also look at available data fields to see what other personalization you can include in the subject line – such as surnames, recent purchases or location. Mailchimp research shows that including a city name can perform well, for example.

  1. Take inspiration from elsewhere

I’ve found that being reactive and riding on the back of current events is a great way of writing a subject line that’s completely different to what you’ve done before. Your email doesn’t have to be themed, as long as your subject line makes sense and doesn’t mislead. For example it could be as simple as sending ‘Bored of the tennis? Escape with top 10 weekend breaks’ during Wimbledon.

  1. Use symbols strategically

Syntactic (as punctuation), lexical (to replace a word) and illustrative (as a decorative or design element). It’s a useful framework that can help you introduce symbols effectively and strategically.

  1. Change your tone

Within a brand voice there is still a lot of room for variation in tone – for example in the difference between a promotional email and a service email. Try mixing them up where appropriate. So instead of ‘Hurry – check out our latest events’ you might use ‘we wanted to let you know’. But remember it’s about subtly changing the tone, not misleading customers.

  1. Play with pronouns

One of the first things you learn about copywriting is to use ‘you’ more than ‘we’. But including ‘we’ or ‘our’ can be valuable if your customer trusts your brand and sees you as an authority. Try positioning your subject line from both points of view and see which is more effective. For example instead of ‘Top picks for you’ you might try ‘Top picks from our team’.

  1. Keep testing and optimizing

This is the fundamental rule for success….TEST and learn continuously.


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