Let’s face it; the subject line is one of the most important elements in an effective email marketing campaign. It’s often the first thing recipients will see (alongside the recipient name or email address) and so will convince them either to open the email or just delete it. A study by Jupiter Research found that 35% of recipients will open an email specifically because of the content in the subject line.

And more recently, the IAB and ICD have conducted research amongst UK consumers, which shows that although the majority would delete emails without opening them if they didn’t feel they were relevant, 70% were more likely to open an email if it contained an offer incentive in the subject line. Offers of money off scored highly too with prior knowledge of the brand also important.

Here I’ve pulled out here some of my top tips for getting subject lines right:

  1.  Focus on the first 40 characters

The DMA Best Practise Guidelines suggest recipients will make their mind up, on average, based on the first 70 characters of the subject line. However, it’s important to note that, with some smaller preview panes (e.g. vertical preview panes, especially due to the increased use of hand held devices), some recipients may only see 40 characters. I have also seen compelling research where much longer subject lines have generated results, but still remember to get the most compelling content up front, within the first 40 characters. This might seem a small number, but we all write in 140 on Twitter, so see this as a further social media brevity test.

  1.  Include a call to action

Be clear about what’s on offer. Make the one key benefit or proposition the main call to action of the subject line. As the IAB and ICD research shows, offers or money off discounts advertised in the subject line can increase the likelihood that your recipient will open the email.

  1.  Be relevant

Think about who your recipients are. Don’t be vague or mysterious, make it clear why this email will be of interest to them. Misleading subject lines may generate great open rates, but it’s the click throughs that really matter and, more importantly, conversions. Recipient trust will be eroded the more you mislead them.

  1.  Tell, don’t sell

If you are quoting an offer then keep the wording factual and steer clear of ‘power adjectives’ like ‘amazing’, ‘unbeatable’ or ‘stunning’.

  1.  Split test the subject lines

Always test different subject lines to see which one gets the better response.

  1.  Avoid spam words

Don’t include any words that are likely to get flagged as spam as your message may be dumped into the junk folder (remember this is not the be all and end all of delivery; always remember to test). Compare what you have written to subject lines that appear in your junk folder. Do they pass the coffee table test and leap out at you or not?

  1.  Write your subject line last

Many marketers start by writing the subject line, but you’ll just end up with a line that doesn’t reflect the content of the email. Write your subject line once the copy of the email is complete and approved.

Have you tried any of these? Are there other tactics you find work well? Let us know in the comments!