10 Top Tips For Writing Winning Email Marketing Subject Lines

The subject line is the only part of your email that recipients are almost guaranteed to see.

So it’s arguably one of the most important elements of any email marketing campaign.

A study by Jupiter Research showed that 35% of recipients would open an email specifically because of the content of the subject line.

So here are my top tips for getting the subject line right:


1.    Find out who’s opening your emails on what devices

The DMA advises that you get the key elements of your subject line into the first 60 characters. But with the increase in use of  widescreen laptops does this rule still apply? At dotMailer we’ve actually seen increasing open rates for longer subject lines.

The key question is, what devices are your recipients opening your emails on? Ask your ESP about ‘email client analysis’ to identify the percentage of your contacts who open your emails on smart phones. Small screens mean short subject lines are more effective.

2.    Test it

Nothing beats split testing when it comes to honing the most effective subject line. Make sure you use a large enough test sample to get meaningful results ( a 49%/51% test result isn’t significant enough to indicate the better subject line).

And don’t forget to focus on the criteria you are measuring the success of your split test by. It might not be that the subject line generating the most opens is the best measurement. If you have a key call to action in the email that measuring clicks is more worthwhile, or clicks to opens.

3.    Be single minded

Be clear about the key offer, benefit or proposition in your email content and communicate that and only that in your subject line.

4.    Beware being mysterious

Oblique or intriguing subjects may drive more email opens, but specific, relevant subject lines are more likely to generate opens and click throughs. If you’re going to test a ‘mysterious’ subject line then make sure your recipients aren’t left feeling disappointed or misled when they open the email.

5.    Tell, don’t sell

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put an offer in your subject line if it’s your key message. But keep the subject line as factual as possible.

6.    Write it last

Make sure you come up with your subject lines after you’ve written the rest of your message. Many marketers do this the wrong way around and it means that your subject line doesn’t accurately reflect the content of your email.

7.    Use a spell checker

It might sound obvious, but so many marketers fail to check this most basic requirement.

8.    Make sure it is spam free

To ensure your subject line is spam filter friendly, make sure you avoid the use of capital letters and exclamation marks. There’s no one word that will get your message filtered out, but the most important thing is to just make sure your email doesn’t look like spam.  Click here for detailed advice on avoiding inbox spam filters.

9.    Wear your recipients’ shoes

Put yourself in their position as a recipient of your email when you write your all-important subject line. If you were them, what would trigger your interest and make you want to read more?

10.    Seek inspiration in your own inbox

It’s always worth signing up to your competitors’ email newsletters and those of other organisations relevant to what you do. See what they do and borrow the best!

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