The Marketer’s Power Quarter: Email Subject Line Tips


This is the eighth in a 12-part series of quick-fix tips to improve your digital marketing results. Catch up on our last tip and subscribe to our newsletter to get the rest.

Forget what you know about crafting the perfect email subject line. While copywriters should be concerned with writing for their specific audience, most are too preoccupied with staying under a recommended character count.

But what if we could free up your worries on at least one email component to give you the creative levity all writers dream of? Here are some quick tips for writing an email subject line that’ll boost open rates and nurture leads.

Subject line length doesn’t matter

A recent study by Phrasee, an AI copywriting tool for email and social, analyzed thousands of email subject lines to see just what character count might elicit the most open rates. Many copywriters operate under the pretence scores of blog posts have told them: Shorter is better.

But the thing is … character count limits are pretty much worthless for subject lines. After all the hubbub about brevity (still be concise, though), turns out tests on various subject lines found that length only accounts for 0.1 percent of email open rate variance.

So what should you consider when writing your email subject lines?

Boost email open rates by choosing the right words

Sentiment is the most important attention-grabbing component of a subject line. We’re so over using the buzzword “authenticity,” but it’s the only word that adequately prescribes how you’ll reach your intended audience.

Here are five quick tips for crafting a clickable subject line:

  1. Keep subject lines simple. Don’t confuse simple with short. Simple is sophisticated. It’s concise. It says what you mean in fewer words because there’s no fluff.
  2. Optimize subject lines for mobile. Okay, character count doesn’t matter, but you can still optimize for mobile. Most devices truncate subject lines at around 30 characters. Front-load subjects with your most important info.
  3. Inject subject lines with emotion and urgency. Your core audience shares the same values as you, so sentiment is important. It stirs passion and action. And urgency (when appropriate) gives them the extra push to do it now.
  4. Use emojis in email subjects. Mailchimp’s top three most effective emojis are ®️, ?, and ?. (Yeah, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ on the registered trademark.)
  5. Try superlatives, action words, sales words, and special characters. Just don’t be spammy about it. Highlight offers without being overbearing. Test subject lines to see what works best for your audience because this will vary by industry. Here are some quick hitters from Phrasee:
    1. “Brand new” boosted open rates by 37 percent.
    2. “Prices” improved rates by 68 percent.
    3. Ellipses increased rates by 24 percent.

There are too many options, combos, and emojis to cover in this blog, but really the solid takeaway here is to infuse your brand tone and ethos into every subject line. Customers come back for more than your product; they come back for you and what you stand for, so show it off. And as always: test, test, test.

Next week in part nine of The Marketer’s Power Quarter, get info on boosting social promotion.

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