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5 Tips for Writing Killer Email Subject Lines

by aschmidt

razziBe honest–do you really open every email you receive? Of course not. We’re inundated with dozens of emails every day–we have to choose somehow between the ones that are worth it and the ones that we delete. The secret of getting your email into the former group? A subject line that grabs the reader’s attention as soon as they scan their inbox. In one respect, the subject line can be considered to be even more important than the content of your email, because without an effective, attention-getting subject line, your email may never see the light of day. So, here are five killer email subject line styles that will attract the attention of your readers and increase your open rates.

1. The Short, Simple and No-Nonsense Subject Line

According to a study conducted by email marketing service provider MailChimp, short subject lines fare better in terms of open rates than their longer, over-explanatory counterparts. Keep in mind that many email providers will truncate your subject line if it’s anywhere longer than 30-60 characters, so try to keep it short and sweet. Just be sure that whatever word (or handful of words) you choose have some type of relevance to the actual email message; otherwise, your communication can be misconstrued as a “bait-and-switch,” which is highly unpopular with subscribers.

2. The Controversial or Shocking Subject Line

People are naturally drawn to controversy, even if for no other reason than just pure curiosity. While shocking, controversial or jarring subject lines may yield higher open rates, use discretion so you don’t come off as entirely offensive. Before you implement this strategy, you need to have a very thorough understanding of your audience, including their general mindset and tastes. Here are some examples of controversial or shocking subject lines for emails that just beg to be opened:

  • Why Your Current Digital Marketing Plan Stinks
  • Everything You’ve Ever Heard About This Food is Wrong
  • 5 Tech CEOs That Need to Resign Immediately

3. The Personalized Subject Line

Personalization was an extremely popular email marketing trend a few years ago, but unfortunately it fell victim to spammer abuse, causing many marketers to abandon the practice entirely. But personalization, when executed judiciously, can have a positive impact on your subject line.

The wrong way to go about it is to use a person’s first and last name in your communication; for example, this subject line borderlines on sounding spammy: “John Smith, Get the Latest Discounts on Jamaican Getaways.” If you were talking to your friend on the phone, you wouldn’t use their first and last name every time you addressed them. Using the first name only, however, can add an element of respect and dignity to a communication.

Another adjustment you can make when personally addressing someone in your subject line is to remove the capital letters from all words except the first word and any proper nouns. In other words, make it look like a regular sentence. For example, let’s adjust the previously mentioned subject line: “John, get the latest discounts on Jamaican getaways.” This lends a little more credibility to the subject line by giving it a more personal tone and feel.

4. The Numbered List Subject Line

Simply put, numbered lists are eyeball magnets (“5 Tips for Writing Killer Email Subject Lines,” anyone?). List-based subject lines evoke reader curiosity, and they also imply that the email will be a relatively quick and easy read. Here are some good examples of attention-grabbing list-based subject lines:

  • 10 Celebrities Who Have Been Ruined by Plastic Surgery
  • The 8 Most Annoying Moments of the 2015 Oscars
  • 5 Low-Cost Ways to Add Value to Your Home

5. The Scarcity-Based or Time-Sensitive Subject Line

Nobody wants to feel as though they’ve missed their chance. Scarcity-based or time-sensitive subject lines create a certain level of tension that seeks to be resolved, which will often provoke the reader to open your email sooner rather than later. Below are some highly effective email subject lines that demonstrate this technique:

  • John, only 4 more days left…
  • 50% off sale ends today! Hurry, this is your last chance…
  • John, time is winding down…

Keep these tips in mind when you’re writing email subject lines for your next email marketing campaign, and don’t be afraid to write several different versions of each subject line for the sake of split testing. Using the techniques listed above, you’ll be able to craft irresistible subject lines that can make your next email marketing campaign a home run.

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