How To Write Email Subject Lines

When it comes to how to write email subject lines, remember one thing.  They’re subjective.

I know. They’re subject lines.  Of course they’re subjective.

Well, what I mean is that they’re subjective to your audience.   And what you’re trying to get across in your email.

So there’s not really a “do this” and “don’t do this” list for writing subject lines.  But what I can do is give you some real good tips about how to write email subject lines that get opened.

Remember that your emails are competing with hundreds … sometimes thousands … of others in your recipient’s inbox.

Your email won’t get opened if it doesn’t make people say to themselves … immediately … “I wonder what this is all about.”  If not, they’ll move on.

You know what it’s kind of like?  Do you remember back when people actually used to go to shopping malls?

I know … in some places … they still do.  Especially in places like Edmonton, Alberta and Minneapolis, MN where the biggest malls in the world are located.

And I get it.  Malls are actually making a come-back.  But they’re still not the attraction they used to be.

When you go … or used to go … to the mall, aren’t there reasons why you go into certain stores?

Sometimes it’s because you know who they are.  You trust them.  You already know who they are and what they stand for.  Their brand.  Or you need something you know they have.

But what if it’s one of those trendy niche stores that a lot of people walking by don’t necessarily know anything about?  They don’t stand out because not everyone walking by knows who they are or what they sell.

Then what do they do?  What’s going to entice you to walk through that door?   Especially if one of their “associates” is standing there ready to pounce.

It might be that associate that gets you in.  Or something in their window.  A display.  Maybe they’re handing out samples.

But there’s got to be something that makes you want to walk through that front door and look around.

Well, your subject line is the front door of your email. And here are some suggestions that should help greatly improve your open rates.

1. Don’t Write Your Email Subject Line First – I get it.  When you sit down to write an email, where are you?  The start.  And where do you start? The subject line.

Don’t.  Once you start writing emails, you’ll realize that your subject line can be found inside your email.  And it’ll usually pop off the page at you.  You won’t even have to think about it in a lot of cases.  Write it last.

2. Keep It Short – I’m not going to give you any theories here.   It’s just a fact that shorter email subject lines tend to get opened more frequently than longer ones.  Try to fit it inside the email inbox.   If it doesn’t, it’s probably too long.

3. Use Curiosity or Intrigue – So if you read through my website, you’ll learn that email usage … and email marketing … is bigger than ever. But what else does that mean?   Well, people are receiving so many emails that they just don’t open “most” of them anymore.

They’ve got to be enticed into opening emails.  In fact, there’s a 3-step formula when it comes to how to write email subject lines that works amazingly well.   The only problem is, it’s rare that you can combine all three in one subject line.

But if you can get one, two or all three, you’ll dramatically increase your odds of having a winner that blows up your open rates.

It’s the C + B + P formula.  The first one is Curiosity.  I’ll cover the other B + P in the next two steps.

4. Use Benefits – It’s very simple.  Benefits sell.   Use benefits when analyzing how to write email subject lines.  Not always the easiest to do but it works.

5. Proof – If you can add this into a subject line, you’ll probably have a winner.  If you have all three of the C + B + P formula, you can’t but help but have a winner.

How to combine these elements is beyond the scope of this post. That’s why good email writers get paid what they do.   It’s hard to do that just off an article.

6. Avoid Spammy Subject Lines – You need to learn what these are.  They’ll get you shut down if you don’t.  Lots of characters.  All caps.  Crazy claims.  Multiple exclamation points.   Full of hype.  Loud. Obnoxious.  If it sounds spammy, it probably is.

7. Initial Caps – Use them.   They seem to work.  Capitalize The First Letter of Each Word in your subject line.  It seems to get more opens. Why?  Don’t know.  Maybe it stands out more.  But it seems to work.

8. DON’T FREAKING SHOUT – All caps.  It used to work.  Doesn’t any more.  And it’s spammy.

9. Use An Ellipsis … Your thought isn’t finished yet.   It tells the reader to go to the next line to find out why.  This taps into the “curiosity” part of the C + B + P formula … an amazing instrument when trying to figure out to write email subject lines.

10. Personalize – Use the personalization tool that every good ESP (email service provider) offers.   You can use it to personalize your email for each recipient.  The most effective one is the [firstname] field.  Obviously, it allows you to address your recipient by their first name wherever this field is used.

Just don’t over-use it.

11. Test – Any good ESP will help you test multiple subject lines.  Make one shorter.  Make another one longer.  Be funny.  Be serious.  Mix in some of the steps above.

It’s an inexact science and no one ever knows ahead of time whether one email will be a winner and another one not.  Testing often gives you the winner for a reason you never considered.

Remember, your whole goal in figuring out how to write email subject lines is to get the reader to open your email.  To increase your open rate.

What you write in the email itself will determine the click-through rate.  But that’s for a different post.

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