3 Tips for Better E-mail Subject Lines

by Britt Brouse
Sep 3, 2008

With marketers saturating the e-mail channel with tons of offers, the rules for e-mail subject lines continually evolve to match updates to the CAN-SPAM Act and consumers’ wariness of online marketing.

We’ve all heard subject line rules about how many characters to use and which words trigger spam filters, but here are four additional tips from Lyris’ recent whitepaper, Email Subject Lines: 15 Rules to Write Them Right, which shed some light on the logic behind successful e-mail campaigns.

1. Read the Newspaper
It’s always been said that reading can make you a better writer. To improve your e-mail subject lines, pick up a newspaper and scan the headlines. The headline is the original e-mail subject line. It highlights a story’s most important fact in a limited space and has an interplay with the story’s subject. Lyris advises that a subject line should communicate either what your readers can expect from your e-mail, what’s in it for them or what you want them to do as a result of the e-mail. A newspaper headline will illustrate creative ways to accomplish at least one of these objectives in a limited space.

2. Support the ‘From’ Line
The “from” line tells the recipient who sent the e-mail, and the subject line sells the recipient on opening the missive. Listing your company name or newsletter’s name in the “from” line opens up space in the subject line for more information. An example is an e-newsletter which arrives via e-mail “from” Denny Hatch’s Business Common Sense, the name of the publication, and then has a subject line which is also the headline of the main story. Branding your “from” line with the name of the newsletter also helps it stand out in recipients’ overflowing inboxes.

3. Open Rates Aren’t the Bottom Line
Don’t let open rates be your only measure for success. If you drill down into your Web analytics and compare various metrics against your creative, you might find some anomalies – such as an e-mail with a relatively low open rate but a high sales-per-order rate. This could mean that a subject line that failed across many segments had a strong appeal to a particular group of customers. Lyris says to focus on your end goal, which is to have subscribers take a specific action.

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