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Writing that perfect subject line to get the most opens: YAA Series
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Writing that perfect subject line to get the most opens: YAA Series

You can have the best email campaign in the world, but it’s useless if your customer never opens your messages. Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said, “Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” Subject lines are today’s headlines that make them count!
Subject Line writing in a similar fashion as headline writing is primarily about connecting the potential audience. So it is important to understand the tribe of your Brand and what you are trying to convey.
But subject lines to emails have certain technical components if you will and can increase the probability of opening by following some true and tested guidelines.
Below are some tips which have worked for us based on millions of emails we have sent on our and clients behalf:

1. Use ‘Urgency’ Words

Many successful email campaigns use urgency words as a tactic to win sales. An urgency is a form of persuasion that works very well when combined with promotional offers. It creates anxiety within the buyer which makes them feel that they might lose a benefit if they don’t act immediately (F.O.M.O – Fear of missing out).
Urgency Word Examples
NowDeadline Don’t Miss Out
Limited Time Final Close-Out Offer Expires
OnlyGoing Out-Of-Business Once In a Lifetime
TodayOne Day Only Prices Going Up
HurryNever Again While Supplies Last
Act NowClearance Now Or Never
Rush Don’t Delay Last Chance

2. Make it Personal

Include words like ‘you’ and ‘yours’ and you can even take it up a level and use the recipient’s name (personalization). Another great way to personalize is adding a location – ‘Best Shoe selection in North Austin’.

3. Keep it Short

For many recipients, especially those reading your emails on mobile devices, shorter is often better. We recommend subject lines use 4 words or more but under 50 characters but, mobile subject lines we recommend 35 characters or less.

4. Keep your words short as well

Many people will skim right past words over 8 characters. Keep at a high school reading level.

5. Don’t look SPAMMY

There are many ways to avoid it. Here a list of things that make your subject line look SPAMMY:

a.  Contains more than 2 special symbols or punctuation in a row i.e. @$TRUST$, Buy Today!!!!!!

b.  Repeated Words, Repeated Words, Repeated Words

c.  USING ALL CAPS – One word is fine but more than that and you seem like you are YELLING!

d.  Using the ‘+” symbol. YOU + US = SAVINGS!!!!!

6. Use the word ‘Free”

But only if it’s true, Everyone likes deals and free offers.

7. Use an Emoji or Exclamation mark, but only once

They bring attention and stand out but more than one and it starts to look childish or like spam.

8. Capitalize the first letter

It just looks more professional.

9. Don’t use a symbol or punctuation (except $) as your first character

They will often get rejected by spam filters.

10. Use words like ‘First’, ’Recently invented’, and ‘New discovery’

Makes the reader curious, “What is this new thing?”

11. Include numbers

Who hasn’t opened a Top 10 list or a message on the 3 things you need to do to be successful.

12. The use of a comma should be avoided if possible.

Data shows that pause at a comma does cause some people to reconsider a lower open rate.

COVID-19 Update

Also keep in mind that seasonality, holidays, and Big news like COVID-19 in our current times affect interests and open rates. Since March 10th, we have seen changes in behavior that we recommend you consider as well. Below is a listing of tips to keep in mind during COVID-19:
  1. Avoid CoronaVirus terms. With all the spammers and phishing scams avoid using these words in your promotional emails: Coronavirus, COVID, Pandemic, Virus, Sanitizer, and Mask
  2. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the situation. Mentioning the current state can drive open rates if the topic is on relevant interest. For Example, “Working from home? We can make your life easier”.
  3. Use trending words. Since March 10th, email subject lines with these following words have anywhere from 11% to 39% open increase; Virtual, Online, Home, Essential, WFH, Tips, You / Your, Insight, and Free.
  4. Be a little more subtle with Urgency. Normally these words help open rates but with consumers/clients lately seeing a decline: Urgent, Hurry, Critical, Serious, Alert, and Rush.

Hubspot and Mailchimp have openly admitted that there’s no secret to crafting subject lines that will guarantee you opens and clicks (I know, we were disappointed too). You can still create good ones and get better over time. Just apply simple rules, test variations, see what works, and in no time you will be improving your open rates.

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