Get the Open: Our Top 12 Tips for Writing Grabby Subject Lines
A subject line is the most important thing you'll write in your email. Period. Because if you don't get the open, nothing else matters.
But never fear – there are a few proven tricks you can keep up your sleeve to make sure you've got a fighting chance.
Tips to Create an Irresistible Subject Line
The subject line. It’s the first thing your subscribers see when your email lands in their inbox and it’s often the reason for opening or deleting the email. If your subject line isn’t catchy enough, your message may get skimmed over and bulk transferred to the junk folder. That’s where these subject line tips come in handy.
Tip #1: Keep it Short and Sweet
You have 40-45 characters at a maximum when it comes to subject lines. anything longer than that and you'll get cut off in some inboxes. Notice how in the example below the last word you see is cut off, that’s because they didn’t follow the 40-45 character limit rule.
Tip #2: Put the Juicy Details First
Front-load your subject line (and your pre-header, too) with the most important/grabby/persuasive/different information. Leading with your strongest offer, it will make it much more likely that someone will open the email.
This subject line confirms the person is now part of the insider loyalty group. The preview text follows-up with more information to entice the reader to open the email -- who wouldn’t want to know how being an insider pays off?
Tip #3: Standout From the Crowd and Be Different
Contrast is everything – and I mean with length and phrasing, not with color. Be the kid with the mohawk in a room of crew cuts.
Many marketers stick to the 40-character guide and don't push the length envelope. Do you know what was the subject line of one of Obama's most successful emails during his re-election campaign? "Hey". That's it. Just "Hey". And it did brilliantly.
Short, simple, and different than what your competitors are doing. This means that when someone skimming their emails sees this subject line, it will catch their eye when compared to the rest of their inbox.
Tip #4: Be Clever With Your Phrasing, Especially if You're Advertising a Sale
If I never saw the word “sale” again, I’d be a happy person. Nearly all emails that hit my inbox regularly have some iteration of "sale," "save %," "$ off,” or "BOGO" in them. I like saving money as much as the next person, but after a while, they all blend together. These are a few of the better ones:
All of these emails are clearly about sales, but they change it up a little from the traditional sales promotion content. Get creative, the more your emails stand out in a customer’s inbox, the more likely they’ll open your email over another.
Tip #5: Avoid Using All CAPS and Typical SPAM-trigger Words
In addition to getting you flagged as a spammer, it's annoying and counterproductive. Writing in all CAPS can give the impression that you are yelling at your customers.
While on the other hand, using SPAM-trigger words will find you in a spam folder before you ever reach their inbox. Here are a few examples of SPAM-trigger words you may want to use, but you should avoid:
- No cost
- Save big
- No catch
- Act now
This is just a quick list of a few different phrases, but the list of SPAM-triggers goes on and on. Make sure you’re paying attention to the trigger words in your emails.
Tip #6: Making Up Words
Usually portmanteau or using abbreviations is surprisingly effective because it makes you pause and think. It stops you in your tracks as you're skimming through your inbox and piques just enough curiosity to get the open you’re looking for. Continue this through to your email content and you've got a stand-out winner.
When you first glance at these email subject lines, you can be taken back and may even be thinking “Was that a copy error?” But that’s the beauty of these types of subject lines -- they standout and catch your attention.
Tip #7: Write it Last
Get through every single thing you have to say in the guts of your email (and your landing page, if you have one) and THEN write your subject line. You’ll know your content more thoroughly, and I promise it'll come out better.
Tip #8: Come Up With At Least 5-8 Options
It's really not that hard. Once you've figured out the most important/grabby thing your email, try different phrasings of the same thing, such as...
Questions/quizzes: If your equipment broke, what would you do?
Top # lists/reasons why: Top 5 reasons to maintain your equipment
Quotes: "I was really hoping my stove would break today!"
Curiosity-provoking: What you'll never hear a foodservice manager say...
Simple statements: Maintain your equipment with <<yourbusinessname>>
While the first subject line that comes to your head may be the winner, it’s important to throw around a number of different ideas. You might find that by exploring different subject lines you come up with something totally out of the box that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
But wait! There's more! You need a pre-header, too.
Pre-headers support the subject line in the inbox and help introduce the topic of the email. You've seen them – they’re the typically gray preview text right after the subject lines that gives just a little more info, baiting you to open the email.
The pre-header is the whiz to your subject line steak sandwich. The rainbow sprinkles to your kiddie cone. The small medium fry to your cheat-day burger. Your email just wouldn’t be the same without it.
Tip #9: Character Limits Still Apply
Some people say a 90-character pre-header is the sweet spot, but this depends on how your email is designed – whether or not you’re displaying the pre-header in the email design or hiding it. 90 characters is an awful lot to design around if you're displaying it in the email itself, so take that into consideration. Only write as much as you need to.
Tip #10: Change Up the Content
Try a different phrasing of your subject line and see what you come up with, or use the opportunity to call attention to a different attribute of your email. Regardless, the phrasing should be fluid and natural.
Tip #11:Keep Mobile Design in Mind
When designing for mobile (responsive), try styling it so it hides the pre-header the mobile layout. You want this valuable above-the-scroll real estate saved for the email's important body content, not a repeat of what they already read in the inbox.
Tip #12:Test, test, test!
Testing your subject lines and figuring out what works for your audience is vital to improving your subject lines. Use A/B testing to see what content and formatting your customers prefer. Try to find patterns in what your audience responds to, and use whatever data you find to your advantage.
Now That You Know All Our Secrets, Start Putting Them to Work
Now that you know the top tips and tricks to create the best email subject lines out there, you can get started improving your email marketing today. Don’t forget to keep a close eye on your analytics to see what’s working and what’s not as you start implementing some of these different ideas in your own strategy.
A subject line is the most important thing you'll write in your email. Period. Because if you don't get the open, nothing else matters. But never fear – there are a few proven tricks you can keep up your sleeve to make sure you've got a fighting chance.