By Mary Van Doren • 10/09/2012
What copywriters don’t want you to know about writing the best email subject lines
Be a thief.
If you need to write professional email subject lines that deliver high open rates, one of the best ways to do it – and one that’s shared by almost all copywriters – is to steal ideas. And unless you live under a rock, you get some of the best email subject line examples in your own inbox every single day.
Professional email subject lines in my inbox lately have me stuffing my theft folder with a fun new one-word trend from political organizations. (I don’t know why they’re the only ones doing it, but we should all try it.)
Which subject line would be more likely to get you to open it?
Please help Cathy Candidate win a Senate seat this November
The former got me to open, even though I knew from the sender that it would turn out to be an email requesting a donation! I just had to know who was panicking and why. (It was Cathy’s opponent, and Cathy wanted money to run TV ads while the opponent was vulnerable.)
Not only did the “Panic” subject line prove enticing, it’s also well under the preferred character limit – on average, 45-51 characters are all that some email clients will show to your recipients, and generally speaking, shorter subject lines deliver higher open and click-through rates.
What else can you learn from your inbox? Here are some of the best email subject line examples from mine:
Are organic foods worth the extra cost?
Marvelous! The question subject line is a classic, because it forces the reader to pause and wonder what the answer is. Result: A well-deserved open.
Read this ONLY if you are serious about your business
This is a command subject line – with a teaser subject line twist. The command subject line always starts with an action verb that demands attention. The “only if you are serious about your business” phrase is the teaser part – because who isn’t?
Here’s a pure teaser subject line from the masters at Guideposts:
Threatened and scared, she turned to an angel
Even if you don’t believe in angels, you’d be curious enough about the story after being teased like that to open the email!
These professional email subject lines above are all fairly relaxed, leaning toward cute, clever and fun. Maybe you feel your audience will respond better to something more serious and straightforward. Have no fear: There are plenty of best email subject line examples to come:
7 prostate cancer warning signs
This is a list subject line. People just can’t get enough of numbers, a truism that hasn’t changed since marketing began. Have you ever noticed that half of the headlines on magazine covers are lists? “Seven fun new dresses” or “62 women influencing tomorrow’s generation” – we use them because they will always work.
Then there’s the classic news subject line:
Fortune changes iPad strategy
And the very popular how-to subject line.
How to get 12 hours out of an 8-hour day
Just make sure your audience really wants to know how to do whatever it is you’re promising, because this one is almost too classic – that is, overused. The one thing you have to guard against in writing professional email subject lines is familiarity among your audience. Change up your subject lines continually! To help you do this, Mequoda has identified not just all of the above types, but quite a few more in our 17 Best Email Subject Lines post.
This white paper includes some of the best email subject line examples anywhere, and every copywriter should keep it handy.
What are some of your favorites? Do you steal? Share your ideas with us!
Posted in Email Marketing Management