Email Subject Line Checklist – Get Opened

How to get your email newsletter and promotion opened in half a second

We’ve done plenty of email subject line tests over the years, but as time progresses, people respond to different messages. Some may get accustomed to the direct “You won’t believe this” subject line and won’t fall for your tomfoolery.

For others, it may take a shocking headline to get them to open. When we sent out an email a couple months ago with the words “kick-ass” in the subject line, we had two complaints out of our 8k subscriber list. The open rate on the other hand, was 30% higher than the surrounding days.

Do you need to offend people in order to get a response? Probably not, but there are more direct and specific ways to get people to open your newsletter. You could write the most fantastic email ever, but who’s going to see it without a great subject line?

Download a FREE copy of Best Email Subject Lines for Selling Premium Subscriptions and Memberships and discover an extensive list of email subject line frameworks that are consistently proven to sell and boost revenue for publishers.

The Email Subject Line Checklist:

You have about half a second to capture the attention of your readers, so before sending out your next email, consider this checklist:

  • Keep your subject line to 50 characters or less if possible – and if not, include your keywords in those first 50 words
  • Include the title (or abbreviation) of your newsletter name at the beginning of the subject line
  • Don’t re-use subject lines – response rates cut in thirds every time you use it
  • Don’t use spam filter trigger words in your subject line
  • Use the keywords your audience responds to and use them at the beginning
  • Tell readers exactly what is in the email – be very specific
  • Avoid the words Help, Percent off, and Reminder – in testing they’ve been found to decrease response

For promotional emails, there are a few more:

  • Use the name of your reader or city name (when applicable)
  • Be brief, don’t give too much away, entice them to open the email
  • Let readers know what your offer is
  • Don’t use “RE:” or “FW:” it goes against CAN-SPAM
  • Give readers a deadline like “by midnight tonight”
  • Don’t use all CAPS (to avoid filters)
  • Don’t use more than one exclamation point if you must use one at all (also to avoid filters)

We can still learn a lot from newspapers in this sense. Generally, the most stand-out headlines are able to attract you in a matter of five or six words.

Download a FREE copy of Best Email Subject Lines for Selling Premium Subscriptions and Memberships and discover an extensive list of email subject line frameworks that are consistently proven to sell and boost revenue for publishers.

Drop the F-bomb once in a while

The word “free” is not your enemy. In fact, using it in your subject line on occasion is almost always worth the risk of being filtered, in exchange for the above average conversion rate you’ll get out of it.

If you do use it though, make sure to adhere to these rules:

  • Don’t make it the first word in your subject line
  • Don’t capitalize it
  • Don’t use it with an exclamation point
  • Don’t add an asterisk (filters are catching on to this – it could only increase your risk of getting blocked)
  • Don’t use it in a subject line more than once a month, and monitor your delivery rates

Do you have any success stories about email subject line a/b splits you’d like to share? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments…

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