Content Formula

7 Tips for Writing Great Email Subject Lines

We send out a lot of newsletters for clients, as well as our own newsletter. There’s a lot to think about for each one how many articles, what images to use, what’s on the banner but the most important part of every newsletter is literally one of the smallest.

The headline.

Think of it this way: if you’re anything like me, you receive a lot of emails on any given day. You prioritise a lot of them by looking at the sender, and then you go through the rest in some kind of order. Anything that looks unimportant or dull goes straight to the recycle bin, because you simply don’t have the time for it. Most newsletters fall into this trap.

The first thing anyone sees is the headline, and so that’s the part that above all you have to get right. Here are my top seven tips to getting your newsletter subject line (or email, or article, or even your website) noticed:

  • Be descriptive. Don’t say “Company site newsletter” or “Message from the CEO”. Use your lead article or part of the message to form a specific headline that tells readers what to expect: “5 tips on…”, “How to…”.
  • Don’t repeat yourself. If you send out regular newsletters, or you have a number of articles on display, then you should vary your subject lines. If you don’t, you risk people simply filing or ignoring all your hard work because they think it’s “just another company newsletter”.
  • Work your key words. You’ve got about 50 characters to use in your subject line. Eye tracking studies tell us that people focus on the left-hand side, so put your important words there names of companies or people, and so on.
  • Be succinct. Make those 50 characters count. Grammatical accuracy takes second place to a few select words that drive home your message (although bad spelling means your newsletter or email will be ignored).
  • Ask questions. And make sure that your question can’t be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as Copyblogger found out recently.
  • Be urgent. “Last chance to buy”, “5 days to…”, and so on. But don’t sound like you’re trying to sell too hard: words such as “free” (as in, “Free iPod!”) will activate readers’ special spam senses in short order.
  • Be exciting! Your subject line has to punch through a low threshold for boredom, so get people energised to read what you have to say. Play with words, use alliteration, and make your subject line above all sound great.

Finally, here are some newsletter and article headlines we’ve used that have been effective in pulling in readers:

  • Would Roger Moore click on that button?
  • Full throttle: first group sales contest
  • The 5 worst things you can do to your intranet
  • SharePoint: The Way Forward For Your Intranet?
  • Dont Pay-Per-Click: An 80-20 approach to SEO for recessionary times

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