best email subject linesEmail marketing best practices call for analysis of subject lines which have a huge influence on the open rate. An appropriate subject line also influences the click-through rate.

Why is this so important? Let’s say in a year you send 100,000 emails. Improving your open rate from 15% to the industry average of just over 19% means over a year’s time your messages are seen by 4,000 more sets of eyeballs.

Clearly the entire email message is important, but the first few words of the subject line, the overall approach and the call to action are just a few of the key factors that must be tested to ensure email marketing success (we’ll look at time of day or day of week in a future article). Within each of those categories the open rate and click-through rate must be tracked. An important email marketing tip to remember is that open rates and click-through rates do not always have a direct correlation. An email may have a high open rate but have a low click-through rate, and conversely a low view rate can have a high click-through rate. The content of the email is the greatest influence on the click-through rate but a deceiving or irrelevant subject line can penalize your click-through rate.

There are many different types of messages, or offers, that subject lines convey but most fall into one of the following categories:
General (informational);
Price (discount);
Gift (for purchase, etc);
Exclusivity (offer only available to select group); or
Limited Time (offer has expiration date).

Exclusive and Price offers generally do well because the call-to-action involves either savings or an appeal to the customer’s individuality and importance as a customer. When using a gift offer, it is important that the gift be valuable enough to elicit a response.

Conventional wisdom has said shorter subject lines are better. However, it can be difficult to get a message across while trying to minimize words. Hedges & Company’s automotive marketing research shows that the 8 to 10 word range is the “sweet spot” for conveying a message and attaining a high open rate. Shorter subject lines did not guarantee a high view rate.

Email etiquette will also have an impact on email marketing success. Avoid using “spammy” keywords that may send your email to the junk email folder (although it is important to note that once you have built a good online reputation you can use words like “free” without going to the junk folder). Use words and phrases that will clearly identify the email’s purpose to the receiver. Also avoid misleading or unnecessarily dramatic subject lines because they will cause the receivers to ignore or block your messages in the future. Email marketing is all about reputation and you don’t want to sacrifice a short-term gain for a long-term loss of trust or reputation.

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