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Email Subject Lines That Work (and What to Avoid)

By Madison Logic Team

Email Subject Lines That WorkIt can be tempting to overlook email subject lines, even the experts are guilty of this. After all the time and resources that are put in to create the email, choose creative, write copy, select an appropriate audience, strategically schedule the email, it’s understandable to see how this step can slip through the cracks. All you want to do is choose your email subject line and send it already. Before doing this, it’s imperative to remember that the inbox is an extremely competitive space and you must pull out your biggest, brightest, and best copy in order to get noticed, especially during peak mail times, a.k.a. inbox rush hour. After all, if your email is not opened, you forfeit the time and resources you took to make that email, just perfect. Luckily there are simple ways to optimize copy specifically to encourage open rates.

  1. Best words first. Place the hot topic words, biggest brands, and other trigger words, closest to the beginning of the email subject line to capture the recipients eye. Along with limited space, time on behalf of the viewer is also limited. It also helps to place email subject lines closest to the top of the recipients mail box (this can be accomplished by mailing at opportune email times, more on this later).
  2. Short, simple, to-the-point email subject lines typically exhibit a higher open rate, while those 14 words+ also perform well.
  3. Personalization notably increases open rate up to 22%.  First name outperforms last name, as using the last name can seem impersonal, the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. It’s safe to say that the population has caught on that personalization is coded, but the results suggest that they don’t mind and respond favorably with increased open and click rates.
  4. Punctuation is unnecessary as subject lines are not subject to grammatical standards. However, occasional use helps the SL stand out. Ex: Best Subject Line, Ever.
  5. Symbols strategically placed increases open rate up to 58%. Testing highly recommended to help avoid SPAM filters. Novel, more unique characters result in highest open rates. ✉
  6. Capital Letters results in lifted open rates. Internal testing had shown a clear correlation between using capital letters throughout the subject line and lifted open rates.Ex: The Top 5 Reasons To Open
  7. Teaser-y language performs consistently well, lifting open rate. Ex: “It’s Finally Here”. What’s finally here? Must open…
  8. Specifying content inside, will also notably increase click rate within a segmented audience, since interest in content has been exhibited by opening. What you should avoid? To stay SPAM-Can compliant, do not make claims in the subject line that deceive to the contents inside.

Email marketing insider practice: Test the subject line by sending options to your colleagues inbox (as well as your own), and select the subject line that stands out most among the rest. Try to choose your email subject line at the beginning of the creation process, not as the last hurried step before mailing. This allows time to research what has worked well in the past for you (pivot tables particularly rule in this instance), what is trending in your industry (B2B and B2C are going to show differences for example), and gives you time to edit from multiple choices that you have created. There is a plethora of information available on the internet regarding subject lines at your disposal.
Inbox Rush Hour: Typically early morning hours, noon, and end of workday through ~8pm. Monday tends to exhibit most emails sent and response metrics highest, then tapering off through the end of the week. This differs with B2C and even what season it is. That is why it is imperative to test what mailing times work best with your audience.
Learn more about Email Best Practices with our comprehensive Email Best Practices Guide. 

As always, test to see what works best within your email program. Please share your results, tips and comments regarding email subject lines below! Happy E-mailing.
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Madison Logic Team

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