The 5 Rules of Writing Email Marketing Subject Lines

If you’re running an email marketing campaign, your first challenge is always getting people to actually read your emails. Without a decent open rate, your campaign won’t have a chance of getting off the ground. That’s why it’s essential that you understand how to write compelling subject lines that simply beg to be clicked.

• Rule #1: Test. Test. Test.—A recent survey conducted by found that 40% of email marketers had high impacts on the return on investment (ROI) by testing their subject lines. Testing is the only way to determine what does and does not work for your campaign. You should be testing everything from the benefits you include in the subject line to the optimal lengths for your subject lines. Take what you learn, and continually refine your subject lines to be the best they can be.

• Rule #2: Focus on a benefit—If you want people to actually open your email, you need to let them know what’s in it for them. Focus your subject line on a benefit that resonates with the reader. It can be something as simple as “Save 50% on Sweaters This Friday Only.” What you don’t want to do is have a boring subject line like “XYZ June Newsletter.” Be specific and clear in delivering a benefit in your subject line.

• Rule #3: Make sure the email body delivers on the subject line—Want to instantly lose credibility? You can do it by promising one thing in your subject line and doing another in the body of your email. One study by Bright Wave Marketing found that 30% of spam emails had a misleading Subject line. The subject line and email message have to be related. In short, keep the promise of your subject line. It’s that simple.

• Rule #4: Don’t be spammy—Some email marketers shoot themselves in the foot by writing subject lines that immediately get flagged as spam. What can you do to avoid writing a spammy subject line? First, don’t write your headlines in ALL CAPS LIKE THIS. Second, don’t use excessive punctuation like this!!!!!! Lastly, avoid using gimmicky words like: free, make millions, amazing, miracle, etc.

• Rule #5: Keep it short—Why should you keep your subject lines to 50 characters or less? Because if they’re any longer, they could get cut off by your readers’ email carriers. According to an Epsilon study, “38 to 47 characters is the average number of characters that show up in the subject line of 57% of all U.S. email recipients’ email programs.” Also, studies show that most people only read the first few words of email subject lines, so a long headline probably won’t get read fully. Remember, place the most important information (the benefit) at the beginning of the subject line.

When you write effective subject lines, you’ll find that email marketing can be your most effective weapon for boosting sales. In fact, email marketing generated nearly $50 return for every $1 spent on it last year. It’s a powerful tool, and now, you’re one step closer to knowing how to get the most from it.

Which subject line rules would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the replies.

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