We’ve all been there – content marketers writing the quintessentially perfect email campaign. It hits all the pain points our audience feels, it suggests the perfect solution, and it conveys third party endorsements from other similar clients who have used our solution. It’s the perfect email campaign.

Email marketing content

Do You Have Compelling Subject Lines in Your Emails?

And then the agony – how to craft that perfect subject line so that at least some small percentage of our distribution list will open the doggone emails, not to mention maybe click on our call to action. It is pure torture.

The rules of subject lines
We know the rules of subject lines: not too long, not too short, it should convey a sense of urgency, be cool but not too irreverent, use the word “you” and a number for good measure (5 reasons to do xyz), not too much jargon but just enough to look like you really understand the industry, and do it all in 30 characters or fewer. It should be personalized (or not, depending on whose research you read) it must avoid all those words that will throw it into the spam folder forever forgotten, use brackets, use emojis or Unicode symbols, use action verbs. Ask a question. Try to take the reader by surprise. Don’t write a sales pitch in your subject line. Use keywords at the beginning. Try an emotional hook or a provocative question. Create urgency with a deadline.
Good grief.

Know your audience
Knowing your audience is the first place to start. Will your audience think your pun or rhyming subject line is fun and hip or will your audience think you’re unprofessional? Do your research to understand your audience personas and craft your message to fit them.

Testing Testing, 1,2,3
The best way to find out which subject lines work for your audience is to A/B test. Many automation solutions offer easy ways to test different parts of your email campaign, and then send the bulk of your emails with the winning subject line. Take advantage of this feature.

And we have to say it…
Proof it, proof it again an hour later, ask someone else to read it, read it out loud. Bad grammar and poor word usage will get past auto-correct every time. I can’t overstate this – everyone needs an editor, an extra pair of eyes, someone who can proof for you. And here are more reasons to work with an editor.

Mobile ready?
If your email isn’t optimized for my phone, hang up right now, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. If anyone is going to open your superbly written email with a provocative subject line, it’s going to be on a mobile phone. Make sure that works. Test it on both Android and iOS systems.

Just for fun
Every now and then, I’ll run a subject line through subjectline.com. It’s a fun device with a group of parameters that define the “best” subject line, winning a 100% score. I don’t depend on it exclusively but it gives me some good suggestions every now and then when I’m stuck for inspiration.
If you want more suggestions for subject lines, read our blog “The power of one word in an email subject line.”

Do you have any tried and true subject line rules you always follow?