By Liz Willits
Email subject lines can be tricky. Let’s imagine you spend hours writing an email that you’re proud of – an email you think may help you surpass your goals. You send it. You wait at your computer trying to focus on other work while you keep thinking about that email. Finally, you can’t wait any longer and you check out your email analytics. And the worst thing happens. Your open rate is low. This exact scenario has happened to me. It’s a big letdown, and it has an impact. After all, your subject line is the main factor in determining whether an email is opened or ignored. To save you from bad open rates, I’ve collected the subject lines from our most opened emails and analyzed them to see why they work. In this post, I’ll share what I found.
Say something unexpected
Similar to seeing a dog walk on two legs, great subject lines grab your audience’s attention. The best ones stop your subscribers mid-scroll as they’re sorting through emails in their inbox. One way to write subject lines like this is to surprise your audience by taking a perspective or stance they don’t expect you to hold. For example, here’s a subject line that lead to one of the highest open rates for our blog newsletter (57 percent above average!):
Since we are an email marketing platform, our audience was most likely surprised by us saying the email blast is dead. When they saw this subject line in their inbox, they probably wanted to learn why we took this stance and clicked the email to find out. Another way you can use this tactic is to surprise your audience by challenging their commonly held beliefs about your industry. For example, many businesses feel they need a huge email list to see success with email marketing. To challenge this idea, we wrote a blog post explaining why you don’t need a huge email list. When we promoted it to our audience, we made sure to take that angle in the subject line:
This subject line gave us a high open rate, and because the content featured the blog post, we also got a high click-through rate. However, when using this tactic, take care to only say something unexpected if it’s a belief or idea that you can defend and truly believe in. Click-bait subject lines will likely annoy your audience and cause you to lose their trust.
Ask the questions your audience is asking
You may have tried asking a question in your subject line before. Maybe you saw great results. Maybe so-so results. Through our own research, we’ve found that questions can be extremely effective subject lines – but only certain kinds of questions. For us, the highest-performing subject lines are ones that ask a question we know our audience is actually asking. When we ask questions our audience isn’t asking, our open Go to the full article.