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How Your Email Subject Lines Can Affect Your Open Rates

Written by Anna Milward on December 30, 2014

The subject line is the most important part of your email but how often have you skipped over devising a great subject line in favour of an attractive design or detailed content?

Whatever you are trying to achive with your email marketing it’s essential that you pay attention to your subject line if you want to keep open rates high.

How do subject lines affect open rates?

The subject line is the first and possibly only thing your recipients see when your email lands in their inbox. This means that if you want to entice them to open your email, it has to be interesting and compelling enough that they want to click on it and read more.

Over the years plenty of different organisations have spent time researching the impact that different subject lines have on open rates and found a direct correlation between certain types of subject lines and high (or low) open rates.

What to avoid in email subject lines

When it comes to getting your emails opened, the first thing you need to do is steer clear of using spam words or characters in your subject line that could see your email sent straight to junk mail. Words like “free” and “buy now” are a no-go, as well as punctuation techniques like using all capitals and excessive exclamation points.

Most ISPs have a list of ‘spam’ words which trigger an automatic filtering system and get them diverted straight into the junk mail folder.

Even after your email gets into your recipients’ inbox, what you say in the subject line will make a big difference to whether or not it gets opened. Here are three things to avoid:

  • Being too flashy, clever or funny as this can actually have the opposite effect
  • Unless you are targeting very specifically to your recipient, avoid making your subject lines too long.
  • Repetitive subject lines. If you’re sending email reminders for an upcoming event or promotion, make sure you keep the subject lines original if you want to get the best possible results.

How to create subject lines that get more opens

As well as knowing what not to do, there are a few tried and tested techniques that can help you improve your open rates. Here are three of them:

  • Localisation. Providing useful, tailored information for someone is a definite way to encourage them to open an email. Although using a recipient’s name has not been shown to make that much of a difference to open rates, localisation by providing a place name can be highly effective.
  • Be relatable. If possible, try to create a subject line that relates to a problem or experience your recipient might be having. If your email contains something that’s relevant to them, they are far more likely to open it than if it’s irrelevant or generic.
  • Be mysterious. A little bit of mystery can go a long way in a subject line and if you can create a sense of intrigue you can stand a good chance of getting your open rates up. One great way to do this is to pose a question in your subject line.

Increasing your email opens may take a bit of time and effort but a great subject line is a good start and can get your email marketing heading in the right direction.

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