Posted 27th June 2011 by APSIS

The subject line

In our series on email marketing, we cover the basics of email and what you need to know in order to become a successful email marketer. This time, we discuss something that is present in all newsletters. It may be perceived as a triviality, but it is quite often the difference between an opened letter and an ignored letter. Time to take a look at the subject line!

The subject line is best described as the name of your newsletter. It is the first and only thing a recipient sees apart from the name of the sender. The subject line must tell the readers what the letter is about – and be interesting enough to make them open the letter.

The subject line is easily forgotten, and it is often written seconds before the newsletter is sent – usually without too much consideration. But it is important for the overall success of your newsletter, and it deserves a lot of attention. Here are a few key points to consider when writing subject lines!

One of the essential building blocks

Sender, subject line and timing. Those are the three most important building blocks that decide whether your newsletter will be opened or not. For the recipient, it is important that the sender is well known, and that the timing is right. But the one thing that may be the crucial decision point is the subject line.

Is it tempting? Is there an interesting offer? Do I become curious? If the answer to at least one of the questions is “yes”, then there is a good chance that your newsletter will be opened.

The length – should be shorter than 50 characters

A good subject line should be short. And by short, we actually mean really short – shorter than 50 characters, including blank spaces. There are several reasons why you need to practice your skills in writing short sentences.

1. A short subject line is read at a glance. You are not the only one sending email, so you need to be swift and get to the point quite fast. Put the most important stuff first. People read the first three words most carefully.

2. A long subject line is cut off in several email clients, especially on mobile devices. It does not matter how good your subject line is if nobody can read it. Anything after 49 characters runs the risk of disappearing, so it is best to begin with what is the most important.

3. Spam filters do not like long subject lines. There is an increased risk of ending up in a spam filter if your subject line is longer than 49 characters.

Describe the contents – include a call to action

Read headlines in newspapers for inspiration. Pay attention to how the editor uses words and phrases – it is often creative and clever, but almost always easy to understand. A headline – or a subject line, for that matter – does not have to be conventional or grammatically correct, as long as it is interesting and possible to understand. The important part is to communicate.

Choose your words carefully – remember the spam filters!

Spam filters use a number of different techniques to stop suspected spam from reaching the inbox. One of the most common – and one of the simplest – techniques is to look at the subject line and search for suspicious words.

Businesses such as medicine and finance run the highest risk of getting blocked, but anyone may be affected. If you have nothing but honest intentions, this may feel totally unjustified. But we have to remember that the purpose of spam filters is to stop an illegitimate phenomenon that is hated worldwide and constitute a threat to our marketing channel. Spam filters will not be perfect all the time, and the best way to make sure that your newsletters won’t be blocked is to test them before sending.

Perform a split test

How will I know if my subject line is good enough? Try to write two or three subject lines and test them against each other. Then you won’t have to guess which one to choose and you make sure that a majority of your recipients get the best subject line.

Make a simple test like this: write two subject lines and send each of them to 5 % of the recipient list. Use the one that has the highest open rate for the remaining 90 %. Then you make sure that 95 % of the recipients get the best subject line.

As time goes by, you will learn which subject lines to use. Do not forget to use all available statistics – many things are interesting besides open rates!

Would you like to know more?

My name is Anna and I am Manager of After Sales and Education at Apsis. My team is ready to help you and your company to improve your skills in email marketing and communication.

Are you thinking about shifting or changing your current strategies? Do you need more information on Apsis Newsletter Pro to find new ways of using the system in order to make the most of it for your company?

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