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Spruce Up Your Mailing’s Subject Line

A well-crafted subject line can certainly improve your mailing’s results. Because not everyone turns their preview panes on by default, it’s often your one chance to convince a reader to stop and read rather than move on or delete. But how does one master the art of the effective subject line, or the art of bowling, for that matter? Here are five ideas to get you started. Bowling tips will follow in a separate article.


1. Generic medicine = good. Generic subject lines = bad.

We see it all the time — mailings introduced as, simply, “Monthly Newsletter.” Even if your mailings are recurring, like a monthly newsletter, or a weekly update, or breaking news, each one, and its content, is unique. The subject lines should be, too. You can still use your newsletter’s name to introduce it (which is a great way to let people sort by subject line later to locate past issues), but don’t stop there. Instead, make sure you introduce your fresh newsletter content with an equally fresh subject line.

Average subject line:
May Newsletter

Much better:
Arlene’s May Newsletter: Last-minute Mother’s Day specials, and blue roses from Brazil!


2. Identify yourself 

In the above example, you’ll notice that we incorporated the business name — Arlene’s — in the subject line. Remember that your subject line is another form of identification for your email, and that in the split second you have to grab a reader’s eye, having your name (or your connection to the reader) in the mix may be just the thing, particularly in inboxes where your from address is displayed but your from nameisn’t.

Average subject line:
Event registration reminder

Much better:
ACA Members: Remember to register for Friday’s May Day Festival!


3. Inform, but also entice 

Most subject line experts agree that a great subject line tells you what’s inside but stops short of telling you the whole story. If your subject line is too vague, your reader might not feel any urgency to open it. Too descriptive, and he or she may not feel the need to read more. In other words, give your subject line some real meat, but save a little juice for the content inside. The analogy also works with bacon and grease or toast and jelly.

Pretty good subject line:
News Alert: The Mayor Appoints Roger Blume as Energy Commissioner

Even better:
News Alert: The Mayor has just named a new energy commissioner…


4. Avoid using words that could get your email filtered

Your subject line is a part of the mailing, and therefore part of what filters review in deciding whether to route your email to the inbox or the junk folder. With our proofing tools, you can catch suspect words and phrases before you send.


5. What really works? Find out for yourself

As with most email marketing rules, these will twist and bend and shimmy based on your particular situation and style. To find out what really works, save two versions of the same mailing and change only the subject line. Then split your audience in half and send one mailing to one group and the other to, well, you get the idea. Then see what kind of effect the subject line has on your open rates, click-throughs and your general popularity around town. Do they toast to your email-marketing prowess at parties? We certainly hope so.