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6 Tips for Effective Email Subject Lines

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Guest post by: John Childs

Email marketing may be one of the most effective ways to keep your business top of mind. But many marketers go crazy with certain aspects of email marketing and actually destroy relationships they should be nurturing. Instead of viewing subscribers as potential clients and real people, they see them as dollars and cents.

Applying some common-sense best practices can go a long way to boosting your email open rate and getting your messages read.

1. Don’t Over-personalize the Subject Line

It’s common for direct marketers to use the prospect’s name in the subject line and, on the surface at least, it might seem to make sense. But it can come across as awkward and unnatural.

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From a marketing perspective, personalization is a good thing. Why? Because people like to do business with those they know, like and trust. But, from a recipient’s standpoint, seeing his or her name in the subject like can seem strange. When you get emails from friends or relatives, do they use your name in the subject line? Probably not. As a marketer, you should skip the name in the subject line and use it in the salutation instead.

2. Don’t Make Overt Requests for Donations

Who doesn’t like charity? Email recipients, apparently. Some interesting research by MailChimp suggests that subject lines that make a request for a donation negatively impact open rates. In fact, the word “donate” in the subject line was the worst offender, resulting in a -.56 decrease in open rates compared to subject lines that did not include that word. This seemingly small reduction can make a world of difference with a large mailing list.

3. No More “Last Chance” Offers

People know spam when they see it. If it looks like advertising or a too-good-to-be-true offer, they’ll probably trash it. Just how many “last chances” does one get in life, anyway?

4. Yelling Is not Selling

Don’t use all caps. Anywhere. This rookie mistake is the equivalent to yelling. Yelling will get you nowhere.

5. Avoid the Vague and Uninteresting

Read some of the Yodle reviews online or visit sites like Copyblogger. The titles are catchy. Now, subscribe to their emails and you’ll quickly find how adept they are in creating attention-grabbing subject lines.

6. Keep It Short

Make the subject line interesting, but keep it short. Otherwise, you run the risk of the subject getting cut off in the inbox (especially on mobile devices) or losing the attention of the recipient after about 20 or 30 characters. There just isn’t enough space or long enough attention span for long subject lines.

What other tips for improving email subject lines would you offer? Please leave a comment.

John Childs studies web marketing trends and techniques. He often blogs about the dos and don’ts of effective marketing online.

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