Subject line writing may sound easy enough—it’s just a couple of words! Yet much of your emails’ success hinges on that first handful of syllables. We write subject lines pretty much daily here at BrightWave. They aren’t always perfect but they’re known to inspire darn respectable open rates.
And we always follow these five subject line commandments when writing them:
1. Don’t clickbait.
Just don’t. Articles like this may tell you how to get an open, but that open won’t have a lot of meaning if you don’t follow through on your subject’s claims. Besides that, since most people hate being sold to, your deliverability might even take a hit if your subject lines start to look too spammy. The subject line is there to setup your email content, not manipulate your open rate. When good content, clearly set expectations and on-brand tone all come together, you’ve struck subject line gold.
2. Be relevant.
This applies largely to the content itself but it can be just as important in a subject line. If you’re following the “no clickbait” rule and have something interesting to share, relevancy should come naturally. If your emails are triggered by customer behavior and messaging is targeted to the individual subscriber, then a relevant subject line should be obvious. But even less targeted emails can be relevant. Try adding a little seasonal flair or the promise of some timely educational information. A little personalization never hurts, either. Adding a first name, city name or a reference to a recent purchase can drive it all home with that “just for you” feeling.
3. Pay attention to preheader text.
Does this still need to be said? Most any brand doing email right makes sure to optimize their preheaders. A subject line with no built-in preheader can be underwhelming and, at worst, straight up confusing. A good preheader, in turn, can make that meticulously worded subject line really sing. Use it to enhance your subject with extra details, tease some secondary content or build anticipation with mysterious diction.
4. Always be testing.
In reality, no two email audiences are exactly alike. Email is an unpredictable world, after all! Even if you’re following every best practice you can find, what typically works for others may be a total disaster for you. The only way to know exactly what will work on your particular audience is to test—then let the data be your guide on future subject line writing.
5. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain.
Subject lines that are direct and relevant don’t have to be boring! If your brand is fun and quirky, your subject lines should be too. Punctuation, character count, capitalization or a really impactful emoji can all be used to help you stand out in recipients’ inboxes. Maybe not anything as cRAzY As THiS, but it never hurts to use capital letters for emphasis… or to throw them out altogether for a more exclusive “this is between us” tone.
With a little creativity, a little honesty and a few rounds of testing, there’s no telling what your subject lines can do for your email program.