Last week we talked about increasing your open rates with seasonal subject lines. The topic of this week’s blog post is actually how to write those subject lines — ones that persuade subscribers to read your email newsletters.
ones that convince subscribers to actually read your email newsletters.

There are many methods, tricks and tips for writing great headlines – especially for direct mail pieces. Email subject lines are the digital equivalent of print media headlines. Unfortunately, we aren’t dealing with direct mail, and we have spam filters to contend with, and character counts to abide by when it comes to writing subject lines.

The best email subject lines persuade the user to open and read the messages that follow. Here are a couple of tips to get you started:

1. Be interesting!
“Creative Memories Has Launched a Storyboard 2.0 to Meet the Demands of Their Customers”. Boring! Who cares?

Now try this one. “Bring the Family Together – Organize Your Photo Album with Storyboard 2.0”. That’s already a bit better.

An email title should tell a story, even if it is a short story. Be passionate about what you offer and others will too.

2. Solve and problem.
“What’s in it for me?” This is what a reader asks when he/she sees your message. If you don’t appeal to your reader on an emotional level, chances are the message will deleted.

3. Keep it short, sweetie.
You don’t know what email client (i.e. Yahoo, Gmail) a subscriber is using, so try to pack the punch in the beginning of your emails. Like a good headline, a good email subject line is succinct. Hotmail and AOL truncate the email subject line if it is longer than 60 characters. Other email clients permit up to 80 characters. However, shorter email subject lines produce higher open rates.

4. Write an email subject line that works.
There are dozens of email subject line formulas suggested by top copywriters that both increase open-rates and and can sell more products. Try asking a question, or adding urgency to your subject line. How-to subject lines, like “How to Travel with Kids” or “How to Write Better Email Subject Lines” are also proven to have great open rates, especially if it is something the reader wants to learn. If you are reading this, my pointed is proven.

5. Entice them, don’t trick subscribers into opening your email.
Mystery is a good thing, just make sure not to cross the line of “tricking” your readers into opening an email that has content different from what you promised. The email subject line is not creative if it prompts the recipient to open your email message, only to disappoint or confuse the reader.

6. Don’t give everything away in the email subject line.
Is your email subject line sufficiently intriguing to prompt the recipient to open your email newsletter or sales letter? Or do you “give away” the entire message in the email subject line, diminishing the subscriber’s incentive to read any further?

7. Differentiate yourself from spammers.
It is much easier to stand out now than it was in pre-spam times. Thank you spammers! Think I’m full of b.s.? Well if you look at the messages sent by spammers, you will notice I am right.

Fortunately, spammers are quite unprofessional and their correspondence looks messy. The “From” line usually consists of a single word, a fake surname or an e-mail address. You shouldn’t use either. Set up your mail client (or newsletter script) so that it shows “Your Company” in the “From” line. This also saves space in your title.

Then comes the subject line. Here is another chance to stand out from the rest. Capitalize the first letter of every important word (don’t capitalize “to”, “in”, “the”, “a”, “and” or similar words). Use punctuation such as exclamation mark, a hyphen or a question mark, if really necessary.

8. Beware of spam-filter triggers.
Let’s face it, we get a lot of junk email these days. This has forced a lot of people use spam filters. Unfortunately, they may filter messages that look like spam but may not be. It is all because of some trigger words or “no-no” words set up by the email clients or the actual users themselves. Examples of these trigger words are: free, problem, earn, money, income, certain human body parts, buy, urgent and among others.

Email marketers do struggle with “free” and “urgent” a lot! While there is no sensible substitute to “free” (some people will use “complimentary” or “gratis”), there are many ways to indicate urgency without attracting unwanted attention from spam filters. And sometimes it is good to ask for an urgent action. You can say: “only 3 days left” or “act now to obtain…”

9. Learn.
I bet you receive lots of email marketing messages yourself. Take notice of what messages you delete unopened and what titles you click on.

Read good quality newspapers/magazines (especially our trade magazines – Massage Magazine and the like). See how professional journalists construct their titles. They are professionals and usually do the right thing.

10. Research and test.
Have you already written a title for your email campaign? Don’t email it just yet. Ask your family, friends, colleagues their opinion. Sometimes a different perspective from someone who is not in your business can be very valuable.

If you have already sent it out, monitor the results. It’s important to learn what the response rate is for each individual email campaign in order to craft successful future campaigns.

Using these ten email title tips will definitely get your email campaigns on the right track. Everything else is just a matter of experience and intuition.

If you’ve got a email marketing campaign too delicate for you to screw up, contact me today. I’ll quote you on a perfect, professional job — no screw-ups, guaranteed.

Do you have any other tips to add about how to write better email subject lines? Share them in the comments.