The Science of Subject Lines

Are you taking your subject lines seriously?

They’re small enough you might think they’re unimportant. A good one is about 50 characters, including spaces. I’m talking about the subject lines of your emails, which hopefully you’re sending lots of using our wonderful software, but if you’re not, you can probably still learn a thing or two. This post will attempt to outline best practices for something that just might be the most important part of your email campaign.

Let’s take a moment to think about why the subject lines are the most important part of any email campaign. This is the very first thing that your customers will see, and it could be all that they see. When you’re going through your emails in the morning you don’t see anything but maybe, maybe the first ten words of the body copy. More often than not the subject line itself will get cut off, which is why it’s so important to keep it short. Creating catchy subject lines has become even harder in recent times as more and more people turn to their cell phones for email, with their small screens in an orientation usually the opposite of a computer screen (portrait vs. landscape).

By now I hope we are in agreement that subject lines are a pretty big deal. Below you will find the three most important factors I keep in mind while developing a subject line (MailChimp & Directory Journal also think these factors are of high importance)

1. Keep it Short

Try to keep your subject line under 50 characters. According to this article, subject lines with 49 or fewer characters had open rates 12.5% higher than those with 50 or more characters. Furthermore, the click-through rates on the shorter subject lines were an astounding 75% higher than the longer subject lines.

2. Make it Crystal Clear

I know you want to write something catchy that people want to read, but it is important to have a subject line that is as informative as it is creative. Never sacrifice a clear message in the hopes to sound trendy or mysterious. If I receive an email with a really vague subject line, I don’t feel very inclined to open it. This is hard to reconcile with a short subject line, but whoever said that business was easy?!

3. Make it reflect the content accurately

So you have created a clear and catchy subject line, and your open rates are soaring. You now want to make sure that your body text accurately reflects the subject line or your click-through-rate will be atrocious. Think of the subject line as a bottleneck, you start bringing in prospective sales or leads, but if your body content does not match the subject line your email will NOT be effective.

The unfortunate thing about subject lines is you have to keep YOUR particular reader in mind, which makes subject lines even more difficult to write. For every subject line ‘best practice’ there is always a case study that will refute the practice in question. Simply put, always test your subject lines and keep in mind your target demographic while crafting your subject line.

As a final piece of advice, write the subject line last, after you’ve set everything else out in the body, that way you can most accurately represent it in the subject.

Happy sending!