9 tips to spice up your email subject lines

Increase your email open rates with our 9 tips on improving your subject lines, from split testing, to emoji use, to optimal character limits.

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There are 3.9 billion daily email users and email marketing tool, MailChimp, calculates the average open rate on its platform to be 21.3%.

To flip that on its head, that means close to 80% don’t get opened. Almost four out of five people ignore these emails, and your only opportunity to convince them otherwise is your subject line.

No pressure then! Except, all the pressure. To avoid the Ctrl + A + Delete treatment, here are some tips to increase your open rates: 

Use the Recent Subject Line Performance feature in MailChimp

This simply provides you with a really quick snapshot of how your last five emails have performed, with open rate percentages at a glance, to help you draw conclusions based on previous patterns and use this information going forward.

Split test your subject lines

Data is your friend. A/B testing subject lines might be the single most effective way to increase your open rates. Your two chosen subject lines go head to head against equal portions of data, with the winning subject line automatically sent to the remaining contacts on the list, making sure you’re always sending the most effective subject line out to your audience.

Keep it clear and concise

Most people are going to do little more than skim your email subject line, so get to the point. Try and keep your heading as succinct as possible. Write it, read it again and cut out any words that aren’t completely essential. Make sure you’re getting your point across without overcomplicating your message.

Tap into your audience’s psyche

What makes them tick? What are their pain points? Take advantage of a fear of missing out, or a desire to stay ahead of competitors, in words you choose. 

Create a sense of urgency

If you’re promoting a time-sensitive offer, include dates in your subject line – there’s no use someone clearing their inbox a week later to learn your deal would have been perfect for them. The same goes for new research or products.

Make it enticing….

…. But not misleading. You don’t want to be the boy who cried clickbait, or there’ll come a day when you’ll have an email that really is of interest to them and it will be deleted before they have a chance to open it. Feature your most compelling products, stats or news, but don’t exaggerate or take things out of context.

Use the right number of characters

Best practice for email subject lines often advises keeping to between 50-60 characters, however with more and more people consuming emails on a mobile device, you may want to go even shorter. Whilst it’s not the end of the world if you go over the limit, try and fit your most important information within the initial 40 characters if you can.

Use emojis

But only if they fit with your brand. Research shows using emojis in your subject lines can increase your open rates, and they can certainly help you stand out in a cluttered inbox, but no one wants to feel like an embarrassing parent learning how to use WhatsApp.

Ignore the rules

Only got 9 items on your list, rather than 10?! Go for it! (in fact, data shows headlines with odd numbers get more clicks).

It’s handy to have guidance, but there are always exceptions. Some brands do really well by deliberately avoiding best practice – using super long, or controversial subject lines, or attempting humour. Sometimes the “worst” times to send an email might work really well for your audience. Essentially it’s all about trial and error.

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