Have you ever taken a look back at the history of advertising? If you pay close attention, you’ll notice a trend. As time has passed, advertising of all sorts has become less, well… like an advertisement. The reason? Because over time people have gotten bombarded by and immune to marketing messages.
Email is no different. The excitement of seeing emails in your inbox has been replaced largely with a heavy sigh in anticipation of weeding through which messages are from real people and which are virus-filled spam or scammy phishing expeditions.
The combination of fear and skepticism have caused a good deal of trouble for email marketers. What once worked now screams “I’m an ad… delete me quick!” So let’s take a look at what types of subject lines get the best open rates these days.
The Non-Ad Subject Line
The growing trend I’ve seen over the past few years has been to make the subject line as non-ad-like as possible. This has been supported by testing from organizations including Marketing Experiments and others.
Here are a few suggestions from one of their webinars:
- Capitalization: Always test sentence case as well as using caps for the first letter in each word.
- Tone/language: Keep words simple: one to two syllables.
- Punctuation: Not required, but it might add some visual interest.
- Length: Short, compact, and punchy is often good. Test against longer versions to see what audience prefers.
I agree. I’ve been paying attention to which email subject lines catch my attention as I scan my inbox every day. The ones that pique my curiosity rather than delivering a clear pitch usually work best.
I’ve been testing email subject lines on my own accounts for months now. Here’s what I’ve seen.
Most Popular Subject Lines
The subject lines that worked best for my Marketing Words Copywriting Blog is are the ones with an article in them, free offers and announcements of webinar replays. These got more than a 10% click rate. (Not open rate… click rate.)
The open rate can be a little misleading because, for instance, a person might delete one email and their email program automatically open the next message in the list. The person did not mean to open your email.
With my Online Copywriting 101 list, the same held true. Subject lines that enticed and teased recipients outperformed the rest with almost five times the number of clicks.
A few examples:
“One Thing All the Big Moneymakers Have in Common”
“True Story: Google Pulls Site’s Traffic After 12 Years”
And again… free offers and webinar announcements got lots of clicks, too.
Least Successful Subject Lines
The subject lines that received the lowest click rates (less than 5%) included those that made highly specific offers (50% Off Copywriting Coaching Calls – Ends 1/1/2009). Also included in that group were “maintenance” types of emails such as webinar follow up, etc.
The Exception to the Rule
The one exception to the scenarios give above is the general discount email. Cyber Monday discount emails did very well as did those that were less detail oriented such as:
“50% off Everything”
“Just $7 – Today Only”
“$9 Copywriting Ebooks Increase to $19 TOMORROW”
If you’re still sending emails with straight-up promotional subject lines, it’s time to do a little testing. Pay attention to the types of subject lines you use and the click rates they bring. If you keep track, you can quickly determine which ones bring the highest returns so you can duplicate those successes.