First of all, apologies for the empty post that got published earlier. Hit the wrong button.
Do you know what the difference is between blog post headlines and email subject lines?
Email Subject Lines for Newsletters
Well, it depends on how you do your email marketing. If you have a more conventional “newsletter” what seems to work the best for most businesses is a subject line that begins with the name of the publication, followed by one of the headlines or main article headline inside the newsletter. Like this:
If your email newsletter contains a variety of links to articles each with their own headline, you can try to encapsulate the highlights in your subject line or pick one headline and “lead” with that. Either way, you risk not appealing to anyone or to only a small segment of your audience (but hey, that’s what split testing is for, which your email list management service undoubtedly offers you—so use it). Here’s an example where, out of a possible variety of article links, only one was chosen as the email subject line:
Email Subject Lines for Personal-Style Email Marketing
I don’t go for the whole newsletter thing. Nothing wrong with it at all, it’s just not for me. When I send an email to my list, it’s like you got an email from a real person instead of a company… because you did.
Think for a moment: what kinds of emails do you open up immediately from people you know? What kinds of subject lines did they have?
I bet you they were nothing like what you see as blog post headlines or social media headlines. What you feel compelled to click on in your inbox is often very different from what anyone would normally call a “good” headline. And by good headline, I mean one that reads like an example of all that stuff you learned when you tried to learn how to write headlines. Take the example below:
This email is an invitation to head on over to their blog and read the latest blog post, which has the exact headline as the email subject line above. That tactic itself is a fantastic one, by the way, but blog post headlines and email subject lines are different.
Context is King: Check This Out
The one thing people forget about when they throw around the worthless phrase “content is king” is that if you’re not hyper-aware of the context, your content will fail. And this is the real difference when it comes to email subject lines vs. blog post headlines: context.
Your inbox is not a feed reader. It’s not a social network. Let me explain with a story.
I once split tested two email subject lines: one was more “headline-y” and the other was simply “check this out.” “Check this out” blew the other headline away for opens and clickthroughs. I tried to find the data for that one but haven’t been able to dig it up. However, here are a few more examples of what I’m talking about from my Aweber (affiliate link) dashboard:
Split Test Example 1
- eliminate competition forever – 51% open rate
- awesome quote – 76.5% open rate
- Link Journeys for Your Clicking Pleasure (plus brownies) – 74.7% open rate
- we have brownies – 85% open rate
- must-see infographic on blogging & social media – 59% open rate
- INFOGRAPHIC INSANITY – 62.5% open rate
In each case above, the more personal headline wins. In the context of your inbox, an email from a friend with a subject line like “check this out” or “awesome quote” is going to be far more important to you than something that looks like a newspaper headline. I realize it’s hard to quantify this. There’s no “magic bullet” formula for it. But ask yourself: what would a subject line from a friend read like? Chances are it would have some or all of these qualities:
- It’s short—no more than three or four words, max.
- Grammar, punctuation and spelling are not as important as getting attention.
- Outside the context of an inbox, it wouldn’t work at all. If I busted out with a tweet that said “check this out” some would click on it but most would not because that line has little value in the context of Twitter.
Let me ask you a question: when was the last time a real friend sent you an email with a subject line that had your name in it?
How about NEVER.
Do you know what it really means when you get an email subject line that has your name in it? It means that’s how you know you’re being marketed to.
Doesn’t that just make you want to buy everything that person is selling?
Look, the people on the list know their on a list. But the best way to help them forget about that and instinctively receive your email as though it were from a real friend is to remove all tell-tale signs of marketing and just write the damn thing like you were a real person.
Don’t Take My Word for it: Test and Experiment
I can’t stress this enough: what works for me may not work for you. Your audience isn’t my audience. It’s important that you test out ideas and experiment and find what works best for you. Any email list management service that’s worth using will provide you a way to split test subject lines. Split tests do not have to be 50%/50%. Lets say you’re anxious that one subject line you want to try is a huge departure from the norm for you. You don’t have to subject 50% of your list to it: you can split it 80%/20% or any way you want. If your experimental subject line bombs, it will bomb for a small percentage of your list. If it works great, you can do something similar at a later time.
Delayed Split Testing
Another tactic you can try is to split test something like 25%/25%/50% and don’t send out the email that goes to the 50% segment until after you’ve seen some open rates from the 25%/25% segments. Then you change the subject line of the 50% segment to the winner and send that one out.
Go Forth and Email
Remember, context is king. If you’re sending out newsletters, think carefully about whether your subject line is really gonna stand out in someone’s inbox. If you’re engaging in a more personal style of email marketing, then write subject lines like a real friend would and not a marketing department. Consider foregoing phony “Personalization” in favor of the truly personal. But above all, test and verify for yourself what works and doesn’t work for your audience.
Image credit: allaboutgeorge