Five Secrets to Writing More Effective Email Subject Lines and Better Email Marketing Campaigns

Did you know that a “good” email campaign plans on only 20-25% of the emails even being opened by the recipients? Here are five key points that will help you write better subject lines for more successful email marketing campaigns.


The subject line of every email promotion you write plays a key role in the success of your email marketing campaign. An effective subject line does several things.

It hooks your reader. He’ll immediately know if the message is meant for him and won’t be able to resist opening the email.

It conveys credibility. Without that your reader might delete the email without a second thought.

It’s specific, so your target audience knows your talking to them.

When it comes to an email subject line, you’ve got limited space to accomplish all this.

Here are five tips you can use to improve your email copywriting-especially when it comes to subject lines.

Know your limits – more than 40 characters might get lost.

Imagine sending out an email with a subject line that gets cut off on your reader’s email preview screen. Can you think of anything worse? I can… having the subject line cut off right before your key point. The best strategy is to keep your subject line short and punchy. (Example: “Retire This Year.”)
Where an email subject line cuts off depends on the reader’s email program settings. By establishing a 40-character limit, you’ll make sure your subject lines appear in full for all your readers.

If you have to go over 40 characters, double check your work. You want to be certain the most important information is up front, so it will appear before the cut off.

Finally, check how your subject line looks in a test email that you send to yourself.

Use the four U’s.

The subject line is arguably the most important part of your email promotion. A good, attention-grabbing headline will be urgent, unique, ultra-specific, or useful. Combine more than one of these elements to add even more power. For example, I received an email from direct marketing expert Denny Hatch yesterday, and it had a great subject line: “About the First Paragraph of Your Obituary …” Take a minute and see how that measures up against the four U’s. It’s definitely unique. It’s about your own mortality, so it must be urgent. The term “First Paragraph” makes it specific. It may even be useful… the point is I can’t wait to read it and find out. That’s exactly how you want someone looking at your email subject line to feel.

Use the “Big Idea” from within your email.

Your email marketing campaign is built around a “big idea” … or at least it should be. So, take that idea – your biggest benefit, a powerful promise, your USP – and use it to guide and shape your subject line. For example, “Write Better Copy in One Hour” is a better subject line than “Write Copy That Sells” because it makes a big promise-improvements to your copy within one hour. It goes a step beyond promising better copy by referencing the timeframe.

Be honest.

Whatever promise you make in your subject line should be delivered on early in your body copy. If you can’t deliver, don’t make the promise. A subject line like, “Make $12,000 in the Next Hour” might get your reader’s attention … but if you don’t deliver, you’ll lose their trust. Honest, authentic copy is the way to go-don’t settle for anything less in your own email copywriting.

Build relationships.

When you market through email, you’re appealing to people who have granted you permission to market to them. That’s a powerful thing, and you want to build on and respect that relationship. When appropriate, you can use your subject line to tie in to or reference previous emails you’ve sent. By giving your readers a sense of continuity and familiarity, you’ll build trust. For example, if you send an email with the subject line, “How Google Can Grow Your Business” one week, you might tie back to that with a subject line like, “Google AdSense Made Me $450 Last Week” in your next email. By doing this you open and carry on conversation with your readers.

Email marketing is a powerful tool, but it can also be difficult to get your reader to take that first step and open your message. Use these guidelines to help improve your read rates.

Oh, and here’s a bonus tip that every email copywriter should use…

Study what works.

There are no hard and fast rules, no magic formulas for crafting a winning subject line, no guarantees that what’s working this week will work next week. So study what’s working in your field, and use what you learn to make your email subject lines more powerful and effective.

Heather Robson

Heather Robson

Managing editor of Wealthy Web Writer, Heather has over ten years of content marketing and development experience.


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