Roving Report: Effective Email Subject Lines

email set of electronics illustration design over a white background

Email subject lines are the subject — pun intended — of the majority of questions Jay White receives about writing successful emails.

As an email copywriting expert and teacher, Jay also sees lots of student sample emails that lack subject lines.

There’s nothing hard or mysterious about writing effective subject lines, though. Jay recently taught a group of Wealthy Web Writers how to come up with great subject lines quickly and easily. (You can review his entire webinar HERE.)

In 2009, after becoming a highly-respected email copywriter, Jay authored the Autoresponder Apprentice program for AWAI. He’s recently updated and re-released it as Email Copy Made Easy.

What’s the Big Deal About Subject Lines Anyway?

Your email’s subject line plays a vital role. If it doesn’t make the reader pick it out of his crowded inbox and open it, whatever’s in the body of the email is useless.

The subject line is the doorway to the email itself and your first contact with the prospect. It has to compete with lots of other emails all screaming for attention. Readers are also more savvy than they used to be — the days when email, any email, was an exciting novelty are long gone.

“The email is like a big room filled with treasure,” Jay explained. “The subject line is like the door to the room. You can walk right by and not even notice it, or you can stop and think it doesn’t look interesting enough to open, or you can yank it open because you just have to see what’s inside.”

Your job is to create subject lines that are so compelling the reader just has to open that door.

If the reader walks on by without opening that door, it doesn’t matter how much treasure you’ve collected in that room.

How Long is Your Subject Line?

Subject line length is a bigger factor than most clients or copywriters consider.

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Susanna Perkins

Susanna was dragged back, kicking and screaming, into freelancing after losing her job in the banking meltdown in March, '09. One 3-month stint in an appalling temp job persuaded her to get serious about establishing herself as web writer. In March, 2012, she moved to a small town in Panama with her husband and three small dogs. After enjoying the writer's life in the culture of "buenas" and "mañana" for 2-1/2 years, she's returned to the US. At least for now.

One Comment

  • Nice article Susanna. I’m establishing myself as an email copywriter, and this is timely. I particularly enjoyed the tip about scanning the Yahoo! news headlines for ideas. It’s like having a dynamic swipe file. I agree however, that the technique should be used only when you’re stuck –not as a first measure.

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