subjectLineWhen your primary job is to assist small business owners and employees with their e-mail marketing practices, you get a lot of questions about what criteria to test. I believe that testing is key to finding out what will work for your business and receive the most opens. While testing e-mails that have different content inside of them can alter the actions that people take (like clicking a link, watching a video or visiting your website), you have to get the recipient to open the e-mail first. If a subject line looks uninteresting or spammy the e-mail is not going to get opened. This is why I believe that testing e-mail subject lines is the most important piece of the e-mail that should be tested.

So how do you know if your subject line is good?

1. Be interesting

If you can put something that is relevant to the recipient into the subject line you are better off. For example, if you separate your list by city, putting something geographically relevant into the subject line can improve your open rates. Also, questions work well as long as it’s not super cheesy. Think about what questions apply to your audience. Something like “Is your Marketing Stuck in the 90’s?” and not “Looking for a marketing software?”  The reason the first is better is that it focuses on a need without directly promoting your product.

2. What’s in it for them

If people believe that they will receive or learn something by opening your e-mail, it is more likely to get opened. Ideally, you have your list segmented by geography or interests. Sending someone an email that points to their specific interests is your best bet. For example, if my business is an online wine shop and I am able to track link clicks, I know that Joe Smith always clicks on red wine so I will probably start sending him emails with subject lines like “Have you tried this new red yet?” or “This red here for a limited time– it’s our best seller.”

3. Don’t turn into a spammer

When you write someone like “OPEN FOR A FREE PRIZE!!”– you look like a spammer. This example is a triple whammy because it is in all caps, has the word “free” and has exclamation points. Having just the word “free” or just an exclamation point will not likely be the sole reason that you are marked as spam, but don’t combine these things. SPAM filters looks for spammy words within the subject line and basically assign points to the subject line. When it exceeds a certain amount of points, you’re in the SPAM folder.

These 3 things are what we have found can make the difference between hitting open and hitting delete on an e-mail. Want some more details on subject lines?

Here is an infographic from Litmus that dives a bit deeper:

Even when you have put plenty of thought into it and feel that your subject line is perfect, you may not get the opens you would like so remember to always keep testing. You could be surprised at what works the best!