Headline Hacks: How to Write the Best Email Subject Lines

Business.com / Marketing Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

You could have the best products or services in the world, but if nobody's excited by your emails they're never going to see for themselves.

There's both an art and a science to writing compelling email subject lines that not only get your readers to open your emails but to take action after they open.

It does no good to you or your business if you get high open rates, but minuscule click rates on your email campaigns if your goal is to increase engagement, generate page views, or drive revenue.

Yet, email marketing is something that many businesses and entrepreneurs continue to struggle with despite a wealth of readily available resources on this topic.

Related Article: Cream of the Inbox: Small Businesses Doing Email Marketing Right

It can be incredibly difficult to capture the attention of your readers on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. I've found that a major factor in being successful with email marketing is to simply put yourself in front of your readers with frequency and reliability. For example, when your readers can expect a weekly inspirational email from you every Wednesday morning before they head to work, you'll be much more likely to retain high email engagement in the long run. They'll know what to expect, and when to expect it.

A couple of years ago, I learned this lesson the hard way.

I wasn't keeping in regular contact with my community, and the infrequent email I'd send every couple of months would quickly generate a lot of unsubscribes. There are so many distractions and alternative resources of information today, that people will very quickly forget who you are and how you can help them - unless you stay top of mind with your content.

Regardless of how creative your subject lines are, if you're not keeping in regular contact with your email lists, you'll find that your open and click rates will dramatically drop off over time.

Becoming great at email marketing and crafting engaging subject lines take a lot of practice, and requires a very strong understanding of who your readers are.

According to MailChimp's exhaustive recent study, the average open rate for emails in the business/finance industry is at 21.64 percent with an average click rate of 2.90 percent.

That's pretty low, right?

Let's say you have 1,000 subscribers on your email list. Only 217 of them are opening your emails, just 29 are clicking on anything, and significantly less are taking further action (or purchasing anything) on your site.

How your email subscribers perform over time can have a lot to do with the type of business you're in, your branding, personal style, and countless other factors. However, if you continue to email your readers with the same type of messaging, dry subject lines, or send only transactional offers, they're going to quickly get bored with your emails.

With my own personal email campaigns, I typically see open rates in the low 40 percent range and click rates above 10 percent with a total community of just under 10,000 readers today.

I'm able to achieve well above average email engagement with my community for many different reasons, one of which is certainly my use of clever subject lines that I know my audience will be interested in. Beyond just the subject line and copy of the email, I always offer more in-depth content for them to click through and read, in order to deliver more value.

Over the years, I've learned a lot about email marketing from several entrepreneurs and marketers who've been perfecting their craft much longer than myself. One of them is April Bowles-Olin, who recently taught a class on How to Double Your Followers with Creative Marketing over on CreativeLive.

In this video, April shares her 4 best strategies for writing email subject lines that'll stand out in a crowded inbox.

One of my favorite pieces of advice April urges you to do before sending an email campaign, is to email yourself a test and see how the subject line compares with all of the other marketing emails sitting in your inbox.

Would you click on your email? Does it offer something more compelling than all the other emails sitting in your inbox? How does reading your subject line make you feel?

Asking yourself these questions will help you judge whether or not your subject line is going to be a winner with your audience.

Beyond that, April gives her 4 top tips on how to write subject lines that'll drive more engagement with your community. Here they are.

  1. Make a Promise: Here's an example, "You'll Double Your Blog Readership with These 10 Tips."
  2. Highlight a Benefit: Here's an example, "Learn to Write a Headline Your Twitter Followers Actually Click."
  3. Appeal to Your Reader's Emotions: Here's an example, "Why I Gave Up Thousands of Blog Readers and Started Over."
  4. Appeal to Your Reader's Curiosity: Here's an example, "The Reason No One Comments on Your Blog Posts."

Related Article: Simple Steps to Optimizing Your Email Marketing Campaigns

All of these email subject line examples tug at different core desires and peak my interest as a reader. Check out April's class on Doubling Your Followers and get more of her strategies on not just building your audience, but driving meaningful engagement within your community.

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