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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How To Write Compelling Email Subject Lines That Boosts Your Open Rates

Your email has made it through the obstacle course of spam filters, black listing organizations, and email client filters to its final destination of your subscriber's Inbox. Your email will also be one of the hundreds of commercial emails that hit Inboxes per day. The question now becomes how do you entice the reader to open and read your email?

In a way, you already know the answer to this question as you have scanned your own email Inbox to determine the emails that deserve your attention. Direct marketers often picture their prospects as standing over the garbage container sorting their mails as 'junk' versus 'read-worthy. Your subscribers are no different.

In fact, here are some subject lines from my Inbox:

Say I do with Kodak's September Newsletter!

Save up to 40% with Corel's Labor Day Sale! Ends September 7

Dive into Autumn Savings at Sam's Club

My apologies ...

c u in vegas ;-)

Thank you for your payment

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Which of these emails would you open first? Most likely the more personal and less commercial email will get your vote.

Here are some tips you can use when writing your email subject line:

1. Forget your corporate speech and be personal. Write your headline as though it was from a personal friend. The more you understand your subscribers and market, the easier it will become to learn their language and resonate with your readers.

2. Build curiosity. Keep in mind that the subject line is comparable to the headline for an advertisement. Its main purpose is to get the rest of your email read. You can therefore build curiosity by using an incomplete sentence, asking a question for which the body of the email will give the answer or using a teaser such as, "You won't believe this."

3. Mention the benefit or reward for opening the email. For example, you may write, "Here's how to get your emails read every time'. The reader has to open the email in order to learn this new information. Clear benefits include how to save money, be healthier, look more attractive and whatever benefits your service or products provide.

4. Make an announcement or give news. If you have any message that is newsworthy or can be cast as such, then use a subject line to announce this news. Announcements by their very nature get attention and you want your subject lines to get attention for your email body message. An announcement could be as simple as a change you have made at your website or a special report you intend to send to your subscribers the following week.

5. Provide tips. This article provides tips on how to write effective email subject lines. One of the reasons why you are reading it is because "how to" information is usually practical versus theoretical, and promises to help you accomplish a certain task. This is the same reason why so many books are titled using "how to". If you connect your tips with solutions to the readers needs, then you'll have a winner subject line.

6. Avoid using words that trigger the spam filters. Avoid words such as "free", "buy", "opportunity", "hurry", "limited offer", "sale" and "special". Most email service providers have tools which warns you if the 'spam score' is above an unacceptable level by filtering these 'trigger' words for you. (Note: Your "Domain Reputation", i.e., as a commercial mailer is becoming a bigger factor at the top ISPs when considering the Inbox worthiness of your messages. Increased reliance on Reputation means ISPs will rely less on spam trigger words during their Inbox delivery decision.)

7. Avoid using ALL CAPS and exclamation points!! It is commonly accepted online that all caps suggest shouting and you don't want to shout at your readers. Exclamation points suggest the same as well and should be avoided as much as possible. A simple comparison of personal emails with spam emails will show this clear difference.

8. Keep it short. The best practice is to keep your subject line below 50 characters. Most email clients will not show subjects lines beyond this length anyway and so the reader will not be able to read your full subject line before opening the email. Also, most emails sent by a friend usually have a short subject such as "See you tomorrow?", "Thank you!" or "I got it."

You may use any one of these subject line ideas or create a combination of strategies to make an even more effective one. For example, consider this subject line:

"Who wants to learn how to write compelling subject lines?"

This subject line asks a question, suggests tips ('how to' and makes an announcement. This triple combination makes the subject line more effective than just using one element.

You have just one line to get your emails opened and a lot hangs on that line. You have to make every word count by knowing your audience interests, and getting them excited to reading your email in full.

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