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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to choose the best subject line

(or SEO keywords, PPC ad copy!!)

Deciding the right Subject line for you email campaign can make the difference between success or failure. Your recipients will often base their decision whether to open or delete your email based solely on the subject. Just think about how you check your own email and how easy it is to hit the <Delete> button. So why do we rush from design to delivery without giving much thought to the subject line? This article should help show you how to use some easy to use tools to help you choose the best subject lines to test with. If you're not testing multiple subject lines, this should help you choose a better subject BEFORE you send your email and not the next day while you're evaluating your campaign results.

Note: Real credit for this article goes to Chistopher Penn of Blue Sky Factory who explained all of this on the Blue Sky Blog. You can view his full article here. While we are already aware of the tools discussed below, we wanted to run the same subject line analysis using data for one of our clients. We'll follow up this article with the actual results of our test.

The two tools used to help find a better subject line are Google's Wonder Wheel and the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. We'll start with the Wonder Wheel tool which gives you a list of other relevant search terms based on your initial Google query. For this test, we're trying to find the best subject line for a client promoting a newsletter explaining the causes and remedies for age spots, melasma and hyperpigmentation. The original subject line chosen by the client was "Help for your Age Spots, Melasma, Hyperpigmentation" and will be used as one of the test subject lines. While melasma and hyperpigmentation are part of the newsletter content, we already knew that "age spots" was a more important keyword based on earlier research. We start the analysis by simply going to Google and performing a search for the term "age spots".

Notice the "Show options..." link just beneath your search term on the results page. Clicking this link presents some new options along the left side of the screen including the "Wonder wheel" link shown in the second image below.

Google Search Resultss

Wonder Wheel

When you click on the "Wonder wheel" link above, you are presented with a graphical representation of other search terms related to "age spots". From the list of 8 suggestions, the search terms "remove age spots", "fade age spots" and "age spots home remedies" are clearly relevant to the email newsletter we are trying to promote. Clicking on each of these search terms drills down a bit further suggesting other related search terms.

Age Spots

When we click on "remove age spots" above, we're presented with the image below suggesting eight more related search terms. Several of them stand out as related to our initial search term "age spots" and are relevant to the email newsletter. These are "remove melasma", "remove skin cancer", "remove skin spots", "remove liver spots" and "remove age spots home remedies".

Remove Age Spots

Similarly, when we click on "fade age spots", we're presented with several other related search terms. We like "solutions for age spots", "fade age spots skin" and "fade melasma".

Fade Age Spots

Doing this one last time for the suggested search term "age spots home remedies" leads us to the search term "melasma home remedies" which is also related to our newsletter.

Age Spots Home Remedies

Here's where things get really interesting. Including our initial search term "age spots", we've now built a list of 13 related and relevant search terms.

age spots
remove age spots
remove age spots home remedies
remove skin spots
remove melasma
remove liver spots
remove skin cancer
age spots home remedies
melasma home remedies
fade age spots
solutions for age spots
fade melasma
fade age spots skin

Let's plug these into the Google Adwords Keyword Tool and rank the results by actual Google search volume and we see some clear winners.

Adwords Keyword Tool

Age spots clearly leads the pack in search volume by end users, but there is also lots of interest in removing/fading age spots and "home remedies". This leads us with a new subject line to test, "Removing age spots with home remedies", based on actual search behavior and not on guesswork by a marketing department. The new subject line also supports the content in the body of the email so we're not risking alienating our reader with body content unrelated to the subject. Once the subject lines are tested with a portion of your list and a winner is chosen, the rest of the list is sent the winning subject line.

This A/B subject line split test is still running. Check back and we'll have the results of our test and learn if in fact "Removing age spots with home remedies" actually outperforms "Help for your Age Spots, Melasma, Hyperpigmentation".


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