Optimising Subject Lines to Increase Open Rates

by Nicola Faulkner June 14, 2016
June 14, 2016

Optimising Email Subject Lines to Increase Open Rates

Every now and again it’s worth having a look at your subject line strategies to see if you can breathe any new life into your email marketing programme. Here are the various elements of your subject line you should be thinking about.

How long should a subject line be?

A big debate has always existed around the character length of a subject line. There isn’t really a perfect answer for this, but we do suggest keeping it between 40 and 50 characters as various devices and email clients will display it differently. A subject line should only be as long as it needs to be and you need to think more about the words used rather than the amount.

Where you have a multi-topic email, like Money Saving Expert, then it becomes more acceptable to have a longer subject line to list all of the relevant topics of the message. However, this also depends on your offering as it’s very easy to engage with customers over money savings and freebies.

How should you structure your subject line?

Simply, the subject line is there to tell your customers what the email is about and to give them a reason to open it. Tricking people into opening your email on false premises or trying to be too quirky could result in a low click-through rate, as well as a decline in future email open rates.

Your goal with the subject line is to get people to open your email and engage with its content. Get straight to the point with your subject lines with things like “Get 10% off of your next holiday – 48 hours only” or “Sale ends tonight – Up to 50% off your favourite brands”.

Should subject lines include personalisation?

You have probably already tried personalising the subject line with their first name, but there’s other data that you can use. Think about what’s important to your customer – Can you use a location relevant to your email offering or is the last product they purchased something you can use? Try something like “Save 15% on HP Officejet Pro 8610 printer ink- today only” or “Events in Northampton for this Bank Holiday Weekend”.

Personalisation within your subject lines will make your email stand out within a crowded inbox and help to increase email open rates, but make sure you change it up and don’t use the same tactic every single time. Using the same subject line and data for personalisation can become tiring, and your emails will start to get overlooked.

Should subject lines include symbols and emojis?

A few years ago using symbols and emojis within subject lines was the in thing, and wild claims about open rate uplift were thrown around. However, these can now be looked at with a more measured approach.

Sometimes subject lines featuring symbols do work better, but there’s a golden rule – do these symbols add any value to your email or leave it looking spammy? Having a random symbol or emoji bolted on makes little impact, but a subject line where the symbol is fundamental to the message you are trying to get across does create impact. For example, an aeroplane for ‘fly away’ or a timer for ‘time is running out’.

Support your subject line with preview text

Preview text is a snippet of copy that features underneath your subject line. By optimising this you can provide further information to the content of your email and this will also help to increase open rates. If the preview text isn’t set then the email client will automatically pull in the first bit of text found, such as the menu and other text that isn’t important to your customer.

Keep testing and optimising your subject lines

We’ve recently posted our top tips on split A/B testing, which is a great way to test two different variants of your email subject line. Running with the same or similar subject lines over a long period of time can become tiring, so work at keeping your customers engaged.

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