The Anatomy Behind the Perfect Email Subject Line

Last Updated: May 10, 2022

The Anatomy of A Perfect Email Subject Line

The subject line of an email might seem like a minor detail. Especially when you consider the overall scheme of your email marketing. But this seemingly “minor detail” can make or break any email campaign. Here’s the thing, your email needs to add value to the customer’s experience and deliver the right message every single time. Once you get the basics out of the way, it’s time to focus on the email subject line.

Your content needs to answer your customer’s questions and resolve any issues they might have. A value-first strategy approach to your emails will lead to increased sales, better brand recognition, and higher open rates. This is where the perfect subject line comes into play. That’s why we’re sharing the anatomy behind the perfect email subject line. The following tips will help you increase your open rates and return on investment (ROI) of your email marketing campaigns.

The Anatomy Behind the Perfect Email Subject Line

1. Stick With the Top Performers

Whether you have a small business that sells enamel pins or a leading, multinational brand, there are some important best practices when it comes to email subject lines. The following are pretty universal, no matter what your niche.

  • Urgency: You need to make your subscribers feel like there’s a time limit. Once you manage this, you’re bound to work some magic. Just know that when you use this tactic too much, it can lead to list exhaustion. So you need to use them sparingly.
  • Offers: People love new items and experiences, so it’s a good idea to cater to that. Go ahead and offer something for free or give them an incredible discount. Whenever you do this, they’re bound to see the value in continuing to subscribe to your email list. Here’s an example of an offer subject line: “TODAY ONLY – FREE shipping on any order over $25! Save up to 75% off.”
  • Curiosity: A great tactic is to pique your recipient’s curiosity by making them open the email so they can get more information. Go ahead and channel your inner Cheshire cat.
  • Self-Interest: These are the types of subject lines that you should use most often. They are typically direct and speak to a very specific benefit that your audience will receive when they open the email. Self-interest subject lines also help openers by hinting at your email’s content. For example, “If I can’t afford a down payment on a house, should I still buy?”. This subject line promises to answer a very specific question. The key to this is to always make sure that your email’s content answer’s whatever question is in the subject line.
  • Tell A Story: A story in your subject line is a great way to highlight a specific benefit and best of all it can increase your open rates.
  • Utilize Social Proof: We love seeing what other people are doing to justify our own decisions. You can leverage this knowledge in your subject line by sharing success stories, highlighting how others use your products/services or even monitor familiar names.

Whenever you use these tried-and-true techniques, your subject line will get a lot of extra attention. You can even combine two of these tactics for an even more powerful approach.

2. Test, Test, and Test Again

Sometimes following the best practices when it comes to subject lines isn’t always enough. You still need to test and revise. It’s the surefire way to see what’s working for your audience. For more information on tracking email metrics, head over here. In addition to performing A/B testing, you also need to test a variety of subject lines before you even send them.

CoSchedule offers a free tool that helps you evaluate the power of a blog’s headline – and honestly, it works great for emails too! This tool also identifies what types of words you’re supposed to use in your headline (or for this purpose) your email subject line. Plus, it lets you know how effective certain words are in terms of getting attention or evoking an emotional response.

Sometimes the tool can be a little too critical of short subject lines, so don’t worry about always agreeing with it. It’s always a really go idea to ask your team members for their opinions.

3. Ask A Compelling Question

Questions are a really awesome way to get your followers to think about how they would answer a question. Or how YOU could help them answer it! But there’s a trick involved… You just might want to steer clear of using a question mark and here’s why: the question mark is often oversold. Say what?!

According to SmartInsights, 72% of brands see a lower click rate (on average, 8.1% lower) on email subject lines that contain a question mark. This occurred when they were compared to subject lines that contained other punctuation, like the almighty exclamation point. The question mark might get some attention initially, but they perform poorly when it comes to triggering real customers. The goal is to get them to open the email. But should you still use it the question mark?

YES! The question mark is still on our list, so don’t toss it aside just yet. The way we see it, it’s not about what punctuation you use. It’s all about HOW you use it. A lot of brands ask questions that are either far too generic and just don’t relate to their brand.

This is where the quality of the email’s subject line really comes into play. The art of asking a question is that it has to be specific about the email’s content/products/offer. This way, the question in the subject line sets expectations that the email actually meets. Quality subject lines matter a whole lot more than the punctuation you choose to include.

If you do it right, a great question can really set you apart from your competition. Just remember to be unique, direct, and most of all, relevant.

4. Use Concise Language and Action-Oriented Verbs

Most people scan their inboxes pretty quickly. That means that your subject lines need to be in tip-top shape. And that’s starts with a subject line that is highly concise. The subject lines also need to be action-oriented or they will get overlooked immediately. When your subject lines a clear, concise and chockful of action-oriented verbs the more likely they are to get opened.

So what does it mean to create a concise subject line? You need to think about how your email will benefit your recipients and make that benefit clear from the start. For example, “Increase your open rates by 50%” is a lot more compelling than “How to increase open rates”.

It’s all about creating a subject line that is enticing and something they’d regret not opening. That’s why action verbs are important – they inspire people to take action. This works really well when they are used at the beginning.

Put It Into Action

Here’s the thing, you don’t always need to be super-creative with your subject lines. It isn’t the only way to see a great improvement in your email’s performance. Actually, straightforward and honest email subject lines work really well too. You just need to make sure that you always test whatever you create. And don’t forget to bring your team in when it’s time to brainstorm. The more input you have, the better. When it comes to creating titles, a team effort is always your best bet.

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