Re: Your Boring Subject Line

Categories: Blog

Author: Alex Palombo

Every day - before they're opened or read - millions of emails get swiped, tapped, and dragged into the trash. Why? Because the subject line was boring.

With all due respect to email content, the most important part of an email is the subject line. The subject line is there to give a quick, concise, and exciting summary of what's inside the messaging. The subject line should grab a reader and inspire them to click for more info.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when thinking of the perfect subject line.

First, subject lines should be brief.

Imagine you're scrolling through your phone and reading your emails before you go to a meeting. You probably notice that most of the subject lines in your inbox are too long, and cut off with "…" before you can see the full text.

This is a problem you could easily avoid with a short, snappy subject line. And you should – studies show that people use mobile devices to read their email more than they use laptops, computers, or tablets.

Ideally, you'll keep your subject line to 6 words or less. When in doubt, try it out! Send a test of your subject line and check it on your phone. If it fits, you might have a winner.

Subject lines should relate to what you're sending.

This may sound obvious, but your email subject line should tell your reader something about the messaging inside. You want it to catch their attention, sure, but you don't want to misrepresent a story or an ask.

Here's an example: you want your audience to write to their member of Congress to oppose a bill that takes away your union rights. The subject line should appeal to that urgency without being scary or too click-baity. How do you achieve this fine balance? By testing them.

Subject lines can be funny, dramatic, informational, formal, or informal. But subject lines should be tested to see what works best!

During the 2012 campaign, the Obama campaign raised over $690 million dollars from fundraising emails alone. And one of the most successful emails in that campaign had a one-word title: "Hey."

Why? Familiarity. "Hey" is a subject line you would expect from your mom or best friend. And because of this association with loved ones (and because most people quickly skim through their inbox and open things that feel familiar or important), "Hey" is an email that millions of people clicked on to open.

The campaign tested dozens of similar quick, casual-sounding headlines on smaller parts of their email list, and then saw which email had the most opens and most clicks. This is called A/B Testing, and it's crucial to any successful email campaign.

Here's a quick tip: for every email you write, brainstorm 5 different subject lines that could work. Narrow it down to the 2 or 3 best, then test them. Once you see which subject line worked better, send the winner out to the rest of your list and make a note of what sort of trends work best for your audience.


Remember: every email list is different! What works for one list may not work for everyone. So take a few minutes to think of your goal, brainstorm a few ideas of what would inspire people to click, and test them out. You'll be sending great emails in no time.

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