Want more people to open your emails? A digital marketers’ personal take on subject lines.
In 2019, it is estimated that over 293 billion emails were sent worldwide.*
By 2021, that number is projected to be over 319 billion.*
Even accounting for the estimate that just over half of those emails are likely spam, ** this leaves around 144 billion emails to be sent in 2021, which is still an astonishing number. With billions of emails flooding into our inboxes every day, is it any wonder that so many emails go unopened? (Considering this number, all of the guilt I was feeling about the 3,450 unread emails in my personal inbox right now has suddenly vanished!)
All the sales and marketing professionals I have the privilege of working with devote an admirable amount of time, energy, and good intention into crafting relevant, high-value emails for their customers, donors, and prospects. With so much effort, it can be very discouraging to send emails that never get opened.
As a digital marketing consultant, I pay a lot of attention to how I interact (or don't!) with the emails I receive – which ones I like vs. which ones rub me the wrong way, and most importantly, which ones I open vs. which ones I ignore. Over the years, I have discovered that the most important factor in whether I will open an email from you is far and away the subject line. And I am not alone. One study indicates that 47% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone.***
A poorly crafted subject line may cause your email to get lost and ignored in the hundreds (or thousands, in my case) of other emails your recipients are wading through. Even worse is that your email may be marked as spam! 69% of people will report an email as spam based on the subject line alone.*** Taking extra care when creating your email subject line will increase the odds that your email is not identified as spam, and that it will be opened.
There are many different (sometimes contradictory) opinions and statistics out there about what the best practices are in writing email subject lines that get opened. Below I provide my thoughts about the subject lines of 4 different emails I found in my inbox, and what made them either good or bad in my opinion.
A good subject line should be concise, yet descriptive. The recipient should immediately be able to understand what they will encounter when they open the email.
I received this email from a local restaurant group the day before a large winter storm was forecasted to begin here in Milwaukee. It’s a great example of real-time event/weather-triggered marketing. The email subject line communicates to me that the content is relevant and of interest to me, because I know that it is local and timely. I am able to immediately understand that it’s related to events happening to me as I receive the message. This is not the only company I have received local current event-based emails from. I also receive emails from a national retailer that does a great job of sending weather-triggered emails, and I generally can’t resist opening them.
For me, this was a successful subject line, not only because it’s clear that the content is about local and seasonal events, but especially for the terrific use of relevant emojis. Love them or hate them, statistics back up the fact that emojis are here to stay. Companies who use emojis in the subject line can see a 56% higher open rate than companies who do not. ****
Emojis are great because, not only do they make the subject line feel more “friendly,” but it helps your email stand out in the inbox sea. Just look at the screenshot below and notice what draws your eye in. Which emails do you notice first? Not only did I open this email because it stood out, but especially because the emojis tapped into my festive mood.
I found this message to be irritating when I received it. Including an air of mystery in a subject line can sometimes be an effective way to entice recipients to open (see example 1 above), but you need to give them enough information to be curious enough to open it and should never only use special characters. Using only special characters screams “SPAM” to me and is just plain unprofessional. Even though the preheader text, “Reveal your mystery deals”, gives some context about the content inside the email, you can’t count on the recipient being able to see or read the preheader text. With so many emails in our inboxes, what are the odds readers are going to want to actually open the email if the subject line looks suspicious or is annoying? Had I authored this particular email, I would have flipped the subject line and preheader text (and only used a few question marks).
I appreciate what the email sender was going for here (playing into the idea of stripes), and the creativity applied to creating an interesting subject line that stands out with different characters, but for me this was a miss. The vertical lines make the subject line extremely difficult to read and understand in the few seconds I am willing to give it as scroll through my inbox. Additionally, it could look unprofessional and like SPAM to some. I did not understand what the subject line said the first time I saw it, and I scrolled right past I – not taking the time to think about it. The more effort a recipient is required to put into deciding if they want to open an email, the less likely they are to want to open the email. I never did open this email, even though I love striped clothing and do shop at the retailer this email came from.
Whether you are just getting started with email marketing and would like advice on what subject lines will entice your customers to open your emails, or if you have been email marketing for a while and are curious to know if a different approach can increase your open rates, we would be happy to lend our perspective. We have an established track record of helping our clients increase their open and click rates. Contact us or call 800-880-1960 to discuss your digital marketing goals.