Get Your Email Read with Specific, Compelling Subject Lines

One of my biggest pet peeves is vague email subject lines. This is for two reasons;

  1. Sometimes I only have time to read the subject lines – anything urgent needs to jump out.
  2. If I need to file and revisit the email, a clear specific subject line is easiest to re-find.

My experience analyzing open rates and click-through behavior tells me if you want your opt-in marketing email to be read – the subject lines need to be specific, descriptive, and compelling. I’m sure Curt at ExactTarget would agree. The same goes for messages to your colleagues, friends, and family.

Clear, compelling subject lines not only set more accurate expectations for your recipient, they also have a better chance of surviving the numerous SPAM and virus filters between you and your recipient.

We’re all familiar with the vague subject lines of virus carrying emails:

  • “the information you requested”
  • “your resume”
  • “Here is it”
  • “hi, it’s me”
  • “something for you”

Compare these against the subject lines currently in my inbox:

  • “Please Call Me”
  • “your comments appreciated”
  • “Tuesday”
  • “update”
  • “See attached”

Without checking the ‘From’ line, I’m hard pressed to separate the personal, legitimate messages from the hazardous, virus-laden mail.

At the most basic level, subject lines are more like headlines than book titles. Like all compelling headlines – and proper sentences – they need a subject, verb, and predicate. An easy way to guarantee this is by pushing the message details into the subject line. Think of the short text messaging service – SMS – the mobile phone providers are promoting. The brief, one-line messages these services support are like an email without the body.

By making better use of your email’s subject line, you’ll spend less time writing your email and it will be better received.

2 thoughts on “Get Your Email Read with Specific, Compelling Subject Lines

  1. Look for brevity, always. If the subject line is sufficient to carry
    the full message, use it, and it alone.

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