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The Power of the Subject Line in Email Marketing

Aug 2, 2019   |   3 min read

Knowledge Center  ❯   Blog

power lines and power worker

How important is an email’s subject line? Think of it this way; Any and every email is only as successful as its subject line. It’s what convinces people to take that first step to engage with your message (aka opening the email), and the most memorable ones even make it onto a few annual lists. So we’d say it’s pretty powerful!

Perry Malm of Adestra agrees, contending that “There is great power in optimizing subject lines.”

On average, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest. These figures are for a typical headline for media such as a newspaper, magazine or web page. In an email inbox, the percentages are likely worse because the battle for the reader’s attention is intensified. This is why a headline or subject line so strongly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.

You improve your odds with a “killer” headline that communicates your message to the audience in an enticing manner.

Make-or-Break Importance of the Subject Line

Your headline is the first and most likely only chance you have to make an impression and without a compelling promise, your email is less likely to find itself opened.

Subject lines aren’t just important for online retailers, even if you are a B2B company you need to have compelling subject lines. Checkout these examples of B2B email subject lines.

Perry Malm concurs, explaining that the subject line provides a context for the entire email, including “psychological cues” that lead to “action-taking in the email itself.”

Because of its importance in convincing a reader to go further it is imperative you create a “magnetic headline” that will successfully woo a reader.

What Makes a Great Subject Line?

A great subject line has got to be intriguing! At its essence, a headline must promise some kind of benefit or reward for the reader, in exchange for the valuable time it takes to read further. A headline that lists a number of reasons, secrets, types or ways will work most effectively because it piques the reader’s curiosity.

According to some of the best copywriters of all time you should spend one-half of the entire time it takes to write a piece of persuasive content on the headline.

Some take it to extremes, like advertising genius David Ogilvy, who once wrote an automobile advertisement 104 times.

Malm cites Obama’s presidential campaign emails as an effective marketing program that was able to raise $700 million via good headline and content writing. Obama’s team, he poitns out, relied heavily on A/B testing to hone their subject lines.

Interestingly, the Obama team’s assumptions about what they thought would be successful were usually wrong. Contrary to what they expected, they found that a casual tone always worked best and the simpler the emails were, the better the results.

What Does Subject Line Data Show?

What constitutes an effective email subject line has been studied and debated at great length. To obtain real data about what works most effectively, CampaignMonitor completed a study that resulted in 7 words or 41 characters being an optimal subject line length to encourage engagement.

This makes sense as email opens on mobile devices increased by 34% in 2018. Additionally, as subject lines exceeded 7 words, engagement rates decreased, while anything under 7 words still showed good engagement rates. Like anything else, it’s best to test your subject lines to determine what works best for your brand.

The bottom line: your subject line matters. But for your subject line to be effective, you need to send your email campaigns to real people with real email addresses.

Begin validating your email database today with a free InstantData account, and test validate 100 emails for free!

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