Email Subjects: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

If you’re doing an email campaign to promote your business, one of the most important things you can do is write a quality email. I know this sounds extremely rudementary- but it’s one of the most important things in business. Especially considering the majority of our internal and external communication is via email now.

There is one line of that email that will be far more important than any other line, one line that can make or break your entire campaign. That line is your subject line- and it will usually be the key factor that will prompt people to open the email and look at your offer. Here are some things to keep in mind when you write your subject lines.

Proper punctuation, grammar, and spelling.

While you don’t want to seem overly formal, a subject line riddled with spelling errors or incorrect grammar will give a very poor first impression for your business. We should all know this by now. If you can’t handle coming up with subject lines on your own,  make sure that all your email subject lines are proofread by someone who knows what they’re doing to ensure that the they look professional.

One question that is often asked in this category is whether or not a subject line should have title capitalization or sentence capitalization. There really isn’t a clear cut answer, and marketing professionals have presented good cases for both approaches. What you absolutely should not do is CAPITALIZE EVERY WORD OF YOUR SUBJECT LINE. See how annoying that is? Don’t do it!

Choose your words carefully.

There are words that will make people more likely to look at your email, and there are words that will make them less likely. It’s easy to get confused when it comes to figuring out which words will have the most positive effect on recipients. When scanning their inbox, most individuals are going to look for phrases that cry out “I’m trying to sell you something!” While you should use emotionally charged buzzwords that are relevant to your demographic, you should avoid anything that sounds overtly sales-oriented.

Remember that there are words and phrases that can get your messages flagged as spam. To get around the spam filter of the email hosting provider for your recipients, avoid the following words and phrases in your subject line: free, “click here,” “work from home,” “information you requested,” “lose weight,” “million dollars,” “cash bonus,” and “satisfaction guaranteed.” Yes, some of these are good phrases (and ‘information you requested’ is actually one that is useful), but their misuse by vicious spammers has ruined them for the rest of us.

Watch your length.

There have been dozens of studies on the “magic length” for subject lines, and the end result is that everyone disagrees on what it is. Some say that subject lines containing 25 to 80 characters are “perfect.” The best approach here is to experiment with your specific demographic, while making sure your subject line is informational and interesting.

There have been highly successful subject lines that were only five words and others as long as 15 words. As with any aspect of marketing, try your own approach and see what works. Still, following these tips can help you maximize your impact and, more importantly, avoid getting your outgoing email server flagged as a source of spam.

Email isn’t something that should be taken in the business world. Yes, it’s easy to just shoot off an email with whatever subject and body you want- but if you want to get a response there’s typical email protocal you should follow.

Repeat after me!

I will not yell in all caps.

I will not put spammy subject lines including phrases such as “free” and “work from home.”

I will not tell my life story in my subject line.

I will make my email subjects useful, short and to the point.