4 Must-Know Email Subject Line Tactics to Increase Open Rates

By • May 25, 2017

Emily Nesterick, Naylor Association Solutions

Did you know that 35 percent of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone? That’s according to Convince & Convert’s 15 Email Statistics That are Shaping the Future. If your subject line isn’t motivating recipients to open your email, then your content (no matter how amazing), your segmenting (no matter how targeted) and your campaigning (no matter how strategic and creative) are wasted efforts.

At ASAE’s Marketing, Membership and Communications (MM&C) Conference earlier this month, I joined the “Five Big Things Every Marketer Should Know – and 45 Little Things You Should Do” learning lab presented by Craig Wood, managing director and chief engagement officer of 360 Live Media, and Jay Schwedelson, president and CEO of Worldata, for strategic and tactical guidance on how to take marketing to the next level. So, here’s four of their must-know tactics for writing better subject lines to increase your open rates and drive audience engagement.

1. Personalize email subject lines.

Emails that include the recipient’s first name in the subject line have higher click-through rates than emails that do not, according to Hubspot. Emails that are addressed with the first letter of the first name capitalized (e.g., Kathie) have higher open rates than emails that are addressed with the first name capitalized (e.g., KATHIE) or the first name in lowercase (e.g., kathie). If you are using field merges to populate first names in your email subject lines, ensure that the capitalization of the first name field in your member database is inputted using the optimal formatting to attract higher email opens.

2. Optimize email preheaders.

The preheader is the text that appears after the email subject line. This often comprises the first text in the body of an email, such as the greeting. As valuable inbox real estate, your preheader should grab the recipient’s attention or summarize the main message, offer or call to action of the email. Instead, non-customized preheaders are often left to display HTML and alt tags from a banner image or links to view your email in a web browser – the complete opposite of compelling. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to add hidden preheaders (preheader text that does not display in the email body) by inserting a simple line of code in the email’s HTML. There are many websites available that provide detailed instructions on how to add a hidden preheader to your email

3. A/B test subject lines.

As with any marketing campaign, it is an essential best practice to always test, test and test again. A scenario of a standard A/B test would involve sending an email featuring two different subject lines to your email segment. Traditionally, you would divide your segment in half (50/50), then send an email featuring the first subject line to half of the segment and another email featuring your second subject line to remaining half. You would then analyze the performance of both emails to determine which subject line received a higher open rate and use this feedback to improve your emails moving forward. The better way to A/B test subject lines is to test 10 percent of a segment and divide that 10 percent in half, with 5 percent of your segment receiving an email with the first subject line and the remaining 5 percent of your segment receiving an email with the second subject line. After analyzing the performance of both emails, select the subject line that received the highest open rate and use it for the remaining 90 percent of your segment. This technique increases your chances of achieving a higher open rate across your segment and saves you from using a poor performing subject line on half of your audience.

4. Use emoji in email subject lines.

Yes, you read that right. This does not mean you should start inserting emojis into the subject line of every email you send, but the strategic placement of emojis to complement the copy of your email can go a long way with increasing unique open rates. In fact, 56 percent of brands using emoji in their email subject lines had a higher unique open rate, according to Campaign Monitor.

About The Author

Emily Nesterick is a marketing specialist with Naylor Association Solutions. Email her at [email protected].