Getting your emails opened and read is the first step to making more sales of your products using email marketing.

But with average open rates of 24.45% according to the Sign-up.to 2015 Email Marketing Benchmark Report (this does of course vary by industry as shown in the graph below), how can you make sure you increase your open rates and give your content the best chance of being acted upon?

Here are my 8 tips to improve your email subject lines and increase your open rate.

1. Utilise the pre-header to back up your subject line

The first line of text that appears in your email above all of your other content is called your pre-header text. In many email clients it’s pulled in underneath the subject line in the inbox to give a preview of the emails content and help the reader decide whether or not to fully open the email.

You’ll notice in your own inbox that many companies don’t optimise this text and use it to its full advantage; instead you’ll see the usual ‘view this email online’ copy displayed here which should come after your optimised text. Take full advantage of this extra space and make sure that your pre-header backs up your subject line and even includes your main call to action, to allow subscribers to instantly convert without even scrolling down once they’re inside your message.

 

2. Use different techniques to prevent subject line apathy

Questions, numbers, intrigue, urgency, highlighting a specific benefit (an offer or download that’s included in your email, or results they will achieve after reading the email for example), exclusivity, using symbols (glyphs) – these are just some of the ways you can use different techniques to create a killer subject line for your next email.

By changing up the format of your subject line, you can not only see what works best for your audience, but also ensure that subscribers don’t become bored with seeing the same subject lines from you over and over again.

 

3. Analyse your results and see what’s been driving the highest engagement for you already

Does using a £($)/% sign work better in your subject line? Including a ?/! ? Long or short? Including specific brand names or product categories?

If you’re already sending out regular email marketing campaigns, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips to help you create future subject lines that actually make your subscribers WANT to open your email – go back over your previous results and look for trends where higher than average results were achieved and the type of subject line used (don’t forget to also look at what types of subject lines and content reduced your results as well!).

 

4. Look beyond open rates when judging performance of your subject lines (and email campaigns overall)

Just because an email you send out sees a higher open rate than your average, doesn’t mean that it will in turn lead to higher click through and conversion rates. If the goal of your email is to get subscribers to click through and purchase for example, yes starting with a higher open rate is great, but if this doesn’t translate into more sales, it in effect means nothing (unless your goal was simply to get eyeballs on your email content, in which case, woohoo!).

Always consider what the goal of the email is when deciding whether a change in your subject line (or any element of your email creative for that matter) has had a winning impact or whether it has just increased one statistic in isolation.

 

5. Get personal

If you’re not already, try using the subscriber’s name in your subject line or pulling in other relevant information (such as details relating to their last purchase with you). Not only will this create recognition but also build trust in your emails.

Don’t want to do this/don’t have the data available for email marketing purposes? Try using you/your to speak directly to them instead (and work on getting this data into your email system ASAP for future personalisation!).

 

6. Be truthful!

Don’t lie in your subject line! Not only will this annoy your subscribers but you’ll also see much lower results in terms of clicks and conversions and most likely a rise in unsubscribes and complaints.

Under many legal regulations governing email it is also law that your subject lines cannot be deceiving (plus your nose will grow like Pinocchio which is not a good look for anyone! 😉 ).

 

7. Bear in mind many people now read emails on a mobile device
Many mobile devices start to truncate subject lines at around 35 characters, so when a subscriber is reading your email on one of these devices anything after that will not be seen unless they open the email.

Make sure that you front load your subject line with the important information you want them to know and that will entice them to open the email fully. That’s not to say that longer, slightly more detailed (and specific) subject lines can’t be beneficial though, so make sure you follow tip 3….

 

8. Test, Test and Test again!
Even for similar businesses, different copy, designs, content and more can work better for some than for others. It is therefore important to make sure you are continuously testing different elements of your campaigns (one at a time so you can see the results of each test individually) to ensure that you are making the most of each and every send opportunity.

The best place to start is with A/B testing – taking two versions of your email with one element different (such as the subject line) and sending this to a smaller subsection of your database. After analysing the results of this test you can then decide on a ‘winning’ version (whether that be in terms of the highest number of opens, clicks or conversions for example), which can then be rolled out to the remainder of your database. Alternatively, you could run a straight 50/50 split on your whole database and use the learning’s for future campaigns.

Try testing different subject lines by length, technique used, specific words used, personalisation and much more (including all the tips listed in this post!) to see what really resonates with your audience.