Conquering Email Subject Lines: We Read So You Don’t Have To

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Usually in this space we focus on Big Picture issues. This week, we’re looking at something much more practical: email subject lines. We all know intuitively that there are things we can do with those subject lines to make it more likely that people will open our emails. But we do that more from the gut than from evidence. What if someone looked at 115 million emails and figured out what worked?

That’s what email automation firm Yesware did. Email Subject Lines That Actually Work, its recent ebook, shares what works (shorter subject lines) and what doesn’t (subject lines framed as questions). Some of the more surprising findings: emails that look like forwards (with “FWD:” or “RE:” in the title) get opened more, although less so on mobile devices, and putting numbers in your subject line gives you a slight advantage.

Some of the lessons are what you’d expect. Lay off the exclamation points! Don’t pretend to know someone when you don’t. Never use the term “appropriate person.” And no, people don’t want to join your webinar. Yes, Yesware published this because it wants to sell you software, and you have to give up your email address for the PDF. But the tips here will be useful to you even if you don’t ever want to try the company’s product.

A requiem for my inbox

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My inbox at newco.co is clean. Happy, focused, awesome clean. Everything that comes in, I want to respond to. It’s…paradise.

Email isn’t always like that for me. My “long term” email at battellemedia.com has grown a crufty beard. It’s been out in the wilds of third-party data sales for well over a decade, and even Gmail’s algos can’t put that genie back in the bottle. Put simply, it’s 50–75% shite. But the remaining 25–50% is worth the shite.

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