12 Tips to Boost Email Click Through Rates plus 23 Strategic Subject Lines

by 15 04/08/2014

In a world where people receive hundreds of emails a day, it can be difficult to stand out.

After investing resources into an email marketing campaign, your company doesn’t want to be overshadowed by newsletters and deals from other organizations. Your email marketing must be top notch.

envelopeGraphic

The key to email marketing is sparking people’s interest with your subject lines, along with the content they present.

Below is a list of strategies for improving your email click through rates, followed by 23 strategic subject lines we can put to practice today. (Plus, I include my highest converting subject line at the end!)

12 Strategies to Boost Email Marketing Click Through Rates

1. Numbered Lists

Numbered lists are an easy way for people to digest information, which increases the likelihood of people opening your emails. Make it a “best of” list or a collections of tips, and you have an enticing subject line.

Numbered lists also give people an idea of how much content your email contains, allowing them to make a decision about whether or not they have time to read it.

bodybuilding email

This is a screenshot of an email I received (via mobile) from BodyBuilding. With high quality images and provocative list-headlines, these emails demonstrate an effective and professional strategy.

2. Ask Questions

question lines

Questions are a proven method for engaging people in the emails they’re reading, as cited by unbounce. By simply adding a question mark to your email subject lines, you can engage your recipients mentally and improve click through rates.

Questions like “Can I get your opinion?” tend to perform well, while “Would You Like To Make $1000 Right Now?” tend to filter straight into the spam folder.

3. Focus on Buyer Interests

Knowing your target market’s persona will make it possible to play on their interests in your subject headlines. Try creating a headline that mentions your target’s favorite sports team or a reference to their favorite movie.

Depending on the level of outreach (manual or automated), we can get super customized. If we’re sending massive blasts, we can take advantage of segmenting (making collections/groups of emails based on a certain demographic) and send tailored emails per each segment.

4. Say It With Symbols

Subject lines that utilize symbols stand out in our inbox. Unicode symbols, such as those displayed below, are being recognized by more email services, making it possible to stray away from the traditional symbols of percentages and dollar signs.

unicode symbols

What if we combine our Unicode symbols with the segmenting tactic from earlier?

Maybe we have a group of 100 emails we know are Jewish. We can impress them by sending a tailored email on a Friday, such as:

shabat shalom email

This is a customary social interaction on Fridays (‘Shabat Shalom’ is a general greeting on Shabat, while Happy Holidays might be a safe way to include additional segments depending on the time of year).

Unicode symbols open up many possibilities for grabbing our attention.

5. Be Clever

Clever subject lines that incorporate rhyming, puns and word play are interesting and encourage people to click. This image, via GetResponse, depicts examples of creative and attractive subject lines:

getresponse creative headlines

6. Timing

Strategic timing is an element that can play a big role in determining whether or not people open your emails. For instance, a restaurant that emails potential customers right before the dinner hour would likely see engagement from hungry members of their target market.

7. Pretend You’re on Twitter

Twitter is a platform for exchanging ideas and information very quickly with very few characters. Applying this strategy to email marketing is often effective, because concise emails get your point across without any fluff.

For example, if you are emailing people to promote your new blog post, simply introduce the topic and indicate that interested individuals can find further information via the link that you included.

8. Provide a Call to Action

Subject lines with a call to action will instill a sense of urgency in people, which could lead to higher click rates. Brackets make for a nice way to include a call to action at the end of a subject line, as demonstrated by unbounce:

convincing captions

9. Take Advantage of Preview Text

When you see an unopened email in your inbox, the subject line is displayed along with a preview of the first line of the email. Use this preview to increase the impact of your subject lines by offering further information or explaining the statement in your subject line.

Buzzfeed uses this strategy by offering a generic statement such as “not cool guys,” then explains their grievance in the preview text, as discussed by HubSpot.

10. Use Trigger Words

Utilizing certain keywords in your subject lines can trigger higher click rates. For example, emails with subject lines featuring the terms “sale” and “free delivery” produce more opens than emails without those terms, as cited by Econsultancy.

11. Be Specific

Letting people know exactly why you’re emailing them in the subject line is a simple and effective strategy to encourage better open rates. Sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter have mastered this strategy, with their notification emails announcing new connections and followers.

12. Give Incentives 

havahart email

(via)

Don’t just say thanks when someone signs up for your RSS/newsletter. This is the perfect opportunity to give incentives and turn readers into potential customers.

The example above features multiple incentives, specified with green check marks, along with a Free Shipping CTA. Plus, they have a cute raccoon to seal the deal.

Let’s take a look at a phenomenal email I received after signing up for a newsletter. Most  initial emails are just a simple “Thanks for subscribing” coupled with links and images to the main site. Let’s see what CJ Pony Parts is doing differently.

Top-Half 

top half cj email

The top half flaunts a sexy mustang, clear savings copy, and a header that reflects a functional nav-bar. They’ve turned our inbox into a website. This sets them apart from 99% of the emails we receive.

Bottom-Half

bottom half cj email

The bottom half looks more like modern email marketing standard. Given that this is the initial email, they’ve done a nice job rewarding us for signing up.

Normally, we just receive a thanks and we move on. In this case, we just received a pretty big coupon (5% is a lot on auto-part orders). Lastly, they end with “Welcome to the CJ Pony Parts family!” making use feel like more than “just another subscriber.”

This is an exceptional introductory email for a newsletter, fueling both business goals and customer satisfaction.

23 Strategic Subject Lines

Strategic subject lines are critical for encouraging people to open your emails. Below is a list of 23 proven subject lines to increase the likelihood that people will open your emails.

1. “How to Increase Productivity”

Subject lines that people can benefit from, such as methods for increasing productivity or saving money, have proven to be effective. Give people an incentive to open your emails and people will open them more often.

2. “5 Tips for Improving SEO”

Amidst the typical clutter of an email inbox, an orderly and self-explanatory list is a compelling option for potential readers.

3. “Only 4 Hours Left to Save on (product)”

last chance emails

Urgent subject lines that indicate ending sales or offers is another style that has proven to be successful. For instance, tailoring the subject line to read “only 4 hours left to save” to promote one of your products will increase the likelihood that your email will be opened.

4. “Hey – Barack Obama”

Barack Obama’s reelection campaign featured an email with the subject line “hey,” along with Obama’s name. Try the same trick with one of your company’s top-level executives or another recognizable figure to spark interest.

barack obama email

(via)

5. “Struggling to Create Fresh Content?”

Use subject lines that cite a common complaint or grievance in order to build rapport with email recipients. Subject lines such as, “struggling to create fresh content?“ or “SEO is too time consuming…“ will give people something they can relate to and make them curious about what you have to say on the issue.

6. “Why SEO is the Wrong Strategy”

Shock value is one proven method for convincing people to open an email. Create a subject line that offers breaking news or refutes common knowledge to grab people’s attention.

7. “John, You Might Also Like (product)”

Subject lines that play off of previous purchases and actions give emails a personal touch. They also display extra effort on the part of the company.

8. “You’ll Love This Offer (Just Ignore My Typos)”

emphasis on you

Everyone makes mistakes and pointing out your own in a humorous manner makes people feel comfortable, while raising their interest level.

9.Revisit Your Review”

People tend to be proud of their own work or input and allowing them to revisit it is an effective email marketing strategy. If your company has a section for reviews or comments, send out emails with subject lines such as “revisit your review” to get people to come back to your site.

10. “You’re Missing Out on (specific deal)”

Letting people know that they’re missing out on an exclusive offer is often all it takes to grab their attention.

11. “DO NOT Make This Mistake”

People hate making mistakes. Take advantage of this tendency in your subject lines and offer them advice for avoiding common errors.

12. “We’ve Encountered a Problem, Here’s What’s Happening”

When your company encounters a problem, such as a hacked website or a product recall, transparency is the best policy. A simple email with a subject line informing people of the issue will help them understand what’s going on.

13. “HUGO BOSS Fall Collection”

Use all capital letters to make your brand name pop or to draw people’s attention to your subject line, as displayed in this example for Hugo Boss.

14.Shhhh… This Sale is a Secret”

Phrases that utilize onomatopoeia such as, “shhhh” or “pssttt,” build people’s curiosity. These phrases give your subject lines an informal style that makes people feel a friend is letting them in on a secret.

15. “3 Sales, 4 Days Left”

Using digits will add rhythm and consistency to your subject lines.

16. “Your Blog Has Three New Comments”

Notification emails should be direct in order to let people know why you’re emailing them.

I’ve also noticed the combined use of “Re:” and “new” always guarantee a click through from me:

new comment lines

17. “(company name)’s Fall Newsletter”

Sometimes, simplicity is the best option when it comes to email marketing. If your email contains a fall newsletter, the subject line “fall newsletter” employs a “take it or leave it” strategy that people tend to appreciate.

18. “What Can You Afford?”

Match people up with great deals by showing them items that are within their means.

19. “Have You Found the Perfect Holiday Gift for Your Spouse?”

Ask people questions that will cause them to open your email in search of answers, as suggested by Constant Contact.

20. “Announcement: New Store Hours for Christmas”

Whether you are announcing longer store hours or the release of a new product, this type of news is a catalyst for getting people to open emails.

21. “Reserve Your Seat for (event name) Today”

Convince people to open your email by giving a command regarding your event or sale.

22. “Three Money Saving Tips You Haven’t Thought About”

Subject lines that tease people are engaging and promote curiosity.

23. “Where to Dine Right Now”

Emails that arrive with convenient timing are more likely to be opened. An example would be a restaurant sending an email titled “where to dine right now” just before the dinner hour.

BONUS (My highest converting subject line: 84% CR)“hey [name], did you really [do something related to their recent article/post]”

An example would be, “hey James, did you really skydive in Australia?” This evokes a natural response, whether it’s to settle my doubt or fill me in on the juicy details.

The goal is to set the stage for a follow-up. The follow-up will be focused on our actual goals, such as getting someone to check out content (for PR efforts). However, one of primary goals is relationship building, which makes friendly first impressions an excellent gateway to more “taxing” requests.

Considering that most organizations are taking advantage of email in their marketing schemes, being strategic has become more important than ever for the brands that want to stand out.

The aforementioned tips and subject line examples are a great place to start and can help you restructure your email campaigns and promote higher click rates.

Check out other Crazy Egg articles by Jesse Aaron

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About 

Jesse Aaron is a community manager at WebpageFX and writes about social media marketing on his blog Mashbout. Jesse is also an avid homebrewer! Follow him on Google+

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15 COMMENTS

Coleta

Excellent email subject lines. I’ve already seen a few that I can use right away. Definitely going to bookmark this post. Thanks.

April 8, 2014 Reply

    Jesse Aaron

    Thanks for bookmarking it Coleta, good luck with your email marketing campaigns!

    April 8, 2014 Reply

Chris @ Write House

Some great ideas. I think keeping things action oriented as much as posible is important. There is so much mroe you can say than ‘click here’, for example. And I guess the rules of great web writing apply equally in emails.

April 8, 2014 Reply

    Jesse Aaron

    Hey Chris, thanks for stopping by. Action oriented emails are definitely great – coupled with emotional triggers (excitement, urgency, desire, savings) we can have some powerful campaigns.

    April 9, 2014 Reply

Piyu Robert

Hey Jesse Aaron, Email marketing plays vital role in affiliate marketing. I’ll surely try to apply these tricks to get max CTR on my ads. Thanks for such a valuable piece of information.

April 10, 2014 Reply

Shawn

This is one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever come across. I utilize a lot of these strategies already, but never considered WHY they actually work. I got a bunch of ideas for subject lines while reading this. Thank you!

April 14, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Glad you found it helpful, Shawn. Let us know if you need any other help.

    April 14, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Shawn, great to hear. Keep us posted on what you come up with!

    April 14, 2014 Reply

Amanda

Such a helpful list! May I add #13? Optimize for mobile. Around 48% of emails are read on a mobile device. No matter how fine-tuned your message, it is destined to fall flat if your communications aren’t mobile-ready.

April 23, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Nice tip, Amanda! And perfectly on-target. Thanks!

    April 24, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Amanda, great points! It’s all about having all the angles covered :)

    April 24, 2014 Reply


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