5 Common Subject Line Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

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Your subject line is the most important part of any email. 

Email subject lines are headlines, and great subject lines need to do one of two things – jump off of the screen and give us a good shake, or beckon us closer with artful fingers.

If you want your readers to take any notice of your lovely email sitting patiently among the hundreds of others requesting their attention all day, every day, your subject lines need to pique their interest. 

Why?

Because if no one is opening your emails, no one is reading your stuff

It’s all stale. 

You could be offering the juiciest freebie, and that’s it… Gone. Wasted. You could have spent hours curating the perfect nurture email series, but without a stunner of a subject line, you really needn’t have bothered. 

If you don’t stand out in the crowded inbox of today, you’re not selling tomorrow. It’s as simple as that.

Improve your email open rates by avoiding these 5 all-too-common mistakes.

Mistake 1: Bland, Boring or Basic

Effective email subject lines are brief, personal, descriptive, and provide people with a good reason to click ‘open’. A captivating subject line will encourage the recipient to open the email because it speaks of value  or it intrigues them enough to want to know more. 

Some email applications, across both desktop and mobile, also feature the first line of email copy alongside or underneath the subject line – this can be referred to as the ‘preheader’. It’s usually around 15-20 words. 

To keep your preheaders tidy, remove anything from the top chunk of content of the email that’s text-based, such as ‘View this message online’ links and message summaries. Use a salutation followed by a merge tag, (i.e ‘Hi <recipient name>’), to position your email as expected, friendly, and definitely not spam

A large percentage of your recipients likely use mobile devices, so short is best for both subject line and preheader. But short AND punchy. For example:

Subject line: ‘5 Nurture Email Templates Worth Saving’
(Short, clear, obvious value to the reader, intriguing).

And not:

Subject line: ‘January’s Newsletter – Why Businesses Need to Use Email Marketing to Win Business’
(Far too long, vague, badly written and extremely boring!).

And remember, ALWAYS TEST YOUR EMAIL to check how it looks sitting in an inbox. More on this later.

Mistake 2: Totally Off-Topic

A huge mistake many, many people make is generating intriguing subject lines and getting great open rates, only to completely disappoint the recipient within the first paragraph of email copy.

What’s worse is entirely purposeful clickbait. Don’t be tempted to opt for a quick win. It’s unlikely to go down well and betrays your reader’s trust in you.

It is vital to follow up a great subject line like you’re carrying on with an interesting conversation. Break that format, and there’s a good chance you’ll lose your reader.

The first line of your email has one simple goal – the make them read the next line of the email. Look at your subject line and ask yourself – are my readers likely to have any questions here? What are they expecting? What do they want and what will make them want to keep reading?

Mistake 3: Merge Code Errors

Merge tags can boost open rates if used correctly. They enable you to insert unique data from your subscriber list into your emails, and as such, easily satisfy the ‘personal’ angle of great subject lines

Unfortunately, it is very easy to get merge tags wrong. And it’s not a good look.

Typos and incorrect field names make for sloppy subject lines and stink of unprofessionalism. It is as simple as that.

Do your research, and, I’ll say it again, always test your campaigns first.

Mistake 4: ‘From’ Name

As well as the subject line, the sender, or ‘From’ name, has a huge amount of traction in the recipients’ decision to bin, ignore or open an email. 

Using real and full names has been proven to hold more success in open rates. Faceless corporate identities, generic department names and ‘noreply@’ style email addresses don’t align with the qualities of successful email marketing, such as getting to know your audience, trust, familiarisation and authenticity. 

They also provide no room for interaction with your potential customer base, who might want to ask a question or start up a conversation.

We WANT our readers to engage, don’t we?

Mistake 5: Not Testing

If ever there was a mistake to be addressed, it’s this one. There are two angles to be spoken to here, and if you’re not doing either of them, you should be.

Test the email you’re about to send.
The simplest and most important email marketing practice to start today. When you think your email is ready to go out to your list, send it to yourself first, and make sure it looks and reads how it’s supposed to.

A/B Testing
See what your audience prefers. Split testing, or A/B testing, allows you to try out variations of the same email, live, to see what works best. Using this approach gleans more information about your target market on every run – (because that’s exactly who you want on your email list) – and if you can give them what they want, at the very least, your open rate should rocket.

Every opened email is an opportunity.

Writing subject lines might seem like an insignificant feature of your marketing efforts, but do you really want to fall at the last hurdle?

Don’t let your great content go unseen. 

Put your time and energy into producing great subject lines that draw in your target audience and your email campaigns will work for you

Book a call with me and we’ll make it happen.

Nathan Littleton

Nathan Littleton

Nathan Littleton is a marketer, professional speaker and author who specialises in helping businesses to grow by attracting and winning more customers. Each year he sends more than a million emails on behalf of his clients, and his proven track record has led to him working with leading brands including Microsoft, Virgin Care and the BBC. Having started his first business, building websites from his bedroom at the age of just 12, he quickly built a reputation for his unique take on email marketing and growing businesses by sending truly un-deletable emails.

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