Email Marketing

3 common subject line myths that are holding you back


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If you like to read productivity articles, you may have heard the terminology “Inbox Zero”. Achieving “Inbox Zero” is the ultimate productivity hack, an email free inbox that many strive to achieve. It’s the harsh reality that us email marketers live in, our subscribers are looking for ways to delete our emails, not open them. This gives us all the more reason to create kickass email subject lines, that compel our subscribers to open the emails before the inbox is purged.

Getting the subject line “right” is no easy task, and to make things even more difficult, there is no exact answer. What will work well for your business may not work for another. It’s so important to keep testing and experimenting until you find the winning formula for your customers. There are many email subject line articles that will preach strict black and white, often questionable rules.

This post will examine and debunk three common subject line myths that may be preventing you from reaching your email marketing potential.

Myth #1: You can’t use the word “Free” in your email subject lines

Using the word “Free” in an email subject line is controversial in email marketing land. This fear dates back to the times when email spam filters were not very intelligent. The good news is that email spam filters are now much more sophisticated, and the word “Free” is not going to send your emails packing straight to the spam filters. If you’re using a good ESP, such as Vision6, then they will have an automatic spam scanning feature.

Our best advice is to use common sense, if you are offering a product or service for Free then don’t be afraid to state that, but don’t overuse the word FREE multiple times in the one subject line.

Myth # 2 The shorter the better

Popular belief is that the shorter the subject line, the better it will perform. We encourage you to keep your subject line succinct and to the point. However, say what you need to say in as many words as it takes. The main point of an email subject line is to demonstrate to your subscriber that you have created relevant, timely and interesting content for them.

The thing to remember is that email clients cut off subject lines at different points. So make sure you put the most important and valuable words first.

Myth #3: Your only goal is to get the email opened

It’s tempting to try out that goofy subject line and adopt a “whatever it takes mentality” to get your email opened. However, clickbait subject lines are not a good idea, they are likely to land in the spam folder. A study from Return Path found that clickbait subject lines like “You won’t believe this shocking secret” were highly unsuccessful. I recently received an email with the subject line “This reminds me of you”. Naturally, I was curious as to what this could mean, so I opened the email. Of course I had just fallen for a clickbait subject line. The fact that one of my favorite brands had tried to trick me into opening their emails left a bad taste in my mouth. This subject line negatively altered my perception of their brand.

Set your subscribers up for a positive experience and make sure your subject line is transparent and compliments the content of your email. Your brand is your biggest company asset, so it’s really not worth risking for the sake of a few more email opens.


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