Video, Value and Transparency Can Make for Best Subject Lines

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Facts Tell, Stories Sell
Our Resolution? Provide Top Compensation Insights.
Greece in America
We're All Going to Hell (for a musical called Miss You Like Hell)
Extra Day Concert (for a Feb. 29 event)

These are all subject lines I received today. According to a recent article from Social Media Today, the subject line with 3 words has the highest engagement rate at 21.2%. Even though you don't see too many of those—hard to get a message across that succinctly—it makes sense. When 68% of people are opening emails on mobile, short is sweet. So for "Greece in America"—a monthly newsletter from the Embassy of Greece—it pretty much says what that audience needs to see.

Here are more tips on subject lines and emails:

Emails with video still generate the highest email engagement rates. But only around 8% of the emails in a recent study from GetResponse contained links to videos. "For now, the best workaround is to use an image (maybe even a GIF) that looks like a video player and links to your page," they suggest. "That way, you'll boost your click-throughs and enhance your contacts' experience as they'll watch the content in their default browser or video player."

Convey value in subject line. Except for "fw" or "fwd"—which GetResponse feels is not worth the long-term risk—the top words for inducing opens in a subject line were "pdf," "newsletter" and "ebook." "If you're promoting a piece of content or a valuable resource, you're probably better off if you mention it in the subject line." But for click-to-open rates, "infographic" scored huge at 35.1%, followed by newsletter at 31.4%. "Sales," "quick" and "free" also fared well—the latter drawing this comment: "This phrase, previously believed to cause deliverability issues, seems to work well for quite a few marketers... People still enjoy receiving free things." Amen.

Stay medium. According GetResponse, based strictly on opens, subject lines should be somewhere between 90 and 140 characters. "Your subject lines need to be compelling enough to get people to open the email. But remember that your sender name and preheader text aim to do the same."

Establish a better email review and approval process. Marketers who say their email programs are successful spend more time on every stage of email creation except for the email review and approval stage. "A lax review process can result in more email errors, but an onerous process has its costs, too," says Litmus. Marketers spend an average 3.9 hours getting emails reviewed and approved before launch, and they work with an average 2.4 other departments to get emails reviewed.

Personalization is still strong. Personalized subject lines see a 37% increase in unique open rates.

How does it look on mobile? It's true. According to Social Media Today, 68% of email marketing campaigns are now opened on a mobile device. That's quite a high number and should have us thinking hard about our from-line, subject line and first sentence. Many people will quickly go through what they want to keep on their phone and then open later on desktop or tablet.

Send that abandoned cart email. I get these all the time, often from ticket companies. The most recent such email came from Ticketmaster and focused on a talk coming up here by Jane Goodall, the 85 year-old legendary anthropologist. Sure enough, each time it comes I consider spending the $50. Abandoned cart emails have nearly a 45% open rate—maybe we think there's a special deal now. Sure enough, 50% of the leads make a recovered purchase back on site.

Be specific when possible. A company called getfeedback recommends that you "use time-triggered sends for a hyper-relevant subject line, like 'Review the purchase you made yesterday.' Specifics help jog recipients' memories and increase the chances they'll open your email."  

Be fairly straight. "The subject line needs to be transparent and not gimmicky. It helps you build a trusting relationship with your subscribers so that they open your emails again and again.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…
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