Under: Subject Lines
In a famous New Yorker cartoon, a woman publisher sits behind a desk addressing Charles Dickens and his manuscript, and cheerfully advises: "But think of the SEO if the title actually named the two cities."
Titles and headlines. In a recent virtual editorial session we held, Mike Andronico, editor in chief of Tom's Guide, a technology publication/website for Future Plc, posited on the attention they feel must be paid to headlines. "For a news story the most important thing to me is that it has a great headline that people are going to want to click on and read. So we do a lot of headline workshopping. We use our Slack to brainstorm ideas.
"Honestly that's one thing I pay close attention to," Andronico continued. "I really enjoy that brainstorming process. It doesn't always take super-long. Sometimes we'll just share three ideas, the staff will pick their favorite and we'll go from there. But I think it's especially important for ...
"Humans have a natural desire for closure– we don't like having gaps in our knowledge. You can leverage this desire for closure by leaving your subject line open-ended so subscribers will be curious, like a cliffhanger that can only be satisfied by opening the email."
I was looking at a well-regarded study of which subject lines work best for business emails and came across this (and had to laugh): "...the absence of a subject line has had surprisingly positive results. Hubspot's analysis of 6.4 million emails showed that messages with a blank subject line were opened 8% more often than those with subject lines." (Is this called The Emperors New Clothes Syndrome?)
We all know how important subject lines are. Almost half of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone. More than two-thirds of recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. And—this one made me chuckle a bit—emails with no subject line at all have an open rate of 8% more than those with a subject line.
"The majority of your email success happens outside the envelope: the 'to' address, the 'from' address, the subject line, the preview, the format, and the deliverability. Nail them all and your success rates will increase. Period."
It was encouraging to see in the new Member Engagement Study that I wrote about last week that email popularity defies generational preferences. Around 60% of every age group rated email as their preferred method of delivery.
And because of that continued reliance on email, subject lines truly matter. The email platform provider Yesware analyzed 115 million emails over a year to identify successful email subject-line strategies. "We looked specifically at most and least used words and formats in comparison to most and least effective," says Yesware data engineer Anna Holschuh.
"[Readers] often make split-second decisions about dealing with email, and it’s easy to disregard a message based on a subject line," says Holschuh, in an article on the Fast Company site. Here are four of their findings:
1. Don’t use a question. "Questions put people on the spot, and you’re asking a lot of an already busy, stressed-out professional," says Holschuh. "Yo ...
“On balance, solutions headlines yield more clicks than non-solutions headlines—but the difference is modest and many other factors also affect the number of clicks received by each headline. [In our tests…] the solutions headline garnered more page views 56% of the time, the non-solutions headline attracted more clicks 40% of the time, and the two tied 4% of the time.”
That quote comes from researchers Natalie Jomini Stroud, Ph.D., and Alex Curry in a new report from the Solutions Journalism Network and The Huffington Post. The goal was to test what kind of headlines gain more traction: those with, or without, a solution tease.
Here are other conclusions from the 50 Huffington Post tests:
1. Including a “mysterious” unnamed location or group in a headline can increase the clickthrough rate (e.g. “This City Has a Solution to Poverty”). Ambiguity can tempt a reader to click on a headline to discover an identity—of a ...
“Subject lines that are ‘creative’ or too clever require too much mental power. In those couple of seconds often it’s easier just to delete than try to work out what the heck is under that cool and wacky subject line you spent hours devising.”
At the end of a good post on subject lines, Real Magnet writes that, “What all of these tactics have in common is that they do not rely on tricks or gimmicks to compel an open.” They advise that you respect your subscribers’ time, show some empathy and communicate candidly and clearly.