Better late than never - here's Part II of our 4 part deliverability and best practices tips series. (Read Part I if you missed it.) This week, we're talking subject lines.

Enjoy. Leave a comment if you have questions or feedback.

Strong subject lines are (obviously) essential for a productive email marketing program. The subject line can be the determining factor between the inbox and the spam folder, between an open and a missed opportunity. Here are a few quick pointers for crafting subject lines that get results:

Get to the Point

Numerous studies - and common sense - show that the best subject lines are between 30 and 40 characters. There isn't much visible space in the subject line, so you need to be judicious in how you use it.

You should always use direct language and descriptions and always include your brand name in the subject line or email alias. By including your brand name in the from line and/or alias, you can consider devoting the entire subject line to the call to action. For example, instead of:

Subject: - Say "I Love You" With A Bronto This Feb 14


Subject: Say "I Love You" With A Bronto This Feb 14

The difference is subtle, but the 10-12 characters you save may make the difference between "Say I Love You With A Bro" and "Say I Love You With A Bronto This Feb 14".

Avoid Obvious Pitfalls

Subject lines that are overly aggressive and/or promotional are likely to be filtered into a junk folder or blocked as spam. Before you send any email or newsletter, run it through a spam checker to diagnose potential content problems.

It also goes without saying that you should be careful to avoid a “spammy” subject line. Avoid phrases like “Free”, “Offer”, “Money”, "Weight Loss", excessive use of exclamation marks, misspelled words, ALL CAPS, etc.

Also - take a second to make sure you're not saying something completely stupid. I once received a newsletter email from another email marketing company (which shall remain nameless) with the following subject line:

"Announcing An Important Announcement"

Either someone didn't proof the subject or this company has a Department of Redundancy Department.

Oh yeah - and always take a second to make sure you spelled everything correctly. Please.

Relevance is Key

Email marketing is an ongoing conversation. As such, you should strive to speak to your contacts on a one-to-one basis. Use personalization to refer to contacts by name, geography, or group. Relevancy in your subject lines is absolutely critical in coaxing the contact to open the message.

“XYZ Event – October 30” is an OK subject line. “Bob – XYZ is in New York on October 30” is a much better subject line.

Testing, 1,2,3.

Find what works for you. Define objectives, set benchmarks for opens, clicks, conversions, etc., and continue to customize and refine your subject lines over time to find the right phrasing and structure. Use Reporting Groups to measure your performance.

Also – once you think you’ve got it figured out – fight the temptation to rest on your laurels. Continue to test and re-test to find new ways to engage your audience.