11 Subject Line Mistakes That Are Dragging Down Your Open Rates
The subject line of an email is pretty much the first thing a recipient sees in their inbox. And they are likely to make a quick judgment based on those few words about whether to open, ignore, delete or, god forbid! – mark as spam.
So why is it that we always seem to leave it until right at the last minute? The subject line is the first thing an email marketer should focus on, not rushed as the campaign goes out the door.
Assuming the sender’s email reputation is solid and their email is getting delivered, the subject line is the one thing everyone’s going to see!
We’ve used MailChimp’s 2015 study, (where they analysed the open rates for over 200 million emails), as well as some other sources, to give you the low down on some common subject line mistakes that could dragging your open rates right down…
11 subject line mistakes that are dragging down your open rates
Mistake #1: Using ‘bad words’
Including certain words in your subject line can trigger SPAM filters and drop your emails straight into junk folders. Some of the more obvious words you should avoid include:
- Money making
- Make money
For a complete list of email SPAM trigger words, check out HubSpot’s full list.
The spam filter may not block all messages that include these keywords, but bare in mind that the receiver may still perceive these emails as spam if it makes it into their inbox.
MailChimp’s 2015 survey identified three seemingly inoffensive words that won’t trigger a spam filter, but will be detrimental to your open rates.
- Percent off
Mistake #2: Poor spelling and gammar
It’s obvious! Spelling and grammar mistakes in a subject line give the perception that your organisation is lazy and doesn’t care about their image.
Mistake #3: Being misleading
The purpose of the subject line is to let the recipient know what your email is about. You want to be clear and compelling so they will be itching to read more.
Too many times, senders sacrifice clarity in an effort to be clever or to make their email seem more important than it really is. If a subject line doesn’t have a direct connection to the information in your email the recipient will feel misled – and are likely to avoid any future communications.
A simple way to gauge whether your subject line is clear enough is to show just the subject line to a colleague who hasn’t read the email, and ask them to tell you what they think the email is about. If they can’t answer correctly then your subject line isn’t clear enough!
Mistake#4: Single word subject lines
Following on from the above. Single word subject lines such as “survey” are far too vague and can cause potential respondents to ignore or delete your invitation.
Mistake #5: Making it look automated
A subject line that looks like it was generated from an automated online email service takes away from the “personalisation factor” of your email. Avoid terms such as “You’re invited to take our survey” or “An invitation to complete our survey.”
Mistake#6: Begging for attention
Begging for attention is extremely unappealing in any situation. Avoid using subject lines such as “Please take my survey.”
Mistake #7: Stale newsletters
Newsletters tend to start with high open rates, but experience a reduction over time. Repeating the exact same subject line for each newsletter accelerates this drop.
The challenge is to keep the content – and the subject line – fresh. Ideally each new campaign should provide a clear indication in the subject line of what inside this newsletter is of most interest.
Mistake #8: The wrong length
According to MailChimp’s survey you should keep your subject line to 50 characters or fewer. But shorter is not always better. The survey found that for campaigns whose subscribers were highly targeted, the readers appreciated the extra information in the subject line. Groupon is one such example.
Shorter subject lines make sense if you fear your recipients won’t read the whole thing. This is a particular concern on mobile devices, where your message can get cut off.
Mistake #9: Promotional Emails
Constant sales and promotional emails can annoy your customers and tend to not perform as well as emails where the reader has a high level of emotional affinity or expects valuable and timely information. Therefore, it is suggested not to overuse this strategy.
If you do send a promotional message keep the subject line simple and slay away from splashy phrases, all capital letters, or exclamation marks. Subject lines framed as questions can often perform better.
Mistake #10: List quality and frequency
List quality and frequency are difficult to track, but can have a huge impact on open rates. When readers know what they’re going to receive a message they are more likely to open it . So high-quality lists of engaged subscribers tend to see the best open rates. If you have a good list but send too frequently, your open rates will drop quickly.
Mistake #11: Too Personal
Hi, How Are You? Using personal subject lines look extremely spammy, like someone is trying to get you to open their email because they’re one of your friends. Even if it’s a follow up email, use something like “Checking In,” Or “Touching Base” to add a more professional touch.
Want some great subject line examples? Well here are 18 of the best email subject lines you’ll ever read, courtesy of Hubspot.
Some other useful stuff about subject lines…
The “From:” Line
As a best practice, the “From:” and subject line should work together. The “From:” line should concisely convey who you are and should remain consistent over time.
Subject line suggester
A great tool to play around with is MailChimp’s subject line suggester which allows you to put in the key words of your subject line and will return the syntax of those words that have performed best in the past for other email campaigns. It’s only available if you have a MailChimp account, but you can get a free account on their website, so you might as well give it a test.
Test, test, test
So we’ve given you a basic guide of what you should be avoiding but don’t assume any rules will work for you simply because they worked for someone else. A/B Test. Tweak. Even break the rules.
There are some subject lines faux pas that are no longer so. For instance, caps are not necessarily a bad thing. If you look in your inbox right now the chances are there are many legitimate emails from well-known brands that include all-caps subject lines. We’re also seeing symbols used more and more.
Try and figure out the best approach for your audience.
Marketing automation makes A/B testing super simple. For more information about the MA software and the services we offer take a look at the rest of our site.