First the bad news: you’ll need to invest time and, often, money to implement these techniques.
Now the good news: follow these methods consistently, and you’ll see the results quite quickly. We’ve used these methods to increase email open rates for clients by 30% in a matter of weeks, and 40% in months.
Why do open rates matter? In most cases, they link directly to your bottom line. The more people who open your email, the more people are likely to click through to your site – which means more opportunities to sell.
THE TWO-HOUR RULE
Allow at least two hours per subject line.
Don’t panic. In most cases, you will not toil away on words the entire time. Instead, spend about half an hour working up various options, then step away from the email. Do something else, and come back to it an hour later.
Repeat as necessary until you have a subject line you’re happy with. Sometimes, you’ll nail a good one quickly. Other times, it can take all day – brainstorming, tweaking, thinking, starting over, and repeat.
On average, it takes our editors at Inscribe Content two hours – about 30 minutes of actual writing and editing, and 90 minutes of various stages of mulling. As long-time editors, we can do this more quickly than most, so if you’re not experienced at writing successful coverlines, headlines and email subject lines, then double or triple this. For your first few emails, allow yourself a full day from start to finish to dabble with your headline in between meetings and other work.
THE 7-14 PRINCIPLE
Ensure your subject line is long enough to say something meaningful.
In our experience, when it comes to email subject lines, shorter isn’t better. In fact, those that have performed best for our clients have 7-14 words.
Unlike magazine headlines, which can be opaque because they sit on top of beautiful imagery and have explanatory standfirsts (article introductions) right next to them, you don’t have the luxury of playfulness with email subject lines.
People are busy and want to know what this email is about in two seconds, so tell them.
But don’t be so straightforward that it’s dull. ‘Monthly email newsletter’ might tell people what it is, but only your most devoted customers would bother to open such an email. ‘Meet wild giraffes on our new value-for-money South African safari’ will get many more opens.
THE VITAL THREE WORDS
While longer headlines perform better, that’s only if the first three words grab your customer enough to convince them to read on.
Around 80% of people now read a significant number of emails on their phone.
And because of their smaller size, mobiles show you only the first few words. So make those first three words so compelling that they’ll want to click to read the rest of the subject line.
Once you have your email, run it through a ‘headline analyser’. Many of these tools exist online, and while they’re mainly meant as a tool to help editors write headlines, we’ve found them helpful when crafting email subject lines, too.
Most are free, and all must be taken with a big grain of salt as they’re quite limiting. But playing around with these can help hone your subject-line writing skills. If the analyser says your subject line would make a terrible headline, it will also usually make a terrible subject line.
Better ones come along all the time, and at Inscribe Content, we play around with quite a few, but one that seems pretty good is https://headlines.sharethrough.com.
THE 40% CLINCHER
Finally - and crucially - when people open your email, the content must deliver what the subject line promises. This is the only way to ensure a steady growth in email open rates. Combining the methods above with quality content is how we have helped clients boost their open rates by 40%. Try all of the above without quality content, and you'll get a short growth-spurt, followed by a quick fall.
Whether it’s a sales email or content-led one, if the click-through disappoints, nobody will open your emails again, no matter how compelling the subject line. You’ve broken their trust. So you might increase your open rate the first time by 20% or 30% using the tips above, but if you don't use this tip, that isn't going to last, and they will rapidly fall again.
For sales emails, that means if you’re promising ‘Hotel suites for £10’, but the link takes you to a page where the cheapest suite is £50, they won’t click your next email, no matter how great the subject line.
For content-led emails – the kind that builds audience trust and increases engagement and long-term sales on your site – your articles must deliver insightful, engaging content.
Ill-informed, badly researched articles that are all gloss and no weight will not see readers opening your emails again.
Always deliver content that is genuinely interesting and insightful, with an email subject line that grabs readers straight away, and you’ll see your open rates steadily climb.
Unfortunately, that kind of content isn’t cheap. For writers, time is money, and if you’ve only budgeted £50 a blogpost, then you’ll get £50 of a writer’s time. Regardless of whether you're using student-based copywriting mills or long-time professional journalists, that's going to equate to about 30-60 minutes of time, including research. The best you can hope for is a mishmash of half-formed opinions and misinformation that will likely do more damage to your brand than if you had no content at all.
Will your brand's readers feel impressed by your company after reading an ill-informed article or blogpost bashed out by a 20-year-old? Would you?
Chances are, you know if your brand's content is bad, yet you bury your head in the sand about it, hoping that a few cheap fixes or SEO tricks will suddenly guarantee audience growth, devotion and sales. Unfortunately, audiences are much savvier than that these days, so one look at shoddy content, and they'll click away, never to return.
To increase email open rates significantly and consistently, you need great subject lines backed up by well-researched articles and blogposts written by experienced journalists.