Five Weird Ways to Tweak Your Email Subject Lines for Better Open Rates

According to some estimates, as many as 205 billion emails are sent every day. Click-to-open rates for marketing messages among mobile users in the US hover around 13.7%, according to 2016 estimates; desktop rates are a bit higher, at 18%. That translates into a lot of marketing emails that don’t get opened.

Your email subject line is the biggest predictor of whether or not your message will be read. And what works best might surprise you. Here are a few ways to tweak your email subject lines to get more opens—that you might not have thought of.

Keep it casual. If there’s one thing President Obama’s fundraisers had to teach email marketers, it’s that casual is king. The team raised over $690 million on the backs of subject lines like “Hey” and “I will be outspent.” Of course, it may be easier to pull this off when the name in your “From” field is Barack Obama. However, the statistics were fairly clear that the best performers didn’t look like marketing messages so much as the type of subject lines a recipient might get from someone they know.

Be cool with capitalization. Tying in to the previous point, your close friends and family probably don’t capitalize every first letter in their subject lines when they send you emails. A subject line with every word capitalized is an immediate tip-off for a marketing email—which will often get it deleted automatically. Send your subject lines with only the first word capitalized, and it’s likely you’ll see higher open rates.

Use odd numbers. Using a numbered list format is an old trick that works well in boosting open rates for articles—and it works for email subject lines, too. And while we’re at it, odd numbers outperform even numbers. Using a subject line like “Seven ways to save money on your car insurance this year” can do a lot to improve your open rates over a similar subject line with an even number, or a subject line that doesn’t give a specific number.

Personalize it. It’s old news that personalizing your email subject lines with the recipient’s name will almost always get you a better open rate. But you can also personalize with other things—such as sending them special offers and opportunities to save on one insurance product because they recently purchased another, or personalizing the subject line with a mention of something they’re most likely interested in because of the insurance they carry.

Get them curious. Instead of giving it all away in your subject line, cultivate an air of mystery. Subject lines such as “I owe you an apology…” or “It’s all over tonight at midnight” can generate a fair number of opens just because the recipient is curious. From there, you have the opportunity to get them to click through to your offer with your email body copy.

Often, the only way to really know how well your subject lines are performing is to test them. Send the same email with different subject lines to small sections of your list—and find out which pull the best results before sending them to a larger group. A/B testing can help you refine your message and get the best performance from every subject line.

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