We all aspire to write the best subject lines ever, but creative and effective newsletter subject line ideas rarely appear out of thin air. As email marketers and content producers, we can become downright obsessive about writing the best subject line. Is the call to action strong enough? Will an emoji help or hurt the send? Will punctuation add clarity or simply make the message longer? These are questions I amfaced with each time I place my fingers on the keyboard and set out to write the right subject line.
But how do you balance perfection with production? My team at Countryside Network writes more than a dozen subject lines a week, so we need to know what works without a lot of fuss. Here are four simple ways we hone your newsletter subject line ideas on the fly.
I remember with perfect clarity the first time I was asked to “Google it.” Little did I know that nearly two decades later, I’d have such an intimate relationship with the world’s leading search engine. When the muse won’t visit, you just need a little creative spark. Here’s my advice: Do an incognito search on Google for your topic. Be as specific as possible. You’ll be served a handful of organic search results users have already shown preference to. Crafting titles that inspire the click is especially important for your SEO strategy on Google now that intent matters more than keywords. You can bet that these top results had to work hard and be creative to earn those spots. I’m not suggesting you copy verbatim, but most of the time, you’ll find some inspiration from these results. Here’s an example. Say you wanted to do an email on good farm dogs. Below is an example of what you’d find in search for that key phrase. From these four results, I have the following newsletter subject line ideas: 1) Use a question, 2) Try a list, 3) Use the promise of a surprising fact, 4) Be playful … maybe instead of “Ruff Choice,” I could use my own creative twist and start my subject line with something fun, like “Bow Wow: Farm Dogs You’ll Love”
Professionally and personally, my life runs on checklists. Who needs coffee when you have checklists? Recently, a colleague of mine tipped me off to a tool I use frequently: Subjectline.com. Subjectline.com is one of many free tools for helping you craft the best subject line ever because it challenges you to employ email subject line best practices. And if you’re competitive — you’re in digital marketing, after all — then you’ll appreciate getting a score with each proposed subject line. Trust me, it will challenge you to want to write it just a little bit better. That said, there are several tools out there. Find the one that fits into your workflow. Here’s another tool I like from CoSchedule, which is the preferred social media and blog scheduling tool we use at Countryside Network.
Like all digital professionals, I experience a symphony of pings and dings during my day. Welcome to living in a hyperconnected world. It’s easy to bemoan the disadvantages to this work environment, but it does have its advantages. One of those advantages is instant feedback and communication with mini focus groups. Reach out to these groups through email, chat, social media, and yes I suppose, phone! It sounds simple, but next time you’re torn on which direction to take a subject line, come up with a few examples and ask a sample group for a quick gut reaction on which newsletter subject line idea best resonates with them. Have your group expand on what grabbed their attention and apply it again in the future if the metrics show it was a strong choice. A word of advice: Remember to ask people who are similar to your target audience.
I know, I know, you hate this tip. I hate this tip, too. That said, if you don’t inundate your regular email inbox with email newsletters, how are you going to get a true sense of what’s standing out in the clutter? And don’t cop out and just send everything to an inbox you never use. You have to experience email the way your audience does — disruptively. Email subject line best practices are all well and good, but to know what’s working is to see it in practice. What emails do you open and why? Will those same techniques inspire your audience to open your newsletters and click through? If you’re in charge of an email program or you regularly write email subject lines, you should spend at least a couple minutes a day weeding through newsletter subject lines in your own inbox and separate the winners and losers. Keep the winners sorted so you can visit them when you need inspiration.
A/B testing is a tried and true way to test one subject line against another and advisable to see if email subject line best practices work for your audience. In addition, make sure that you aren’t only evaluating open rate. An email subject line with a lower open rate — but high click-through rate or high conversion rate — is better than a high open rate that resulted in no additional action. Remember, there are many other factors at play for why an email is or isn’t being opened. Two additional areas to focus on is your “From Name” and your “Preview Text.” Learn how to optimize both in my blog 7 Tips for Making Email Better. When asked: “What’s the first thing you look at when deciding whether to open an email, respondents to this Litmus survey reported: 42% From Name, 34% Subject Line and 24% Preview Text.
What inspires you to write the best email subject lines ever and how do you generate newsletter subject line ideas?