Focus on the first 40 characters. Descriptive and well-written subject lines allow recipients to make an informed decision to get more details or move on.
1. Include content in the subject line.
Users prefer straightforward subject lines that accurately tell them about the newsletter’s content.
It is better to inform the user and let them decide than to require them to open a message to find out that they’re not interested in it. Many people may not bother at all and simply delete it instead.
Otherwise, the interaction cost is high, and the benefit is unknown or vague at best. Over time, users may not have the time or desire to open the message each time they receive an email from the organization.
Remember that email is a relationship tool. It’s the best and most cost-effective way to keep in touch with customers over time. Increase the perceived value of a subscription by reducing the likelihood that subscribers suffer the penalty of opening messages they don’t like.
2. Front-load the subject line with keywords and limit it to 40 characters.
Email programs limit the number of visible subject-line characters in the inbox view. These limits range widely from program to program and change over time. Although we recommend displaying no more than 40 characters in the subject line, many email programs display far fewer than that.
Necessary content should be at the beginning of the subject line so it doesn’t get cut off. Even if a full subject line is visible to users, they often read only the first few words of a subject line. Information-carrying, enticing, descriptive words should be used first in the subject line.
3. Don’t repeat sender information in the subject line.
Users want to be able to identify a newsletter and know what it’s about with a quick glance at the subject and sender. Newsletters only have a limited amount of space to inform users. Repeated information is a waste of space.
4. Avoid using recipients’ names in the subject line.
Some newsletter subject lines include the recipients’ name. Users are wary of these messages, because they know the emails aren’t written specifically for them; they realize that they are one of thousands of people receiving the same message. In most cases, the use of the recipient’s name in the subject line is unnecessary. Including another meaningful or descriptive word is a better use of the space.
If names must be used in the subject line:
- Only use the recipients’ first names.
- Capitalize the first letter of the name only.
- Avoid placing the recipients’ name as the first word in the subject line, because users will need to scan past it to see anything meaningful or unique.
5. Be cautious with symbols and special characters.
The use of hearts, stars and other symbols and special characters is intended to draw attention to individual emails in a crowded inbox. However, this makes the message feel much more like “marketese” and not directed to the individual.
Some email clients may not display these symbols and special characters appropriately. If special characters or symbols are insisted, test the newsletter on a variety of email clients and make sure it displays properly.
If special characters must be used, don’t use them at the beginning of the subject line. Instead, place them at the end or the middle of the line so users can scan meaningful words first—not a symbol.
Instead of symbols and special characters, use the allotted space for meaningful, compelling keywords to make the subject line more personally relevant to your subscribers.
Take Advantage of Every Character in the Subject Line
Organizations that send email messages have a limited number of characters to work with, so each character in the sender information and subject line should be used wisely. This is often the only information that a user has when deciding whether or not to open a message.