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Email Marketing: Subject Lines & Pre-Header Text

Will Jago

We put so much time into the email content within our marketing emails, but that content often doesn’t realise it’s potential. A simple reason - because the email is not opened.

There are many reasons why the email might not be opened, but the Subject Line is one of the most important aspects, which should be supported by engaging Pre-Header Text for the best possible results.

Email Marketing: Subject line and Pre-Header Text

The subject line should vary depending on your goal behind the email campaign. For example, a shorter subject line (less than 50 characters) may improve your open rate, but may have a negative effect on your click-through rate and conversion rate.

5 Tips for Your Subject Line

1. Be Clear and Truthful
Explain exactly what the recipient will get from the email – ensuring there no hidden surprises when it’s opened. Not only will this appeal to your target audience, it will improve the click-through and conversion rates.

It can be tempting to ‘sex up’ or exaggerate your product to increase the open rate. This may meet your short-term goals of a high open rate, but they are false promises. It will result in unsubscribes and spam reports, which will have a negative effect on your next campaign. Click-through and conversion rates will be low, too. Here are some examples of what to do, and what not to do:

TO DO – be clear, concise and explain what the user can expect. For example, 5 tips to improve your email marketing
NOT TO DO – Unclear and exaggerate. For example, Create the world’s best email campaign

Remember: Clear, concise and truthful subject lines will improve your open rate (in the long run), click-through rate and conversion rates, while reducing the unsubscribe rate.

2. Length of the Subject Line
The length of the subject line depends on your intended outcome. If you just want the recipient to open your email, with no intended call to action, a shorter subject line is better.

If your goal is for clicks through to your website, conversions, or inbound enquiries, a longer subject line will be more effective, so that you can add more context to the email. We want the user to open the email with a goal or intent in mind.

REMEMBER: Subject line over 70 characters improves conversion rate. Subject line under 50 characters improves open rate.

3. Personalisation

Personalising your subject line depends on the quality of your data. If you are able to add the following data to your subject line, it will improve your open rate, click-through rate and conversion rate. Your relationship with the consumers will improve, too.

You can add the data by using the merge tag functionality within your email tool:

  • First name
  • Company name
  • Location

REMEMBER: Personalisation improves open, click-through rate and conversion rates, as long as the data is accurate.

4. Testing
Remember - with all of your marketing, your opinion is not always right. Experience will teach you a lot, but you should make best use of your reporting data to ensure that you are appealing to the majority. Therefore, test which words and terms work best for your company.

This includes A/B testing with two different subject lines to databases no smaller than 1,000. But you need to have two subject lines to start with, right?

To get your shortlist, brainstorm 10 different subject lines and ask your friends and colleagues to choose their favourite one. The most popular two should make your A/B test.

REMEMBER: Test to improve - not to prove other people wrong. Trust everyone’s opinion within your company and trust the findings.

5. Pre-header text
The pre-header text is the line of text that appears at the very top of the email, usually in the same line as the ‘view in browser’ link.

This line of text is getting more prominence in email campaigns - especially when received on a mobile or tablet. This line of text should be used to your advantage - working with your subject line, providing more context to the email. Note, it should not simply repeat the subject line. Here are three examples, depending on your goal:

  1. Subject Line: 5 tips to improve your email marketing | Pre-header text: Watch this 5-minute video
  2. Subject Line: 5 tips to improve your email marketing | Pre-header text: No technical experience required
  3. Subject Line: 5 tips to improve your email marketing | Pre-header text: Advice on subject line, content, reporting, lead generation and automation

REMEMBER: The pre-header text complements the subject line to ensure the email is opened with intent. You should be able to read the subject line and pre-header text together, with it making perfect sense.

We suggest you subscribe to specialist email providers who have a wealth of knowledge, research and experience behind them.

Here are some of our favourite articles about subject lines:

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