Partner Content
Case Study

10 Subject Line Mistakes to Avoid in Your Next Email Campaign

10 Subject Line Mistakes to Avoid in Your Next Email Campaign

Our email marketing guide to crafting powerful email subject lines offers plenty of tips on what to do to increase open rates. But what about subject lines that are far more likely to send your emails straight to spam?Email subject lines are a lot like first impressions.

You only get one chance to reach your audience in a way that is fast, meaningful and relevant. A poorly conceived subject line may not seem that important in the grand scheme of things. In reality however, a bad subject line often leads to an unopened email. Too many bad subject lines meanwhile end up with a higher level of unsubscribe rates. A number of studies have been done on the importance of subject lines.

To illustrate just how much a badly thought-out subject line can affect your entire email marketing campaign, it is worth considering some statistics from Convince&Convert, which showed that 33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone, while 69% of email recipients report email based solely on the subject line. Simply put, your subject lines have the power for your email to either be opened and read, or trashed and even reported for spam.

With all the benefits offered by marketing automation tools, automating the RIGHT email marketing processes is more important than ever. This means taking the time to craft email subject lines that that are designed to get your mail read, rather than trashed.

Worst Subject Lines for Any Email Marketing Campaign

What are the things that you absolutely want to avoid in your email marketing subject lines? These examples should definitely be on your list of subject lines to avoid:

  1. Over personalisation

Adestra did a study that showed that personalised subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened than non-personalised subject lines. While there is no doubt that personalising your emails is a smart move, over personalising them can have the opposite effect. If you use personalisation in your subject line, you will need to use it very sparingly throughout the rest of your email.

Likewise, you will need to be extra careful that there are no errors. A broken process that is automated can be disastrous. Regular testing is key to preventing issues such as “[test] check out these offers!”, “[name], have you been to our new shop?”, or worse, “Brian, we miss you!” when your target's name is Jack. The best way to avoid this mistake aside from testing is to use a reliable marketing automation tool that allows you to personalise emails simply and effectively.

Image: eConsultancy/Alchemy Worx

  1. Emojis. These can also be effective...up to a point. Interestingly enough, different emojis have very different effects on your open rates. Emojis that can be used (even increasing your open rates) include solid suns, stars and snowmen, while emojis that reduce open rates include the pointing finger, number 10 and the sun outline. A snowman or sun icon could be particularly effective during seasonal email blasts that relate directly to weather. A pointing finger meanwhile may come across as overly promotional or spammy. If you do decide to use rich characters such as emojis, take the time to do some testing and research into which characters are best to use. A/B testing is a great way to determine exactly what is working and what is not.
  2. All caps. While there are no hard statistics on this, the general rule of thumb is that full caps can come across as aggressive, loud, angry and hard-sell. Full caps also makes it more likely for your emails to be sent directly to spam. Instead of trying to get attention with a seemingly bold subject line, consider how you can make the subject easy and clear to read. A subject line that has title caps or sentence caps reads better. This in turn means that it will have more chance of being opened. It will also have more chance of skipping spam filters in the process.
  3. Spam trigger words. There are many, many words that can lead to your email being sent to spam. As a general guideline, some of the biggest potentially spammy phrases and words to avoid include buy, order, meet singles, be your own boss, extra income, opportunity, double your, affordable, beneficiary, cash, cheap, collect, earn, free (and f r e e), money, loans, investment, no fees, easy terms, price, quote, profit, money back, lowest price, no credit check, get paid, eliminate debt, pre-approved, acceptance, hidden, lifetime, lose, miracle, problem, avoid, freedom, success, satisfaction, sample, dear, hello, ad, click, opt in, sales, open, weight loss, life insurance, 100% free, 50% off, thousands, million, deal, giving away and many, many other terms that are typically used by spammers.
Image: MailChimp
  1. Overly long subjects. According to ContactMonkey, 40% of emails are opened on mobile, with an average mobile screen showing 4-7 words at the most. The MailChimp graph above shows how the length of subject lines affect both open and click rates. Ideally, a character limit of up to 15-20 characters is ideal. Very short, single word lines can be effective for email marketing as they are unusual and eye-catching. But very long subject lines will often either not be fully displayed, or they will put people off. This once again is where A/B testing comes in to help. Marketing automation tools for email marketing make it far easier to test shorter and slightly longer subjects to find the one that increases your open rates the most.
  2. Random punctuation marks. A single, well-placed exclamation or question mark can be powerful. But all too often, punctuation markets are abused. Adding two or more punctuation marks, strange punctuation marks that do not make sense, and adding them on every single sentence within the subject line and the subsequent email is never a good idea. Be very cautious of using brackets – brackets such as [these] or {these} can make your email look as those it has a coding error or another type of formatting issue. If you have to use brackets, keep them classic and round, like (these), and use them with caution.
  3. Superlatives. You may assume that using words like amazing, wonderful and even good will make people want to open your emails. When eConsultancy did a study on split-testing subject lines however, they discovered that superlatives actually performed below more realistic terms. This might be due to the fact that so many spam type emails use over the top words to try and encourage clicks. In the split-test study, it was determined that perfect reduced open rates by -28%, while even the mediocre good reduced open rates by -20%. Other superlatives to avoid include wonderful, perfect and best. As a general rule, try to keep your language simple and realistic.
Image: Malm
  1. Days of the week. Adestra found that using terms such as daily and weekly in subject lines increases open rates, while monthly reduces open rates. Further to this, Alchemy Worx notes that days of the week cause a reduction in open rates - particularly Monday and Friday. This is most likely due to the large volume of sales type emails being sent over Cyber Monday and Black Friday. While South Africa does not observe these holidays, it is still better for your email marketing campaigns to stick to daily and weekly references rather than monthly or specific days of the week, just to be on the safe side.
  2. Internet slang. As tempting as it is to try and stay on trend with the latest slang terms, these can quickly backfire. The majority of businesses need to ensure that their email marketing campaigns are professional and able to reach their target audience in a way that increases engagement as well as open and click rates. The percentage of the population that follows slang is minimal. Using a term that may be offensive to your audience, using a term incorrectly, or using a term that is no longer fashionable can all affect your open rates in a negative way.
  3. Fake familiarity. The study done by Convince&Convert shows that emails starting with FW in the subject line were opened 17% less than those without. Anyone who has ever received a scam email or an unsolicited offer that appears to be a statement or receipt from an unverified sender will know the dangers in false familiarity. Trying to trick people into thinking that your email is from someone they know is a good way to get blacklisted. A study by Adestra showed that readers are too smart to be fooled by ‘FW:’ or ‘RE:’ added to the subject line. In fact, those emails had a click rate that was 47.5% and 42.6% lower than average respectively.

Keen to take your email marketing efforts to the next level? Contact us today for more information on how marketing automation can improve your email marketing (and subject lines) for good.

By using this website, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.