This is Kind of Embarrassing…Almost Wish You Wouldn’t Read

Great Subject Lines

Hey, you opened this post, so my fantastic Subject Line worked! Or…you didn’t open this, but you don’t realize the irony either.

You grab your coffee, fire up the computer and get online each morning. You probably start up your email client almost right away if you’re like most folks, the wait to see your email messages come flooding in: 1 of 46, 2 of 46, 3 of 46…  You sit there poised to quickly scan and delete as many as possible before you even read them, just to cut the pile down to something remotely manageable. The speed at which we make our decisions online has now been splintered down to fractions of a second.

We are all bombarded by email. Some is legit business correspondence; many more are solicitations, personal mail, junk mail, forum or groups mail, spam and probably a  couple more categories I’ve overlooked. With all of that clutter, how do you give your message (or post, etc) a chance of being read? Write a great subject line.

*Though this article is written with emails in mind, the exact same concept holds true of your landing page solicitations, blog (ta-da, like you’re reading!) and anything that is shared socially. When someone comes across your online copywriting in ANY form, you need them to take their precious time to read at least a little.

Remember: Attention has Become the New Currency, Now and into the Future

To Read or Not to Read

The amount of poorly written web content is a shame. But it’s inevitable, since millions of pages are added to the web each day. What’s worse though is seeing examples of really good copywriting that will never be read, because the subject line screamed “SPAM,” or “DELETE ME” or “MOVE ALONG”‘

Many email or website writers pay little attention to the subject line. After all, it’s just a few words, and the first paragraph of the email should do the selling right? But with the amount of email that the average person receives daily, the Delete or Spam button comes out with a vengeance. If your prospect doesn’t open your email, you have 0% chance to engage them.

So, how can we make those precious few words in the subject line grab your prospects’ attention, create interest, and make them want to open your super sales letter? Below are some principles that work.

  • Your prospects are always interested in one thing: What’s in it for me? Write with that in mind, which means write about the benefits that matter to them, not features that matter to you.
  • Put yourself into the mindset of a potential reader. What information would you be looking for, or expect, when seeing the Subject Line? Remember, your first sale in this encounter is asking them to spend their time.
  • Keep it short and simple. Write your subject line with fewer than 10 words; the lower the better. This makes your email seem more credible.
  • While it’s generally a good thing to use the word “you” in persuasive copy, it’s a spam predictor in subject lines. Few folks use the word “you” in emails to colleagues; spam uses it frequently. The closer your subject line comes to the tone of ordinary email, the more likely it will be opened.
  • Use exclamation points very sparingly if at all. Rarely do you see personal emails that need that kind of “noise” to grab your attention. They set off many Spam filters too, and great business writing doesn’t need it. Use question marks however if doing so makes sense. Questions are more engaging than statements. Wouldn’t you agree?
  • We have been so inundated with slick sales stuff that it now is an automatic turnoff. Avoid words like “limited time,” “free,” “opportunity,” and “only.” Doing so may hook some; it will turn off many more. And those Spam filters will go off again in most cases, meaning emails won’t get delivered.
  • If you have a database, use it to address your prospects by name. If you don’t have one – first, what are you doing about that?? And second, use first names to establish a connection.
  • Not every email system has a preview, nor does everyone who has a preview option have it set up that way. So remember that the first couple sentences may be shown in addition to the Subject Line. Grabbing attention and motivating a visitor to read on are still the goals.

Always think of your readership first. What problem are you trying to solve for them? What is the mindset of someone who might be likely to read your article or post? Are you educating? Selling?

I get lots of email feedback from my posts too. I really appreciate it, but remember that I get more than 50 or 60 emails a day too. Here’s an idea: Use your emails to me as an opportunity to practice writing your own great subject lines. I’ll even publish some of the best ones in a future article.

Thanks, and know if you are ever looking for a freelance writer in St. Louis, or anywhere else, I’m happy to talk with you about your project and


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