Why Your Lame Subject Lines are Killing Your Email Marketing Strategy


Your bulging email inbox is full of boring subject lines that cannot begin to muster your attention.  Sometimes it is because the sender is simply lazy and has given no thought about what is built on the high value digital real estate.

Other times, the email marketer is so focused on SEO that the subject line is stuffed with precise keywords every single time.  These types of SEO tactics are as overdone as cheap steak.  Everyone is tired of them – including Google.

Damage from Bad Subject Lines

If you are struggling for a good subject line, take a few minutes in the grocery store line to see what the pros use to get your attention.  Don’t be tempted to go overboard with “7 Absolutely Horrible Hidden Email Mistakes You Must Avoid”.  First, it sounds like a sleazy circus barker.  Second, for those readers who take the bait, you have got a lot to deliver to keep your reader from viewing you as a downright liar.

Never lie.  Don’t over promise. 

Instead, be intriguing, compelling and interesting.  Be valuable most of all.

The purpose of an email marketing campaign is to deepen the relationship with your client.  Bad subject lines can easily have the direct opposite effect.

Abstract or Clever

If the reader sees your subject line as a secret code to be revealed in the final paragraph, they will quickly lose patience with you.  Clever concepts may help with your open rates, but an abstract or overly clever subject line shortens the time the readers will spend reading.

Quickly tell the reader what the email is about.  Trust that they will decide to read it.  When clever leads to unclear, the reader will not stick around to figure it out.  Today’s email readers are often on their mobile devices and they scan email quickly to decide what to delete.

Exact Match Keywords

Google is moving its focus to larger, brandable topics rather than exact match keywords.  The search engines now recognize synonyms.  The spiders are learning what words mean and notice when you are sticking with the overall topic.  Google is keeping up with the race for quality content.  Exact match keywords are losing power.

Lists Posts

When you make your trip to the grocery store’s checkout line to study headlines, notice that many headlines offer a list of something.  Lists are everywhere and you would think that the use of them is way overused.

Readers like lists.  Otherwise, the big publishers like Cosmopolitan magazine would dispense with their use.  Headlines like “5 Hot Tricks to Get His Engine Started” or “12 Super-Foods that Cause Real Weight Loss” have been around since the 1960’s.

The reason they are still used is because they cause women (and some men) to buy magazines.  These publishers know what drives an impulse purchase.

Informative Hooks

When you know your ideal client well, you can develop subject lines that promise answers to their questions or information they will find valuable.  Not only is that what your email recipient wants to see, it is what Google’s Hummingbird algorithm rewards. 

Your subject line is a useful tools to increase readership and eventually sales.  The creation of them is not a trivial thing.  Exercise your subject line writing skills to make them creative and informative – compelling and useful.

Image via Shutterstock

About the Author

Craig Klein

Craig Klein is founder and CEO of SalesNexus.com, the first online CRM solution to include complete email marketing and access to targeted contact lists.  Craig has published several eBooks and is a regular speaker on sales automation and lead generation topics.  Craig's passion is to help businesses grow so they can improve the lives of their employees, customers and communities.

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