The Subject Line Strategy That Gets 541% More Response

The original title of this post was going to be Turns Out This Particular Post Title Sucks. Turns out, that particular post title would have sucked.

See, as good marketers do, we recently sat down to analyze how well our approach has been doing – meaning, how well you guys like our posts.

The first thing we found was that you guys do like them – all your comments, tweets and the like made us feel pretty appreciated. So thanks for them, and we appreciate you back.

The other thing we found was a trend regarding post titles, which often become our email subject lines.

It surprised us, especially me, because my favorite way to write subject lines is apparently not what you guys find appealing and want to click through to read.

How NOT to Write Email Subject Lines

I like to play with words, to get creative with their combination, their presentation, their rhythm.

I love alliteration and rhymes, and I’ll definitely click any subject line that’s got good wordplay. Turns out, most of you won’t.

After all, you’re not here looking to be entertained by puns (although they are fascinating, aren’t they?). You’re here for marketing tips, to see how others build their businesses and to find out about new tools that can make your marketing easier.

Which means you like subject lines that tell you that’s exactly what you’re going to get. So the thing we found out that you need to remember is:

Clarity Trumps Creativity

See for yourself.

Here’s a list of subject lines that we judged to fall under each category:


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Why You Want Your Emails Filtered

The clear subject lines performed better than the cutesy subject lines no matter what metric we looked at. To break it down by channel, these clear subject lines beat out the cutesy ones by:

Comments Tweets Facebook Likes Traffic Email Subscriptions
1107% 315% 331% 617% 366%

I didn’t really believe the numbers when I saw them myself, either. I didn’t want to, but I had another team member double-check them. (The 541% in the headline is an average of the above.)

It would appear that while creativity and clever writing are very good things in general (and I still cling to the fact that they’re good in the body of a post), they have no place in post titles and subject lines. People want to be told directly what they can expect to find inside, and they don’t have time to puzzle out what an overly creative subject line could mean.

Which Do You Prefer?

I mean, the numbers tell us which you prefer to read. But what about when you’re writing emails?

Do you tell your readers in plain words just exactly what they’ll find inside? Do you use a template, or formula, that’s supposed to work even though readers have seen it hundreds of times before?

Or do you try to get cute?