Write an Irresistible Headline with These 15 Tips

Hubspot reports that 33% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone.  There’s no reason to risk losing one-third of your audience with an ineffective headline. Even the savviest of marketers get stuck in a headline rut from time to time. So we’ve put together this practical list of headline tips to energize your emails. Let’s get started!

#1 – 40 is the new 65

For the longest time, 65 characters was the sweet spot for headlines but as screen size and browser preferences have changed, 40 character headlines have turned into the new standard. At 40 characters, this example from InVision, a workflow platform, shows up perfect on all screens.

Creative block? Hop in the shower—really
– InVision

It uses every available space without feeling clunky or jam-packed. They even got sassy by adding an em dash. Bravo!

#2 – Go beyond the salutation

For the longest time, the best way to make your emails seem more personable was to address the recipient.  Now buyers know that companies can easily insert a name into the salutation of an email message, so they view the effort as less authentic and are less likely to engage. Consider bringing the audience member’s first or last name into the headline when appropriate.

Rachel, you could be one lucky duck
– Cincinnati’s Freestore Foodbank

Ooh, me? Yes, me. The Foodbank earns points for the pun-tastic creativity they showcased promoting their annual Rubber Duck Regatta but I would replace the period with a little duck emoji.

#3 – Offer a benefit to your customer

By nature, humans are selfish. It’s imperative to convey how your customer will benefit from opening your email.

You’re missing out on points.
– JetBlue

Who doesn’t love points? JetBlue knows and is capitalizing on scarcity to get me engaged. I open expecting to find out how I could have missed a precious points-gaining opportunity. They’d better deliver.

#4 – Pique curiosity

The subject line piques the customer’s interest and causes them to open your email to get the details. You purposely tell them a detail (just part of the overall story) so they’ll open your email to read the story’s how, what, when, and where.

And the Award Goes to…
– The Daily Carnage

What award? Did I know any of the winners? They got me with this one. How could I leave a question unanswered when all I wanted to know was just a tap away? Bravo!

#5 – Mobile first – Always

Get this, 68% of emails are opened on a mobile device, so a mobile-friendly format must be your top priority. Users expect a consistently smooth experience with brands, so you need to deliver on that expectation in your headline and content writing.

Before finalizing any campaign, test your content on multiple operating systems, browsers, and email clients.

#6 – Announce something newsworthy

As your business grows, there are many chances to celebrate your growth and success with your staff and your email subscribers. Be sure to share news about new product offerings and enhancements to the consumer experience. It shows that you are a growing, and innovating business.

Enrich your customer and lead data—we made an app for that!
– Zapier

If I am a Zapier customer, I would love to hear about the progress they are making toward automating difficult software integrations. Always be on the lookout for these opportunities.

#7 – Offer a “how to”

As a business or blogger, you know how to do a thing or two… share your knowledge! It’s a good intro to your skills and expertise for future clients and partners.

70+ Places to Curate Great Content
– Buffer

Social Media scheduling and curation platform Buffer has the data to know what content works and they are happy to share it. Content isn’t their business, but it is the business of their clients so this list helps them provide value.

#8 – Ask a powerful question

Question and answer platform Quora knows the power of the question mark. Quora is using the terrific power of machine learning to give millions of users can’t-miss email content. After all, they know what you know and what you want to know.

What 3 books would you recommend to change your life?
– Quora

Using their powerful data, they are able to serve up headlines that are begging to be opened. It’s on message without feeling creepy.

#9 – Offer key information that’s useful

If you or your emails can help your audience with life’s little inconveniences, you will win the headline war.

5 Steps to Maximizing Your Cellphone Battery

Look for product related information to share with your audience.

#10 – Provide an authentic testimonial

Celebs are great, but the right words from your regular customers can carry a lot of weight with other audience members.

To set up the Cerkl took 0 time
– Cerkl

Be sure to have a shared place where any person from your organization can put a testimonial, like a Google Sheet. Our free, downloadable testimony database is a great place to start.

#11 – Order up the right word combo

Data-driven marketing means never having to guess the right headline. Just ask the headline hustlers at BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed began as a lab studying what makes things viral but quickly morphed into a data-driven media empire. User behavior data powers BuzzFeed’s content and headlines. Each word selection of BuzzFeed headline is designed to tempt you into the clickhole.

The headlines garnering the most engagement on Facebook included the following phrases (which we purposely didn’t link to the real story because, wow, they are truly irresistible.)

  • “Will make you”
    • 20 Photos That Will Make You Go, “Whoa.”
  • “This is why”
    • There’s A Reason Why Everyone Loves “This Is Us” Star Sterling K. Brown
  • “Can we guess”
    • Can We Guess Which State You Live In With This ’90s Movie Test?

#12 – Showcase your most engaging content

If your email includes content curated just for the recipient, the headline is the perfect chance to showcase your organization’s most engaging content. If you are sending to a big list, that might seem tough but many companies are using interest-based personalization to solve this marketing conundrum.

Why I Believe in the Future of Email
– Employee Engagement :120

Picking the story that the recipient is most likely to click is a great way to convince your audience that your email is worth reading.

#13 – Get familiar with the second headline

We’ve been talking about email headlines for 25 years but there’s another line of text savvy email marketers need to consider…the preview text. When an inbox is viewed on a smartphone, most popular email clients surface the first few lines of an email or some designated alternate text. Make sure you don’t waste this opportunity!

#14 – Test. Test. Test.

Once you have a headline you think will work, it’s time to let the robots test it. We like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. Just type in your headline, and the tool will analyze your headline based on the structure, grammar and readability.

This tool is so cool, it might make you want to go back and retrofit some of your other headlines.

#15 – Save time & provide value

The volume of noise created each minute on the internet is not slowing down. Your audience is underwater and looking for a life preserver. They want to be informed but most days They. Just. Can’t. Enter time savers like The Skimm.

Daily Skimm: Stop, collaborate and listen
– The Skimm

They cleverly condense world events into an email that takes 3 minutes to skim and promises to keep the readers’ finger on the pulse of the world at large. So when you are considering an email, make sure it saves time and provides value to your audience.  With that formula, you’ll always have a place in your audience’s inbox.

The Final Word

Brevity, benefit, and curiosity are the keys to an engaging subject line. Before finalizing any campaign, test your content on multiple operating systems, browsers and email clients to ensure that the message you are trying to send is the one that is heard.

rachel@cerkl.com

Director of Product, Cerkl

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