Writing Subject Lines That Double Your Clickthroughs, Part 2

In part 1 of this series, we looked at 6 possible subject lines and the 3 key principles you need to understand to be able to consistently write e-mail subject lines that maximize clickthrough rates.

As a refresher, the 6 subject lines and their results were:

Subject Line Click Through Rate Improvement
Quarterbacks aren’t the only changes being tested in Denver .32% 0.0%
A scientific way to increase your conversions .51% 57.9%
Do your landing pages pass this test? .73% 105.9%
[Optimization Summit] 3 Days to a Better Website ($300 Off Coupon Inside) .37% 14.8%
Learn 3 Tips that made 10,000 pages extremely successful .66% 105.2%
Optimization Summit 2012 – Speaker’s List Up Now! + Save $300 Today .40% 24.9%

The 3 principles were:

  1. Understanding the Purpose of the Subject Line
  2. Understanding the Connection to the Value Proposition
  3. Using Data-backed Criteria to Maximize the Value Proposition

If you haven’t read part one you need to read it now and then come back and read this, otherwise you won’t truly understand and won’t be as successful with your e-mail subject lines as you could be.

In this post we’re going to dig down into the specifics of the test results and find the specific points you need to follow to maximize your clickthrough rate.

Clarity Trumps Everything

It’s all well and good to define you value proposition but if you don’t communicate that in a way your prospects understand then it’s wasted effort and might be harmful if they get the impression that you aren’t for them.

Obvious I know, but you’d be surprised at how many times this isn’t even thought about… or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised :-)

So the next question is, how do I make sure my value proposition is clearly communicated?

There are 4 things you can do to help ensure clarity.

Emphasize the Main Point

Each value proposition has a main point and you need to make sure it’s emphasized. One easy “trick” to do that is to make sure the subject line either starts with or ends with the main point.

Look at the 3 best subject lines and you’ll see they did just that whereas the 3 worst one did not.

I have some examples to show you.

Example 1:

The subject line “Optimization Summit 2012 – Speaker’s List Up Now! + Save $300 Today” is a bit weird but I assume the main point was the speaker’s list, otherwise why mention it; notice it’s not at the beginning or the end.

Compare that to the subject line “Do your landing pages pass this test?” which has the main point “pass this test” at the end.

One reason why the second subject line had 66% more clickthroughs than the first.

Example 2:

The subject line “[Optimization Summit] 3 Days to a Better Website ($300 Off Coupon Inside)” again has the main point in the middle.

Whereas, “Learn 3 Tips that made 10,000 pages extremely successful” has the main point at the beginning (at the summit they will learn 3 tips) and had a 70% increase in clickthroughs.

Use Precision in Your Qualifiers

Qualifiers are frequently used in subject lines and over tens of thousands of subject lines show that the more precise you are the better your clickthrough rate.

Let’s look at a couple of examples to illustrate what “more precise” means.

Example 1:

The subject line “[Optimization Summit] 3 Days to a Better Website ($300 Off Coupon Inside)” uses the word “Better” to qualify “Website” but better is sort of an ambiguous word and is just relative.

Whereas the subject line “A scientific way to increase your conversions” uses scientific as a more precise qualifier of “way” — in fact, when you think of “better way” and “scientific way” you can see that scientific definitely “feels” more precise.

The second subject line had 37% more clickthroughs than the first one.

Example 2:

Since there aren’t other qualifiers in the original 6 subject lines here are two other subject lines.

A Special Offer for REAL SIMPLE readers” — special is obviously not very precise but the subject line “Get An Instant AdWords Performance Report (It’s On Us)” has the very precise word “Instant”.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any results numbers to show the improvement because they are separate subject lines (not replacements for each other) and are just used to illustrate precision.

Simple is Better

Since you want clarity you need to make sure you use simple, universal words that are quickly and easily (or to be more precise, instantly :-) understood by your prospects.

Let’s look at a couple more examples to help clarify this.

Example 1:

Compare the subject line “No Castles in the air for you…” with “30% of Physicians Are At Risk – Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late!

You may not even know what the first one means, I know I didn’t until I looked it up, where are the second one uses simple, common words.

You might think that using “Doctors” instead of “Physicians” is better but for the target audience, in my experience, “Physicians” is just as good and maybe better because more doctors I know call themselves and other doctors “physicians”.

Example 2:

Compare “Turn you iPods into clickers with LanSchool” with “Don’t Forget Mom! — Free Mother’s Day Shipping

Again, not everyone in every person and place calls a remote control a “clicker” defeating the clarity we’re trying to achieve but the simple language of the second one makes it easily understood by all.

Be Concise

This is one I have to struggle with but, in general, being concise in your subject lines (and most other things) is usually simpler and clearer.

The old copywriter saying is, to use just the right amount of words you need, no more and now less. Each word should earn its place on a sales letter and if you can remove something without impact then it should be removed.

The same thing is true with subject lines which, after all, are a type of copywriting.

Let’s look at some examples.

Example 1:

Compare “Our gift to you — FREE Shipping or Now Service Charge” and “Free Shipping or No Service Charge! Limited time offer!

The first one has the “our gift to you” trying to attract the prospect but really, it’s hard to think of “free shipping” as a gift; nice to have but a “gift”… not so much.

The second one removes that and makes the subject line better, then they even make it more powerful with some scarcity.

By the way, the second subject line had 21% more clickthroughs.

Example 2:

Let’s look at worst of the 6 subject lines “Quarterbacks aren’t the only changes being tested in Denver

Discounting the fact that you need to understand about American football and that an all-time great (but recovering from a serious injury) quarterback is replacing the popular, Christian quarterback who got traded to the (wild and woolly) New York Jets (of all places) this is probably meaningless to you.

The subject line is just not concise.

Better would be “Denver’s testing more than quarterbacks” as it says the same thing more simply and concisely but don’t be tempted though to go even farther to something like “Denver’s testing quarterbacks…” because that changes the meaning so it uses too few words.

In my next blog post, we’ll look at the rest of the specific points you need to follow to maximize your clickthrough rate.

Talk to me below! Give me your best subject lines, come on, give it up :-)


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