It's Not a Secret: Better Content Produces Higher Open Rates

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Like most things in marketing, the web catches every passing thought about how to write subject lines. We probably all agree that subject lines are the determining factor to opened emails.

Subject lines matter, but before I share my thoughts on how-to, let's consider "who from?"

I receive a few emails and newsletters from sources who could send their content with a blank subject line. Their content has been so good for so long that I open (or will open) everything they send. So why not set that as a goal?

Send good content in every email, and your open rates will grow.

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Here are the strongest tips I know to impact your next mailing.

Your subject lines should be:

  1. On the short side. Approximately 80 percent of email is opened on a phone. Think 50 characters or less.
  2. Not spammy. Be careful with overselling and click baiting to get an email opened. If you promise something in a subject line and you don't deliver after the click, expect your open rate to decrease in the next mailing. Your unsubscribes may also increase.
  3. Value loaded. Send your best stuff. Don't be afraid of what you give to your audience. You build loyalty with strong content. If you nurture five times more than you ask, you have a good formula.
  4. Specific. Many marketers encourage subject lines which build on curiosity. My coaching is to write good content and make sure the subject line tells readers about the current topic. All Seth Godin needs to say is "Seth's Blog." He is his brand. Good goal for all of us.
  5. Building brand. "Get a free salad today from Panera." The most important word on the subject line is Panera. The brand drives the open rate. In many marketing email campaigns, "free" is a quick pass to a spam folder.
  6. Clear about deadlines. If you write about an event with a real deadline, it's OK to write a "now or never" message. Again, if I open an email and the deadline was only click bait—my trust in the sender will take a nose dive.
  7. An invitation to multimedia. The promise of a short video with powerful content definitely impacts open rate. If you are a trusted provider, "New Video Inside" improves open rate.

"Listen to the first 2 minutes of this podcast," also suggests multimedia. Multimedia works well in drip campaigns.

Mix it up and keep learning from your open rates. Pay close attention to the subject lines that entice you to open. What types of subject lines reward you with the highest open rates?

But don't let your brand integrity decline for an increase in opens.

And remember, your audience provides the best consulting advice.

Watch what they respond to and listen to their feedback.

Love Leads book coverDr. Steve Greene is the publisher and executive vice president of the multimedia group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His Charisma House book, Love Leads, shows that without love, you cannot be an effective leader. Download his Greenelines podcast at

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