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5 reasons why your subject line sucks

You have seconds. Scratch that, milliseconds. That’s how long you have to get someone to click your email. So, that headline – aka the subject line – is more important than the juicy offer that’s nestled inside. Because without that tap-teasing subject line reeling them in and interrupting their scrolling sesh, ain’t nobody going to know about your important biz updates.

Before you next hit send, cross your fingers and pray to the inbox gods for a high open-rate, let’s take a walk down Common Subject Line Copy Mistakes Avenue…

1. Your subject line is on the wrong side of click-bait

You were going for urgency, but you ended up sounding like a headline on Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame. Like when you click on "Z-list celebrity in public spat with boyfriend" only to see a pap shot of them frowning from sun glare. The moral of the story is, stop making promises you can’t keep in your subject line.

If your email is about a discount, lead your subject line with the % off. If you’re launching something new and shiny, spell it out.

Don’t hide behind a headline just because it has a great ring to it. It can come off as dishonest and yes, they may open your email, but if you don’t deliver on the goods straight away they’re bouncing quicker than you can say "extra, extra, read all about it."

2. You’re overdoing it on the personalisation, {firstname}

Open me {name of first pet}. Ah, personalised email tactics. It’s true, we love seeing our name staring back at us in our inbox and it creates an instant connection.

But, not every subject line needs to feature a name drop. Use it sparingly, when you really want to offer them something exclusive or bespoke to their needs for it to remain effective.

3. You’re saying too much

Stop using a more-is-more approach. If your email has one key message and a couple of other extra surprises, don’t give a contents-style summary in your subject line. I don’t want to see Amazing offer, recent testimonial, and more… in your subject line.

Pick one. The strongest angle. And run with that. Better yet, base the entire email off that one key message so it doesn’t get diluted and lost in ALL the call to action buttons.

4. You did it for the (pun) fun

A song lyric. A joke. A witty play on words. Look, I love a pun as much as the next personality-loving copywriter but there is a time and a place.

If you’ve stuck it in there to be down with the kids or to piggyback on last night’s ep of Love Island and it’s got absolutely NOTHING to do with what’s in your email then you need to delete it, hun.

5. 99 reasons why you’re overdoing it on the numbers

See, that number piqued your interest, right? Your customer bloody loves a number. But, do they really need a ridiculous-sounding number to click into the email? Because guess what, if you promise 99 reasons, you’re going to have an email the length of a novella.

Keep it simple (say, under 10) and try leading with an odd number instead of an even one. It just works.

BONUS: The BIGGEST mistake of all

Only writing one subject line. When I’m briefed to write email copy, I always give at least 2 variations of the subject line to my clients – even if they don’t ask for it. Why? To encourage them to test, test, test.

If you really want to make every word work harder for your business, you need to stick on your detective hat and start mining for data within your own email list. It’s incredible how much you can learn from simple A/B subject line testing.

Want email copy that connects AND converts? Stop putting off your email master plan until next quarter and brief in an email copywriter who gets it *waves*


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