8 Subject Line Categories

It is impossible to over-state the importance of the subject line in your email campaigns.

According to my friend @RyanDeiss, all subject lines should fall under at least one of the following categories:

  • Self-Interest
  • Curiosity
  • Offer
  • Urgency/Scarcity
  • Humanity
  • News
  • Social Proof
  • Story

Make the Best Subject Line:

1 – Self-Interest

These are your bread and butter subject lines – you should be using them most frequently.

They are usually direct and speak to a specific benefit your audience will gain by opening the email. Self-interest subject lines also help pre-qualify openers by giving them a clue about your email’s body content.

2 – Curiosity

If self-interest subject lines work because they communicate a direct benefit of opening the email, curiosity-based ones succeed for the exact opposite reason. These pique the interest of subscribers without giving away too much information, leading to higher opens. Be careful though, because curiosity-based subject lines can get old fast and are the most likely to miss their mark.

3 – Offer

Do you like free stuff?  Do you like to buy things?

So does your email list. When you are giving something away or selling something your subscribers would be interested in, directly stating that in your subject line is a great way to convince them to open the email and learn more.

4 – Urgency/Scarcity

This is the most powerful type of subject line you have at your disposal. Subject lines that communicate urgency and scarcity tell readers they must act now. Too many of these can lead to list exhaustion so use sparingly and, of course, only when there is truly a deadline, limited quantity or limited availability.

5 – Humanity

Don’t forget to remind your list about the person or people behind your products. Sometimes you need to thank your subscribers, tell them a story about yourself, or make a human appeal for their attention.

6 – News

Keeping your audience informed about new developments in your field builds authority and keeps your open rates high. These subject lines often work well when combined with a curiosity element.

7 – Social Proof

A fundamental characteristic of humans is that we look to the behavior of others when making decisions. You can leverage this in your email subject lines by mentioning individual’s success stories, familiar names, or highlighting how many people are already using a product or service.

8 – Story

Telling a story, or at least teasing the beginning of one, in your subject line is a unique way to highlight a benefit and get the open rate you’re looking for.

If you have a large enough list (over 500 opened emails per mailing) you should split test your email subject lines. Check out this post for a this simple method to 2X your email response rates.

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