Inbox presence

Estimated reading time: 22 minutes

Your subscribers see your marketing emails presented in two very different ways. There’s how each email looks when it’s opened—and how the email looks before it’s opened, when it’s just an item in a person’s inbox.

Your inbox presence is a major component of your email, and a make-or-break factor in its success. With just a little bit of text to play with, you need to stand out from all the other emails you subscriber receives and give them a good reason to click. One study found 16 percent of marketing emails are deleted without being read—you want to be in that other 84 percent. (PDF)

In this lesson, we’re going to cover the three major elements of your inbox presence. Subject lines are the most prominent aspect and also the most studied, but preview text and the from field also contribute to your overall inbox presence—and all three work together to help you earn that click.

Subject lines

Your subject line just might be the most important part of your marketing emails. After all, it doesn’t matter what your emails look like on the inside if no one’s clicking to open them. And what’s the deciding factor between someone opening an email or not? In a huge number of cases, it’s the subject line. One study found about half of people have opened an email based on the subject line alone. That’s why marketers spend more time testing subject lines than any other element of their email marketing.

In other words: Your subject line really matters. So it’s worth taking the time to get it right.

There’s something else to keep in mind as you read about subject lines: Even if your subject lines don’t always generate clicks, your subscribers will see most of them. That means that your subject lines are subtly building an image of your brand for each subscriber. Remember that as you choose your words, style, content, and strategies—each individual subject line may be going for clicks, but the totality of your subject lines is building your brand image.

Subject line appearance

Subject line length

There have been a lot of studies into an ideal length for subject lines, studies that have examined millions of emails… and the findings are all over the board.

Study

Subject line sweet spot

Yesware (2014)

No correlation between length and effectiveness

Six to 10 words

Sendgrid (2015)

Three words or 15 characters

Mailchimp (2015)

No correlation between length and effectiveness

No correlation between length and effectiveness

From 1-20 characters

Marketo (2018)

Seven words

So what does all of that mean in the aggregate? One, subject line length may not really matter. But two, if it does matter, keeping it shorter is generally better.

There is one place where subject line length definitely does matter: Mobile. At least two-thirds of emails are opened on mobile devices, and mobile devices by and large have less screen real estate than desktops. If your subject lines are too long, they’re at risk of being cut off. To keep them safe for most modern phones, you should shoot for 35 characters or less—or, at the very least, front load the most important part of your subject line into the first 35 characters.

It’s crucial to stick to 35-character subject lines for mobile compatibility.

So between mobile and the possibility that the “shorter is better” studies got it right, it’s best to lean toward keep your subject lines tight. Fortunately, you don’t need to cram everything you want to say into the subject line—as we’ll get into later in the preview text section, your subject line isn’t the only way to get important information across in the inbox.

For more on optimizing subject lines for mobile phones, check out Jilt’s article on mobile email tips.

Subject line style

The little decisions matter in a subject line—that even includes things like capitalization and punctuation. Here are a few things to keep in mind on the style and formatting front.

Capitalization. There are four main subject line styles (and one inadvisable one) that use capitalization differently.

  • Sentence case, where the first letter of the first word is the only capitalized letter. “Sentence case looks like this”
  • Title case, where the first letter of all (or most) words is capitalized. “This Is a Traditional Title Case Demonstration”
  • All lowercase, where no letters are capitalized. “keeping everything lowercase can make you look casual and effortless”
  • All uppercase, where every letter is capitalized. “LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE SHOUTING”
  • Staggered case, which is how 11-year-olds typed on AOL Instant Messenger in 1997. “tHiS StaGGeReD cAsE HeAdLiNe iS GiVINg mE A hEaDaChE”

A survey of 100 email marketing experts found 60 percent use sentence case, 34 percent use title case, and six percent go all lowercase. Your choice really depends on your personal preference and what you’re going for. Title case is the most formal; sentence case is a good balance between professional and casual; all lowercase feels the most personal and casual, like you were just kind of firing off an email to a friend; all uppercase is aggressive but can work in short spurts to convey excitement, as if your offer is so good it’s worth shouting from the rooftops.

Sentence case

Sentence case subject line.

Title case

Title case subject line.

All lowercase

An all lowercase subject line.

All uppercase

Uppercase subject line.

Plenty of marketers also mix up capitalization to add emphasis to different parts of a subject line; it’s one way to help make a certain word or a few words stand out.

A mix of capitalization techniques.

Symbols. Using punctuation and symbols breaks up the text—but can tiptoe dangerously close to looking like spam if you overuse or misuse symbols. As a result, some experts recommend avoiding symbols entirely—or using less than three. And always avoid ones that have been completely co-opted by the spam world, like $$$ or !!!, as in this example below.

Symbols in a subject line.

One popular symbol to use is the vertical line | (sometimes called a “pipe”). Vertical lines can be good for breaking your subject into different parts, and people respond well to them; one study found they were among the most effective “word choices” to increase open rates. Here’s an example of TOMS using vertical lines in both a subject and corresponding preview text to separate the different, but related, things they’re promoting.

Subject line with a vertical divider.

Numbers. Yesware analyzed 115 million emails and found an improvement in open rates when subject lines included numbers. Numbers are a good way to break up the visual flow of a subject line, and also a better way to advertise a discount (“30% off” is easier to visually process than “Thirty percent off.”)

This subject line from Newegg uses numbers in a subtle but clever way. Rather than writing 99 cents, or 99¢, Newegg went with the full dollar version $0.99. They’re banking on the psychological trick that prices ending in .99 have the most appeal to us. (PDF) And in that way, $0.99 somehow looks like a better deal than the identical price of 99¢.

Numbers in the subject line.

Using emojis in subject lines

As emojis became more and more popular in the mid 2010s, they started finding their way into email subject lines. Then marketers went too far, there was a sharp market correction, and now we’ve more or less settled into a comfortable place with emoji usage.

In 2016, as emojis were hitting their peak trendiness, they showed up in one out of 20 subject lines—and led to a 93 percent improvement in click-through rates. Then, it seems, people got burned out by the oversaturation of emojis—both in emails and day-to-day life. Emojis transitioned from trendy to just part of the modern lexicon, and, with that change, their effectiveness in email subject lines changed. A 2018 study found emails with emojis in the subject line had a 26.8 percent open rate—and emails without had a 38.5 percent open rate. Haphazard emoji usage had actually become harmful.

Overuse of emojis can be detrimental to open rates. 😢

The key to emojis in email subject lines today is to use them sparingly and strategically. Use them to complement your words, not replace them. As one study said, emojis make a bad subject line worse, or make a good subject line better.  

Here’s an example from Death Wish Coffee Co. that uses an emoji to make a good subject line better. They’re promoting a Rosie the Riveter-themed mug, so the subject line is a pun on the famous Rosie the Riveter poster (“We can do it”) and the emoji matches her iconic pose. 

Emoji in the subject line.

And don’t forget that the appearance of and support for different emojis can vary wildly across different platforms—especially the newest additions to the emoji family. Here’s an email from Forever 21 that tried to use an emoji in the subject line, only my set of circumstances (Gmail on Mac OS Sierra) didn’t have support for that particular emoji. To that end, if you are going to use emojis, don’t use them to replace a word or part of a word, leaving the text incomprehensible if those emojis aren’t supported by a subscriber’s email client.

Broken emoji in the subject line.

For more on emojis, check out Jilt’s post on the five best ways to properly use emojis in email subject lines.

Subject line content strategies

Because subject lines are so important, you’ll want to go in with a plan and a purpose. Here we’ll cover some of the top strategies, psychological tricks, and sales techniques you can use to maximize the effectiveness of your subject lines.

Curiosity gap

The curiosity gap is so powerful that Facebook more or less had to ban its use to keep curiosity-gap fueled headlines from completely overtaking news feeds. A curiosity gap subject line teases the content inside, asks a question, leaves something open-ended, says something bold or outlandish that needs further evidence and explanation, or promises something surprising or unusual. It was a technique that companies like Upworthy used to completely take over Facebook feeds in the 2010s—the headlines were so alluring people couldn’t resist clicking and engaging—until Facebook overhauled its algorithm to stop rewarding companies exploiting our naturally inquisitive human nature.

Fortunately, no such banishment exists when it comes to email marketing. So you can use the curiosity gap (sparingly, overuse means people will start to view your emails as clickbait) to juice your subject lines.

Play into the curiosity gap using curiosity words like: astonishing, banned, behind the scenes, censored, classified, confidential, elusive, extraordinary, eye opening, forgotten, hidden, insider, invitation only, off the record, priceless, secret, unbelievable, unique, unusual. Notice, though, that many of those words start to get precariously close to sounding spammy. That’s another reason why you should use the curiosity gap judiciously—you can get away with saying something’s “banned” or “secret” or a “mystery” once in a while, but not in every email.

Mystery gap in a subject line.

Another way to play with the curiosity gap? Using no subject line at all. One study found that occasionally going with no subject could increase an open rate by up to 60 percent. In this example, Pier 1 goes with no subject. The preview text that follows is there to make it clear this email, despite its lack of subject, was most certainly an intentional send and continues stoking the curiosity gap.

Using no subject line.

Topical and funny

Topical subject lines are a good way to connect with your customers and show them that you’re real, relevant, and just like them. They also tie into timely, purposeful emails, as we discussed in the section on email frequency—no one can question the trigger behind email about a current pop culture event or news topic. Here’s a look at some of the March Madness-themed subject lines brands sent during the 2019 NCAA Tournament—some are from sporting goods companies, yes, but many aren’t.

March Madness subject lines.

Funny subject lines hit many of the same notes—they show there’s a real person or team behind the emails, and feel more personal and less corporate. Humor triggers a positive emotional response and, when done well, really stands out from all the dry subject lines in a person’s inbox. And people want you to be funny; a Nielsen study found that in North America and Europe, half of people say humorous messages are the most appealing type of advertising message.

Here’s a subject from BottleKeeper that promotes their product (fancy koozies to keep beer bottles cold) by framing the problem it solves in an unexpected and humorous way.

A humorous subject line.

One good route to try is movie titles and song lyrics. A study found emails with film or music references in their titles had nearly double the open rates of other emails.

Here’s an example from AppSumo. From the song lyric they chose to parody—and how intentional their marketing is as a company—I’d guess their target market is people roughly 30 to 45, as those are the people whose musical tastes were shaped by the great-but-terrible music of the ‘90s. When you pick movie quotes or song lyrics, pick ones that will resonate with your target customer.

Using a song lyric as a subject line.

Honest and direct

As much as you want your email subject lines to stand out, sometimes, directness is the best approach. An honest, direct subject line skips all the cleverness, humor, and psychological tricks of the other techniques—and just flat out tells a person what they’ll get by opening your email. It turns out that works; one study found they performed 366 percent better than more creative subject lines.

Here’s about as honest and direct of a subject line as you’ll ever see, from the watch store Hodinkee. Not only does the subject exclude any marketing-oriented or sales-y copy, it gets into serious granular detail which (I assume) means something to the customers Hodinkee is targeting.

An honest and direct subject line.

Urgency, scarcity, and FOMO

We’re all wired to react to something urgent, something scarce, something we might miss out on if we don’t ACT NOW. You can capitalize on that very universal, very human quality with your subject lines.

The studies back it up. Return Path found subject lines that conveyed a sense of urgency performed better than any other types of subject lines, with words like “still time,” “expiring,” and “last chance” making a significant impact on open rates. Other studies as well have found higher open rates and better performance from words in subject lines that create time sensitivity and scarcity.

And marketers definitely realize it. I was going to take a screenshot of one subject line that created a sense of urgency—then noticed that the three emails above it and the three emails below it all also had subject lines using the urgency strategy.

Lots of subject lines with urgency.

To that end—don’t overdo it. If everything you send feels urgent then, eventually, nothing feels urgent—especially if things aren’t actually urgent. If your emails always warn that a product is about to sell out but it never seems to actually sell out… well, then you’ve lost credibility and your urgent subject lines lose their effectiveness. And since it’s clear that people are getting lots and lots of emails using this strategy, you’ll stand out from the pack by mixing in other strategies as well.

If everything you send feels urgent then, eventually, nothing feels urgent—especially if things aren’t actually urgent.

Make a promise

When we talked about getting people to subscribe to your eCommerce email marketing list, we kept going back to the principle of “What’s in it for me?” Why should someone subscribe to your list? Now that they’ve subscribed, the principle still holds true—why should they open your emails? What’s in it for them?

That’s where making a promise comes in. If your email subject lines can realistically, genuinely, and convincingly promise that the content in that email (and, ultimately, the products or services you sell) will make a person’s life better in some notable way, they’ll want to click to find out how.

Here’s an email Lids sent near the beginning of the Christmas season promising to help you stop stressing about holiday shopping by being the place where you can “get your list done this weekend.”

A subject line that makes a promise.

Make sure when your subscribers click into your email, you clearly demonstrate how you’re going to fulfill the promise of the subject line. Things like social proof and case studies will go a long way in that regard.

Personalization

We’ll cover personalization in emails more another lesson, but personalized subject lines do deserve their own section here. After all, one of the biggest keys to effective email marketing is making your emails relevant to each specific customer—how better to demonstrate relevance than to include their name and/or a reference to their specific needs?

A personalized subject line.

Studies have overwhelmingly shown the effectiveness of personalized subject lines. Marketing Sherpa found a 41.8 percent improvement in open rates with personalized subjects. Experian found 29 percent higher open rates and 41 percent higher click-through rates. Other studies from Yes Marketing and Mailchimp also found increased open rates through personalization. No one’s saying personalization is bad.

Well… almost no one. Adobe found an interesting insight its 2017 email use report: A notable 15 percent of people (including 17 percent of people under 34) said the most annoying thing email marketers do is send emails that are too personalized because they’re “creepy.”

One study found 15 percent of people call overly personalized emails “creepy.”

You don’t want to fall into the “creepy” category, you want to fall into the effective category. One way to do that is to personalize in ways other than using the person’s first name. The Yes Marketing study found including other customer details, like general location, or saying things like “You’re two purchases away from a free gift” had the same benefits as directly personalizing with a person’s name.

Second person personalization.

Also, make sure you build your template so if you don’t have a subscriber’s name on file, the subject line doesn’t look like, “Hey [name], we value you as a customer, here’s a discount!” That’s a quick way to shoot any hope of authenticity or a connection right in the foot. Always have a fallback in place for holes in your data.

Broken personalization in a subject line looks bad.

Subject line word choices

The words you pick for your subject line make a big difference—even the tiny, subtle differences in the tenor or implication of similar words can change the entire vibe of your email. Here are some tips on words to choose and words to avoid.

Words to use in email subject lines

There are three broad categories of words that will resonate in your email subject lines. Of course, you’ll need the right word for the right strategy, but, in general, keep these in mind. (These words come via studies from Adestra, Return Path, Campaign Monitor, Mailchimp, and Coschedule.)

Action words. Examples include words like celebrate, introducing, fastest, register, remember, try.

FOMO and urgency words. Examples include 24 hours, breaking, expiring, hurry, limited time, order today, still time.

Sales and discount words.  Examples include back in stock, exclusive, great deals, invitation, thank you, upgrade.

Words to avoid in email subject lines

There are also three broad categories of words that will significantly hamper your email open rates. (These words come from studies from Adestra, Yesware, Return Path, Mailchimp, and Coschedule.)

Boring words. Examples include forecast, industry, intelligence, report, terms and conditions, whitepaper.

Deceptive, spammy, or inauthentic words. Examples include 2 for 1, clearance, double your income, earn extra cash, f r e e, miracle, no obligation, refinance, risk free.

Demands. Examples include compare rates, fill out, get started now, respond, training.

Test different words to see which resonate

As you’re setting up your subject line A/B tests, you may want to try different words to see which resonate best—because even one word choice can lead to big results. For example, one study found that “freebie” in a subject line led to 13 times more clicks than “free.”

Aim for words that fit your overall brand, the subject line strategy you’ve chosen, and your specific audience and demographic. As you test and refine your word choices, it should become clear which words create the proper sense of urgency and curiosity—and which words cross the line into inauthenticity or mundanity.

Preview text

Preview text doesn’t get nearly the attention of the subject line, but it’s almost as important—and, in fact, works in tandem with the subject line to paint the full picture of why a subscriber just needs to open your email.

An example of preview text.

Preview text is the line that appears either under or next to the subject line in virtually all email clients. (Support for it is spotty in older versions of Outlook, but other than that, it should show up for most recipients.) It should be pretty easy to set—here’s how to do it in Jilt, as you’re editing your email settings.

How to enter preview text.

It’s important to note that that there’s a slight difference between preview text and pre-header text. Preview text is the line that appears in the inbox; pre-header text is the line that appears at the very top of an email (often something like “Want fewer emails?” or “View in browser.” While they can be the same piece of text, they don’t have to be. And if you don’t set the preview text, the email client will fill it in automatically with the first line of your email—and that’s just a waste of valuable, limited inbox real estate.

Here’s an example where there was no preview text set, so the inbox displays the pre-header text (as you can see at the top of the email itself).

Roughly a quarter of people say the preview text is the first thing they look at when deciding whether or not to open an email—so it’s not something to neglect.

Preview text length

There haven’t been any studies into the ideal length of preview text. However, since the goal is to preview the email, the ideal length is the length that will fully display across email platforms and clients (especially mobile ones) so your subscribers can see your message.

The recommendation is to keep your preview text under 35 characters to make sure it shows up in full pretty much everywhere. You can go longer—but make sure to put the most important part of your message within those first 35 characters.

The email client will continue to pull from the body of the email once your preview text is done, however. That doesn’t always look great. Here’s an email where the preview text is just five of the star emoji—which might look cool, but the effect is ruined when the email client begins automatically filling in the rest of the space after those emojis with the first bits of text from the email body.

Long preview text.

There is a workaround called the ‌  technique. The name comes from the HTML code you’d use—a hidden block of zero-width non-joiners (‌) and non-breaking spaces ( )—to follow your preview text with white space. A study by Litmus in 2018 found only 22 percent of brands were using that technique—and two-thirds hadn’t even heard of it. Here it is in action from Funko, along with a look at the code that produces the effect.

Creating white space after preview text.

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Preview text content strategies

The key to good preview text is having it work with your subject line so that, in totality, they give the subscriber a basic understanding of what the email is about. Here are some different preview text-subject line combo strategies you can use in different scenarios.

One clever, one straightforward

We affectionately call this the “mullet strategy”—basically, one part business, one part party. If your subject line is witty, clever, a pop culture reference, or an attention-grabbing marketing slogan, the preview text can complement it with the nuts-and-bolts of the offer in the email.

This email from PacSun utilizes the clever/straightforward method very well. The bolded subject catches the eye and cites a trend, then uses punctuation to direct the subscriber to the preview text. The preview text then actually explains what the subject is referring to, plus throws in the free shipping offer.

One clever, one straightforward.

And likewise, if your subject line is delivering straightforward info, you can use the preview text to add a marketing slogan, a little bit of fun, or some personality. Here’s an email from Banana Republic that gets the offer across in the subject line, then uses the preview text for the simple marketing hook “Don’t miss this.”

A mix of techniques with subject line and preview text.

Elaboration

Rather than setting the subject line and preview text up as contrasting elements, you can use the preview text to elaborate on the subject line. This works well if you have a lot of eye-catching products on sale, or you want to laser focus on the “honest and direct” content strategy discussed above.

Using preview text to elaborate.

Double tease

The double tease is the opposite of elaboration—instead of going the straightforward route with both the subject line and preview text, you go the teaser route. It’s not easy to pull off, but if you’ve got extremely alluring copy for your subject line and you don’t want to shatter the curiosity gap by revealing too much with the preview text, you can give it a shot.

A double mystery.

From field

The from field doesn’t get the same attention as the subject line or even the preview text, but it’s the third element of each email’s inbox presence and contributes toward establishing credibility, authenticity, and setting tone. The from field is the small area that shows who the email is from (or, if left blank, the sender’s email address).

The from field.

The from field does play a role in whether someone opens an email as well, quite possibly a much more monumental role than you think; one study surprisingly found 68 percent of people say the from field is more likely to make them want to open an email than the subject line. (PDF)

Why would the from field make such an impact? Perhaps because someone scanning lots of marketing emails in their inbox is looking for anticipated emails from their favorite brands.

From field length

Much like the preview text, there haven’t been any studies into ideal from field lengths. But again, common sense says keeping it short, so it displays in full across all devices, especially mobile ones, is the smart play.

To stay as safe as possible, shoot for 20 characters or less. That’s not a lot, but it doesn’t have to be; the from field is a place to convey a subtle tone in an extremely succinct way. That’s doable in 20 characters. 

The screenshot below shows Gmail in a web browser on desktop and it cuts off the from field at exactly 20 characters. It’s safe to say a lot of your subscribers use Gmail and check it on the web on desktop, so respect the 20-character cutoff.

The from field character limit.

From field strategy

There are different tactics you can take with the from field depending on the nature of the email, although, in many cases, brands just default to the first of these options.

Company name

This is the Occam’s razor of the from field: Why overthink it? Just put your company’s name and get it over with. This works particularly well if your brand is well-known (at least to your subscribers) to give your email that nice credibility boost.

A straightforward from field.

A simple from field with your company’s name won’t distract from the offer in your subject line and preview text. And it’s better than leaving the from field blank so an email address awkwardly displays.

Reminder of what you do

A company name works for large brands, or brands that send regular emails. What if you don’t fall into either of those categories? The from field can be a good chance to give a quick reminder of who you are and your core business. That’s a good way to instantly re-introduce yourself to your customers and subscribers, especially if your company name doesn’t include a direct reference to what you do. (And yes, it’s funny that in the example below, the company is one of Walmart’s brands—with Walmart being one of the most recognizable names on the planet. Vudu, it seems, still has a ways to go.)

Using the from field as a reminder of what your business does.

Something clever

Clever from fields aren’t particularly common. But if you can think of a funny little, on-brand from field touch that could  enhance one of your emails, it’s a low risk, high reward chance you can take. Here’s an example from the brand Shinesty, which makes ridiculous clothing—and, therefore, can get away with being wilder in the inbox. To remind me to use my $10 off coupon, the email comes from “alexander.hamilton@shinesty.com”—a subtle joke on Hamilton’s presence on the $10 bill. (He also happens to be trendy thanks to the musical about his life.)

A creative from field.

A person’s name

Sometimes a personal touch makes more sense than a corporate one. When you’re sending things like welcome emails or requests for reviews, it makes more sense for those emails to feel like they’re coming from one person than from the company as a whole. The same can apply to any plain text or text-heavy emails you send—if the email is designed to feel personal, give it the personal touch of a real name in the from field.

Here are examples of two different approaches to using a person’s name in the from field. In one, the email comes just from the sender’s name (“Ryan Luedecke”). In the other, the email has a first name and the company for a personal touch with a reminder about the brand at large (“Kate at Telegramme”).

From field with real names.

A person’s name can also create a sense of mystery and clickability in an email—if it’s a person’s name you don’t recognize with an alluring subject line, the curiosity gap kicks in and makes you want to figure out what’s happening inside that email.

Just make sure that someone not intimately familiar with your business will have some idea what brand is behind the email (or what the point of the email is). Here’s an email in my box that gives absolutely no indication who it’s from or what’s going on. (And on top of that, the << Test First Name >> gaffe in the preview field further hurts it. This email feels like one that has a decent chance of someone marking as spam without even opening it.)

An ambiguous inbox presence.

Summary and implementations

Summary

The best marketing email in the world won’t sell a thing if no one opens it, which is why you need to think carefully and strategically about how your emails will appear in your subscribers’ inboxes. There are three components of an email’s inbox presence:  Subject line, preview text, and from field.

When it comes to the appearance of your subject line, you’ll want to keep the following things in mind:

  • There’s no definitive proof of a perfect length, but you should aim for 35 characters or less to stay safe on different sized screens.
  • You can play with things like capitalization, symbols, and numbers to vary up the appearance of your subject lines and send subtle messages.
  • And after an oversaturation of emojis in email subject lines, it’s now best to use them judiciously to enhance your words, not replace them.

As for the content, there are a number of different strategies to try.

  • Curiosity gap. An open-ended question, bold or surprising statement, or alluring tease can entice readers to click to find out more.
  • Topical and funny. Topical and/or funny subject lines give your emails personality, send the message that a real person is behind them, and help make an emotional connection.
  • Honest and direct. Just saying what your email is about, clearly and directly, can be a way to cut through all the clutter in a person’s inbox.
  • Urgency, scarcity, and FOMO. Humans are wired to respond to urgency and scarcity, which is why these subject lines are so popular and do so well.
  • Make a promise. Use the subject line to show someone how the content of your email (and the products it’s selling) will make the person’s life better and solve their big problem.
  • Personalization. Studies have found open rates and subsequent click-through rates improve with personalized subject lines—either with the person’s name or some relevant detail to things like their purchase history or location.

As you choose the language for your subject lines, there are types of words (and specific words) you should use and avoid. The best words to use are:

  • Action words.
  • FOMO and urgency words.
  • Sales and discount words.

Words to avoid are:

  • Boring words.
  • Deceptive, spammy, or inauthentic words.
  • Demands.

Preview text can provide support, context, or contrast for your subject line as they work in tandem to get your message across.

  • One clever, one straightforward. You can use the preview text to give the specifics on a subject line, or use the preview text to throw in a marketing slogan behind a straightforward subject line.
  • Elaboration. Your preview text can elaborate on your subject line, which can be good in situations where you have a lot of different products to feature.
  • Double tease. Both your subject line and preview text can build the curiosity gap to really try to push a subscriber to open the email to find out more.

The from field shows who’s sending the email and also sends a signal about credibility, tone, and brand.

  • Company name. The most common strategy for the from field is just making it a company name.
  • Reminder of what you do. If you send infrequent emails, you may want to use the from field to re-introduce yourself and what you do.
  • Something clever. It’s rare and probably wouldn’t work for every brand, but a clever from field can set a special tone for an email.
  • A person’s name. Add a personal touch, especially on plain text emails or requests for things like reviews, by having the email come from a specific person, not the brand at large.

Implementations

Step 1: Figure out the right subject line (and preview text) strategy for your email

  • What’s the goal of the email? For instance, if it’s a sale, a subject line that creates a sense of urgency or a topical tie-in could work. A new product? Curiosity gap or make a promise.
  • Is there a way to personalize the subject line?
  • How will the preview text work in partnership with the subject line?

Step 2: Craft the subject line and preview text

  • Keep it short and put the important info up front.
  • Try using different capitalization, punctuation, and emojis. Do they make the subject line look better and more enticing?
  • Write your preview text to complement your subject line.

Step 3: Decide on the from field

  • Who should this come from? Your brand, your brand with an explanation of what you do (e.g. “Vudu – Movies and TV”), or a real person?
  • Keep the from field under 20 characters to stay safe across platforms, especially Gmail.

Step 4: Test this email, and future emails

  • Send a test version of the email. Check on as many different browsers, email clients, platforms, and screen sizes as you can. Does it look good in every inbox?
  • Plan out A/B tests on either this or future emails to find your most effective subject lines, preview text, and from field.

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