Okay, email marketer mavens: forget that “awesome” in the headline of this story. It was a mistake. So were the exclamation points.
The awesome word is a no-no, according to Christopher Ratcliff, a writer at Econsultancy, a company which advises internet marketers on a wide variety of topics. So are excessive exclamation points and other subject line madness. His recent internet screed, “45 words to avoid in your email marketing subject lines,” is — frankly — spot on.
Ratcliff says there is an art to writing a successful email subject line — and it doesn’t involve words like “awesome,” “adorbs,” “free,” “help,” and “holiday sales event.”
“There’s an art to writing a good email subject line,” writes Ratcliff. “If it’s a personal email to somebody that knows me, they’ll be expecting something obscure, weird or occasionally offensive. However, if it’s a marketing email sent to a relative stranger, there are definitely some things you’ll want to avoid.”
For email marketers, this matters. A lot. Why are email subject lines so important? Econsultancy contributor Parry Malm had this to say when Ratcliff queried him:
“Your subject line is without a doubt the most important part of your email campaign. You get 100 percent eyeshare from it regardless of whether or not an email is opened.”
The article details some standard email subject line come-ons as well as the problems that they cause. The word “free,” for instance, tends to trigger spam filters — no marketer worth its salt wants to end up in the same spam folder as appeals to accept a billion dollars from a long lost Nigerian relative.
Ratcliff also advises that subject lines like “help” or “shop early and save” don’t generate positive response. “Help” is just plain irksome — and the shop early gambit has been played way too many times to engender action.
Ratcliff has other advice.
“Just describe the content of your email in the most straightforward and concise manner possible, without making it sound like an advertisement,” he said. “Try ‘newsletter’ or ‘promotion’ instead, thereby rewarding your recipients with a discount after opening.”
Ratcliff is particularly dismissive of what he labels “Tiresome Internet Slang.”
“If it hasn’t dated already, chances are somewhere and for someone, it already has: LOL, amazeballs, WTF, derp, FTW, epic fail, epic win, cray-cray, totes, adorbs.”
Writing in all caps is also a no-go. Why shout?
In other subject line fails, Ratcliff notes the “Erroneous Personalization” problem. That’s when you get an email subject headed “Dear Paul” when your name is Christopher. Not only does this failed personalization not engender a positive response, it actually racks up a negative one likely to turn off recipients to any future appeals.
“Personalization means nothing if your data isn’t correct and you don’t have 100% confidence in it,” Ratcliff notes.
In his polemic, Ratcliff notes a special personal animus for punctuation faux pas and emoticon abuse. To email marketers devising subject lines, he advises against a litany of losers: excessive exclamation points, smiley faces, emoticons, stars, squiggles, hearts, anything that starts with < and ends with > (that makes recipients think there’s a coding error).
“Although just to add balance, I did learn that travel site Travelocity achieved a 10.7 percent lift in unique opens by using a little airplane in its subject line,” Ratcliff admitted. “Which proves that relevancy to content and uniqueness is imperative to proper symbol use.”
One of Ratcliff’s best pieces of advice:
“Awesome: Just stop using it. Everywhere. At all times.”
To read the whole awesome — oops — essay, click here.