How to get your emails read

Increase your readers with catchy headings and avoid being ignored, caught in spam filters or trashed, sight unseen.

When studying open rates for email newsletters sent on behalf of our clients as well as my own, it’s clear that a catchy heading on a topical subject is the reason why some get read (i.e. links clicked on and action taken) and others ignored.

Write your email heading first – and last

I like to craft my titles first, as it helps me to focus and can inspire better writing. But I always revisit the title or subject line when I’m finished and often spend as long on the subject line as on the entire piece. Why? Because a heading can make all the difference between something being read, or not.

Ask a question/Solve a problem

Take advantage of human’s inherent curiosity by asking a relevant question. For your wellbeing clients, it may be ‘What foods give you more get-up-and-go?’; ‘Which exercise really shifts kilos?’ or ‘How to relax and stay on top of things?’

We all puzzle over problems and possible solutions. Helping solve a problem through an E-News makes you helpful and knowledgeable, helps build your expertise and authority, and spreads the love. Problem-solving subject lines often start with ‘How to…’

Limit length

Look at the subject lines of emails in your inbox – if it can’t be read in a glance, it’s far less effective, right? Most email programs restrict headings to 50 characters, so stay under this or, better still, reduce it further. Keep it sweet by keeping it short.

Test your subject line on a smartphone such as an iPhone, Blackberry or Nokia N8 to ensure your subject line isn’t chopped off before you’ve made your point.

Avoid oblivion

Many published emails waste prime email space with ‘Add us to your safe senders list’ or ‘View email in your browser’. Take advantage of the preview plane in programs such as Gmail and Outlook and craft a concise ‘teaser’ sentence to act as a secondary subject line (or sub-heading). This may be enough to compel recipients to click and read rather than trashing your hard work.

Avoid being shunted to the Spam bin by ditching: ‘free’, ‘help’ and the symbols $ % or !

Remember that time is precious. Make your headings as catchy and informative as possible while avoiding temptation to promise something that you don’t deliver in the email.