Email headlines must be compelling enough to capture your readers’ attention. When you write a less than ideal email headline, most likely your recipient may trash it before they read it.
Many features can make or break a headline’s power to draw in a reader. In this blog post, I refer to the headline and subject line as interchangeable phrases for the same part of the email, the single line of text your email recipient sees when they open their email.
Email Headlines: Best Practices
Length Matters: The Mobile Market
The statistics vary regarding what percentage of readers see their email on a smartphone versus a desktop device. We know that a significant portion of email users look at email on their phones, so we need to design headlines and the email body accordingly.
Here’s a suggestion. Open your smartphone and count the number of letters and spaces that you can see on the screen. When I did this, I came up with 34 characters and spaces.
Your subject line can be longer when your recipient sees email on a computer. But because you have no control on where your email readers see your messages, write shorter headlines.
Put the most important words at the beginning of your headline because somebody may not see the entire subject line if you exceed 34 characters and spaces.
I am certain that you have more emails in your inbox daily than you can open if you are like me. And if you are like me, periodically, you scan down and click delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete. You look at the subject line. Is it something that’s going to interest you? If not, it is gone.
What to Avoid in Your Email Headlines
Avoid using spam words in your subject lines, such as free, buy now, or punctuation like all caps and multiple exclamation marks. You are allowed to use only one exclamation mark. That rule applies everywhere.
Also, avoid trying to trick spam filters by inserting numbers into words, like Fr33. These emails may go right to the spam folder.
7 Email Headline Tips for Eye Catching Emails
- Keep your header short (34 characters or under).
- Use CAPS sparingly to emphasize a single word,
- a) because it’s associated with shouting, and
- b) because less of your headline will show.
- Depending on who will receive the message, an emoji in the header may be suitable. You will see these most often in marketing emails.
- Avoid having an emoji replace a word.
- Lead with the most crucial point.
- Check your headline before finalizing it using a tool like https://www.omnisend.com/subject-line-tester/.
- Also see this tool: https://www.gmass.co/blog/inbox-spam-promotions-email-delivery-testing-tool/
Google usually displays 50-60 characters of a headline, so, regardless of a headline’s length, the beginning needs to be compelling for English-language headlines.
Next, let’s explore some tactics helpful in getting your headlines read.
The Numbers Game
According to many surveys, putting a number into your headline makes it more attractive. Some surveys say that 10 is the most popular number; others claim it’s 7.
- 10 Ways to Conquer Medical Records
- 5 Ways to Use AI in Handling Medical Cases
- [PDF checklist] 7-Step Process for Using Adobe Acrobat for Organizing Clinical Files
Numbers make it appear that the email will provide detailed and practical information, i.e., a “how-to” feature.
I don’t, however, recommend a title that reads something like “101 Things You Must Do Immediately to Succeed.” Readers know they will never do 101 things immediately and will feel that reading the article will be pointless or frustrating.
Bracketed words draw attention, particularly if they are the first in the headline. Popular words and phrases include:
[Just released], and
Email Headlines Using‘How to’
Your email readers love to learn how to solve problems. This drive is why do-it-yourself videos are so popular on YouTube.
When you write relevant headlines, your readers pay attention.
- How to interpret an ED record
- How to prepare a defendant for a deposition
- How to spot an altered flowsheet
- How to find out what is missing in a history and physical
- How to detect copy and paste (and why this is so popular)
These headlines create a pattern interrupt. For this tactic to work, your headline has to appeal to something the reader wants or needs. If you connect to this desire, they will click on the email.
Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: Science and Practice was a game changer for many marketers.
Psychologist Cialdini outlines the factors that cause us to act. One of these is scarcity.
Opportunities seem more desirable when they are less available, either by quantity or time.
These headlines appeal to the urgency trigger:
[Price increase in a few hours]
[Starting In 30 minutes], and
People have FOMO — fear of missing out.
Here are 5 examples:
- Last chance for 73% off!
- Now or never
- Your Pricing Workbook<<gone in 5 hours!
- We’re LIVE & Your Seat is About to be Snatched. Join us Now or Miss Out!
- It’s going…If you missed out before, watch the replay now!
Here are 7 of the most successful emotional words used in headlines.
- Freebie (always a hit) as in Freebie Friday
- Fun (Who doesn’t want to have fun?)
- Must-have (What must I have?)
- Effortless (I need some of that)
- Special Offer (always tempting)
- Last Chance (even more compelling)
- Approved (that sounds legitimate)
You can see a long list of emotional words at https://media.coschedule.com/uploads/180-Emotional-Words-List.pdf
Emphasize the Practical Nature of the Information
Words like “lessons,” “reasons,” “secrets,” “key,” and “trick” are wildly successful when combined with a number. “10 Secrets to Transform a Critical Care Case” could be a compelling headline.
I don’t care for the word “hack,” as in “life hacks,” but it deserves inclusion here.
Announcements trigger something urgent in us. We want to be informed, up-to-date, and knowledgeable.
Examples of words:
- Just added
Here’s one from my inbox: “Announcing Weekend Special: 3 Bestselling Apps for Free”.
Note how it combines an announcement with urgency and the word “free.” The free word can be associated with spam, however.
“The winners of the contest are….” Who wouldn’t want to open this, hoping to see their name?
You want people to feel like they must open the email to stay updated on information so they don’t miss out on something critical. Create the same sense of anticipation and even fear in your readers.
Check out websites like Buzzfeed.com, which stokes readers’ curiosity with their headlines. They write a weird headline and then elaborate in the body of the article. I have spent more hours on BuzzFeed than I care to admit.
You can use this same tactic with the subject lines of your emails to tease the reader about getting them to open your email.
- Making an income when you don’t have a product yet
- Surprising ways to find missing details in a medical record
- Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting this knock on the door
- A single line of code saves you from lawsuits
- Why working hard is better than working smart
Then, in the email, you must answer the question. Otherwise, your readers could feel like the subject line duped them. That’s clickbait.
Match the Headline to the Email Message
Avoid clickbait, which is an incongruent headline. Clickbait refers to content that deliberately misrepresents or over-promises something. A man used this clickbait headline: “He secretly spied on me and ripped off all my stuff.” Because I know this man, I was concerned and read his email twice looking for the details. He wrote nothing about the incident. I felt ripped off.
Marketers can also use clickbait to entice someone to click on a link that will take them to a website. When used in headline content, it attempts to induce someone to read the article.
Readers feel tricked by clickbait. I wouldn’t write a headline, “How to Become Irresistible.” You can’t deliver on that promise.
“I Can Teach You How to Interpret an OB flowsheet” or “I Can Help You Cut Your Time Weeding Through Medical Records” make reasonable claims for people experienced in these respective areas.
Our email users are more sophisticated now. Email systems typically offer a way for you to insert a code so that the email recipient receives an email containing their name. When I started using this feature in 2009, I had a few people think I sent them a one-on-one email, and they responded. Yet, this technique continues to work and increase email open rates.
The name code is the first word in the headline. Note that long names can reduce the usable number of spaces and charters. You may also insert the name code in the body of the email once or twice.
Ask a Question
Questions stop the scroll through the email inbox. They force the reader to think and come up with an answer. Often designed to create curiosity, questions encourage interaction and push the reader to open the email to get the answer.
Here are 7 examples:
- Do you agree with this?
- Will Clubhouse Kill Podcasting?
- Need legit book reviews?
- Do you hate the blank page?
- How does a quick win sound, Pat?
- Your membership in this economy?
- Is Tony Robbins…a FAILURE?
Quick List of Additional Tactics
- Make them laugh: “Marilyn Monroe birthday dress designer Bob Mackie calls Kim Kardashian to wear a big mistake”
- Pull their heartstrings: “Body of Brittancee Drexel, who vanished in 2009, found in South Carolina and suspect charged
- Solve a problem: “Solve your sleeping problems with this ebook”
- Show the outcome: “In just 7 days, you’ll be slimmer”
- Present a comparison: “If you love gelato, you’ll be thrilled with frozen yogurt” (I don’t think so. Nothing beats gelato.)
- Include a statistic: “It costs 50% less to grow your own vegetables than to buy them”
- Play with words: “Turn tiny checklists into big business”
- Parachute into a story: “Fat squirrel doesn’t let her thoughts get in the way of success”
- Offer an invitation: “I need your help”
- Ask a burning question: “What makes life meaningful for you?”
- Give a clear command: “Join us at the Masterclass on Thursday at 7 PM Eastern”
- Share something valuable for your subscribers: “Create your irresistible opt-in offer”
- Write something unexpected or intriguing: A company called The Basketry used this line: “Join us for a Bling-ing good time”
How better to use your time while waiting in a supermarket checkout line than scanning magazine headlines? I recall my son reading the bizarre headlines in wonderment. “Mommy, are there really aliens in New Jersey?”
Although I don’t advocate using these kinds of headlines, studying the ones that create curiosity is worthwhile.
Also, look at Facebook and LinkedIn headlines to focus on the ones that attract you. Ask others to rate your headlines. Then practice. It can take time to write a good headline, but it’s time well spent.
Get my free Email Toolkit: Writing Emails That Get Results at mywriting.tips/ET. You’ll receive a subject line swipe file you can repeatedly use and a checklist to evaluate your emails before you send them.
Pat Iyer is president of The Pat Iyer Group, which develops resources to assist LNCs in obtaining more clients, making more money, and achieving their business goals and dreams.
Get all of Pat’s content in one place by downloading the mobile app, Expert Edu at www.legalnursebusiness.com/expertedu. Watch videos, listen to podcasts, read blogs, watch online courses and training, and more.