Subject Line Testing Strategy

Hands up who has a strategy for testing subject lines of their email campaigns?

I’d bet that if you asked a room of email marketers what the most important part of any email campaign is, most if not all will say the subject line.

It doesn’t matter how good your offer or the content you’ve slaved over is. It doesn’t matter how good your email design looks or how long you’ve spent over the call to actions to get people to click, if no one opens, who cares!

Ask that same room of email marketers how many actually test their subject lines on a regular basis and I’d have a wager with you that not many do.

And of those that do test, do so because they think it’s the right thing to do, without having much of a plan as to why, what and how.


Developing a subject line strategy

Developing a strategy for subject line testing

Firstly it’s important to know where you are. What are your current open rates across your different type of campaigns?

How do you stack up against your competition? Most email service providers (ESP) will provide some benchmark reports where you can see how companies in a similar industry are performing.

These are useful but as every email list is different should only be used as a rough guide.

After determining where you stand you need to decide where you want to be. The idea here is to be specific. I want to increase open rates by X% by X.

Once you decide where you want to be, you need to decide how you are going to get there.

Here you need to decide what you are going to test. It’s not good enough just to think of two subject lines that are a little bit different, that’s too vague.

For example you might want to test personalisation in the subject line vs non personalised. Or you could test having a call to action in the subject line vs a more standard formal type.

Whatever you decide you want to test, be consistent with it. You must test over a period of time and monitor the results.

Once you’ve tested and found what works then find something else to test against that. You can be continually refining your strategy and soon you’ll have a set of subject line formulas that work for your audience.

You can then use these to create your own benchmarks to measure your success against.

So in summary, to develop your own subject line strategy you need to:

Know where you currently stand

Know where you want to get to

Decide what you are going to test consistently over a number of campaigns

Analyse the results


Phil Monk

I am a email marketing consultant with over 10 years experience running B2C, B2B and eCommerce campaigns. I’ve also run and managed SEO and PPC campaigns

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