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Published on January 30th, 2009 | by Janine Popick

8

How Not To Write a Subject Line

I was recently on an “email marketing resources” site and found some horrifying information that was being given on how to write a great subject line. We all know that one of THE most important parts of an email campaign is the subject line and everyone is trying to come up with the perfect one, but this resource for email marketing is wrong, wrong, wrong!

Here are four subject lines that this website uses, but that you should never use in your campaigns. Not only do they break best practices, but in some cases they break the law. The CAN SPAM ruling states that for any commercial email, you must have your subject line relate to the content of the email.

Subject Line #1 – Hi, My name is Paul

This is a game to trick the recipient into opening an email. It may raise curiosity, however, when the recipient opens the email they’re going to feel tricked and unsubscribe.

Subject Line #2 – I need your help, please?

There’s something about wanting to help another human being, however there is also something about lying to your recipient to get your email opened. Don’t do it.

Subject Line #3 – Bob, I haven’t received your shipping address yet.

What! My shipping address? What do you need my shipping address for? This particular subject line is really scary because it seems like the sender is trying to get more information from the recipient. Also, it’s scary because it’s personalized to the recipient so they may actually give it. This could also be seen as a form of phishing.

Subject Line #4 – Bob, Please accept my sincerest apology.

Unless you’re actually apologizing for something sincere, don’t use this subject line.

All of these examples of subject lines are unscrupulous especially because they don’t relate at all to the copy. Avoid being seen as a spammer, and avoid being non compliant with the FTC CAN SPAM rulings.

© 2009 – 2013, Janine Popick. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

is a contributing author for VerticalResponse.



8 Responses to How Not To Write a Subject Line

  1. Mitch Tarr says:

    This is a well timed email. I have clients who want to use this type of curiosity or trickery all the time. They don’t understand that this type of unqualified open is just not worth anything.

  2. Nwest says:

    It’d be interesting to get a breakdown of what types of subject lines work best. Detailed? Number of word? That type of thing.

  3. Your Vertical Response Newsletter just came today. Perfect timing.
    I just started my email campaign. Here are some of the headlines I’ve been using. I try to be as honest as possible since I don’t want anyone to perceive my emails as spam.
    Tell me what you think:
    – Spectacular Job Posting Savings at gighoppers.com
    – Get Your FREE (45 Days) Job Postings at gighoppers.com.
    – Post Jobs for FREE at gighoppers.com for 45 Days.
    – “Company Name”: 45 Days Free Job Postings at gighoppers.com
    I stopped using the word “Free” because of spam filters. I’m currently trying to come up with something that works without using the word “Free”.
    Any thoughts or suggestions are welcome.

  4. Since so many of you wanted to know how TO write a subject line, here are a few previous posts. Hope this helps!
    5 Tips on How To Write a Subject Line
    http://www.verticalresponse.com/blog/verticalresponse_blog/2006/08/5_tips_on_a_how.html
    A List of Subject Lines and Offers for the Holidays
    http://www.verticalresponse.com/blog/verticalresponse_blog/2006/11/a_list_of_subje.html
    How To Test a Subject Line in 3 Easy Steps
    http://www.verticalresponse.com/blog/verticalresponse_blog/2008/10/how-to-test-a-s.html

  5. J Shilling says:

    Say, how about a link to “How TO Write a Subject Line”?

  6. Terence says:

    Wow, great couple of ideas. I knew I wanted to stay away from those things, but I couldn’t articulate why.
    Also, I haven’t been sure how to apply the FTC CAN SPAM laws, so it is great to see a little application here.

  7. Mike Lee says:

    Well that’s nice. Where is the flip side of the coin that is subject lines which work

  8. Roy says:

    Hello
    Yes I agree with you on this subject we all are trying to come up with the perfect subject line and I have ran across a few like these and another ones like: Bob this is the FBI,or Stimulus information.I would like more information on this. Thanks for the good information.

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