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12 subject line split testing ideas

Get inspired to try Emma's newest feature

It's 12/12/12, folks, and to commemorate this auspicious day, here are twelve ideas for putting Emma's new subject line split test feature to work.

1. Length

Sometimes a fully-formed sentence engages an audience right away, and sometimes short, punchy and downright non-sentencey is more effective.

Run a test that presents the same message in varying lengths to see how wordy your audience wants you to get.

2. Special characters

You've probably seen icons of little hearts, arrows and stars creep their way into your inbox.

Sure they're a little trendy, but they're also eye-catching and can be effective. Emma's new drag & drop editor supports special characters in the subject line, so now you're armed with the tools to give it a shot.

3. Specificity

Here at Emma, we get specific with our subject lines, but a couple of the questions in our Split Test Showdown taught us that vague subject lines can pique just the right level of interest to get the open.

4. Personalization

Does your audience appreciate the personal touch, or are they creeped out by seeing their name in the subject line?

Remember that in Emma, you can personalize with any member field, so consider plugging in the recipient's city, last item purchased or account rep in your test.

5. Sender name

Are your emails more effective when your organization's name is in the from field *and* in the subject line?

Studies say yes, but there's only one way to find out if your audience follows or bucks the trend.

6. Exclamation points

It's long been believed that exclamation points are a subject line no-no, but they're by no means a one-way ticket to the spam folder.

In fact, ending your subject line with a jaunty "!" is the most clear and concise way to convey excitement, and your audience might catch your excitement and be more likely to engage with your email.

7. Discount-speak

Next time you're promoting a sale, test how you share that news in the subject line.

Will your audience respond better to a 40% off sale, or does saving $10 sound a bit more enticing?

8. A Question

Turn your go-to subject line into a question and see if your readers are more engaged when you plant a question in their head.

Just steer clear of questions that yield a yes or no answer. Unless it's "Will you open this email?"

9. Relevancy

I call this the "Hey" Test. Recently news broke that one of the Obama campaign's most successful fundraising email contained the simple subject line, "Hey."

It's a bold move, but try testing a subject line that's not relevant to the email's content. You might be surprised by the results.

10. Urgency

A little bit of low grade anxiety never hurt anyone, so test the notion of urgency for promotion (ends today!) or survey (first 10 responders win a prize).

11. Capitalization

No one likes a shouter, but loudmouths get attention nonetheless.

Try capitalizing just a word or two in your subject line to make them stand out, and then see if more recipients OPEN THE DARNED THING.

12. Gratitude

Tis the season to look back on the year and be grateful. Want to thank your customers or donors for helping your organization in 2012?

Run a test to see if saying "thanks" in the subject line gets more opens. I bet it will, and I bet you'll thank me for it. 


What are you learning in your own tests? Let me know and we just might feature your test in an upcoming Split Test Showdown.