Subject Lines 101: 5 Examples of Bad Subject Lines

In the course of researching blog topics, a common theme that tends to come up again and again is the topic of subject lines. There are posts on how to write a good subject line, how to write a bad subject line, what you should put in your subject line to make people open it, and the list goes on. You’d think that with all of the best practices advice out there, I’d be getting some pretty good subject lines in my inbox. Unfortunately, it’s rare that a subject line really compels me to click. Let’s explore why in today’s post by taking a look at some of the most common subject lines I’ve come across and why they could use a refresh.

1. “Skyler, our best deals”

I’d compare this subject line to the boy who cried wolf. Remember that story? He owns some sheep, gets bored while watching the sheep, and decides to yell about a wolf attacking his flock. The townspeople come out and find out he’s lying, and when a wolf does actually come, they totally ignore him and all his sheep get eaten. That’s basically what this subject line is doing — it’s crying “deal!” and eventually that word loses its meaning and gets ignored. If every day is a “deal”, where are the true deals? Sure, this subject line is considered a “classic,” but that doesn’t necessarily make it good. If anything, it makes it bad, because you aren’t going to stand out among the other people using the exact same subject line.

2. “[day of week] newsletter”

What is this subject line telling me, other than reminding me that it’s Wednesday? One of my all-time favorite quotes in email is “Treat an inbox like an invite to someone’s home.” Your subject line is your chance to make a good impression and keep making that good impression so that you keep getting invited back into the inbox. Lazy subject lines aren’t going to compel me to engage with your email. If you don’t even care enough about your newsletter content to give me an interesting snippet, why should I be interested in it?

3. “FREE SHIPPING on orders of $35 or more!!!!”

There are a few things wrong with this particular subject line. To start with, at this point, free shipping isn’t really all that great of a motivator to get me to buy your product or visit your site. Find some other reason I should visit your site over getting my usual free two-day shipping on Amazon. Second, your subject line’s so good it needs four exclamation points? Other than that being a potential trigger for spam filters to send your mail straight to the spam filter, free shipping’s not that exciting anymore. Use punctuation very thoughtfully for the message you’re trying to get across.

4. Re: The email I sent you earlier

This one’s a personal pet peeve (and unfortunately, a rather effective sales tactic). You send an email, don’t get a response, and attach “re” to the header, so it looks like a fake reply. I open it, wondering when I’d even responded to this email, and find out it was a trick. Sure, you got your email open, but you also succeeded in annoying me enough to unsubscribe or worse, click to report spam. Trying to trick me into opening your email isn’t going to do much good for your brand perception. Focus on writing good content that people will want to read, not on resorting to tricks to try and get that +1 on an email open report.

5. Email 1: Check out our webinar on 8/1. Email 2: Check out our webinar on 8/1. Email 3: Check out our webinar on 8/1

I get it already! If I didn’t open your email with that subject line the first time, what makes you think emailing me with the exact same subject line is going to somehow pique my interest? This is the email equivalent of you yelling my name multiple times, me not responding, and you continuing to yell my name. Marketing insanity is sending the same subject line over and over, but expecting higher open rates. Change it up, make me want to click to actually attend your webinar! What’s the webinar about, how is it useful to me or my business, why do you think I should be going?

It’s time to give up on lazy subject lines, tricks, and “classic” lines to try and get people to open an email. In my next post, we’ll be digging into the psychology of getting people to click, and how you can leverage that to improve your email statistics!