Subject Lines 102: 5 Reasons Everyone Is Reading This Blog Post Except You (Number 4 Will Shock You!)

This post is a follow-up to our recently published article, Subject Lines 101: 5 Examples of Bad Subject Lines.

There’s a surprising amount of psychology behind getting someone to take some sort of action, whether it’s a click on a link, an email open, or a form fill. Let’s dig into that psychology a bit in today’s post!

Without going too deep into Psychology 101, our brains crave predictability, and when there’s conflict, we’re tempted to click to resolve that conflict and add more knowledge to our existing understanding of something.

You can evaluate this need for predictability super easily, especially if the phrase is familiar:

  • Mary had a little _____
  • Twinkle twinkle, little ____
  • This blog post is _____
    (answers: lamb, star, awesome)

You’re anticipating and predicting what the next word will be when you read a sentence. You’re predicting the outcome and are mentally rewarded when that expectation matches up with reality. You’re actively organizing what you know about Mary having a little something, you predict “lamb,” that matches up, and you don’t really care about it anymore. But what if your expectation didn’t match up with reality, and Mary actually had a little dragon? When can predictability, and knowledge of the words used, cause inner conflict that needs to be resolved?

Let’s dig a little deeper into precisely how predictability can work against you to pique your interest. Say you read a title with words such as “Pardot,” “Marketing,” “Email,” “Marc Benioff,” and “Puppies.” You already know what those words mean on their own, and you already have a certain depth of knowledge on each word. The greater knowledge you have of each word, the easier it is to relate to the title. Your mind compares words in the article to words it already knows in order to make a decision on whether you want to click to learn more. For example, compare the following article titles:

The first article title isn’t real (I promise, we’re staffed entirely by human beings), but the second title is. I’m willing to bet you were more interested in the title about puppies than you were about the effect of antipsychotics in young rats. The first article is more interesting because you already know what the words in the title mean, and you’re actively trying to organize what you do know about Pardot’s email marketing and trying to determine what you do not know. The second article just doesn’t hold any appeal because you don’t have as much knowledge on those words, so there’s nothing to organize and evaluate. When something relates to words you already know, it stands out mentally.

Effective titles make people think, but they also create tension. There’s something about a department staffed by puppies that you’re itching to learn more about. You can do that with your subject lines too — to draw interest and get people to engage with your content — if you just remember the following five elements of getting people to click:

1. Curiosity

This one really drives home the idea of writing subject lines that are easy to understand, but leave some sort of tension that needs to be resolved.

  • How does Pardot Compliance run their team? You may be surprised!
  • What’s better than free shipping? We think it’s this…
  • You’re going to love what we’ve added to the line-up

2. Relevance

Relevance, especially in email marketing, is driven mainly by the data you have on your clients. If you know someone’s interested in Product A, make sure your subject line (and email content!) is relevant to their interests in Product A. If you have the data, use it!

  • Check out our top 10 tips for being successful with product A!
  • You loved product A, now check out the best things about product B!
  • Quick tips for helping you use product A to the fullest!

3. Affirmation

Affirmation can be a useful tool in the marketer’s arsenal. We like to feel that our own beliefs are the right beliefs, and we love to see that belief being confirmed and accepted by someone else. Whether it’s really true or not, you feel warm and fuzzy over knowing you’re right. However, this comes with that same tension we discussed earlier. How do you know your potential customers? What is the secret you’ve unlocked already? Thus, you click to get that resolution.

  • Why you were right to segment your prospects according to birth year and hair color
  • The Secret to Higher Conversion Rates Is Something You’re Already Doing
  • You Know Your Potential Customers Better Than You Think

4. Numbers

Numbers provide a great way to introduce some kind of tension while also making the list seem easily readable, thus making people want to click. Buzzfeed’s gotten this down to an art with their articles, in that they provide well-numbered, easily-digestible lists. Go ahead, I dare you not to click on Watching These 35 Adorable Corgis Will Brighten Up Your Day, and then somehow wind up opening multiple tabs of different lists with accompanying pictures.

  • 10 ways you might be using your marketing automation platform incorrectly
  • 32 easy tips for a cleaner closet and a more organized life
  • 50 email subject lines to help boost your open rates!

5. Humor

The best possible thing you can do for your subject lines is to be unexpected, and humor is definitely a good way to accomplish that. Humorous subject lines are a great way to break through the monotony of a typical inbox, as they stick out among the boring subject lines I referenced in my previous post. Bonus points if it’s a pun!

  • I have a syncing feeling about this
  • Don’t let other Marketing Automation Tools LEAD you astray
  • What have you been up to? I’ve been(i)off getting new prospects for my company!

That’s it for today’s post on subject lines and getting people to click! Did I leave something out that you’ve found success with? Keep the conversation going over on Twitter, @holobachgirl!