Jamie Herzlich Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

A weak subject line can kill the chances your email will ever get opened. With billions of emails being sent and received every day worldwide, it can be hard to stand out from the pack.

“Subject lines are among the top factors that influence your response rates,” says Raj Khera, a partner at MailerMailer in Rockville, Maryland, a provider of email marketing tools.

MailerMailer recently released a report analyzing 49,000 email campaigns comprised of almost 1 billion messages. Among its findings: The most frequently used subject-line words in 2015 related to savings or time-sensitive information (ie. week, deals, coupons, today), and messages with medium-length subject lines exhibited the highest average open rate. Messages with longer subject lines claimed the highest average click rate, meaning a recipient clicked on a link within the email).

Subject lines with 28 to 39 characters ranked first this year, as they did last year, with an average open rate of 14.6 percent, according to MailerMailer. Subject lines with more than 51 characters yielded the highest average click rate.

  • Do a test. There’s no hard and fast rule though, and that’s why testing different subject lines with your audience is important, Khera says.

For instance, Mitch Tobol, a partner at CGT Marketing, an Amityville advertising and digital marketing agency, has found with clients that subject lines with 39 to 50 characters result in more opens and higher click rates. But he agrees that testing different subject lines with your audience helps,

  • Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to get too complex. “I would do a simple A/B test with two subject lines,” Tobol notes. “Keep the test as simple as possible and as consistent as possible.”

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Words he’d avoid in the subject line include “hello” and the person’s name.

“It’s an obvious promotional email,” Tobol says.

  • Try to be creative. “This is an opportunity to have fun” when you think of subject lines, says Alex Hollywood, a regional development director for Constant Contact, an email marketing service provider in Waltham, Massachusetts.

For instance, she sent out an email announcing a workshop in March so she titled the subject line “March Marketing Madness,” to tie into basketball season.

Besides this kind of alliteration, with all the words beginning with the same letter, try using an allusion, like ‘Sweet Dreams Are Made of Cheese,’ or onomatopoeias, words like Boom! Crackle! Pop! that imitate sounds, says Hollywood.

  • Some no-nos. Avoid words or symbols that might set off spam filters like excessive punctuation, all caps and dollar signs, she says.

You may even want to run your subject line through your email provider’s content detective that checks the most popular spam filters, Tobol says. And there are tools like the subject-line checker at adestra .com to help.

  • Honesty counts. Don’t be deceptive, says Anthony Savino, president of Benjamin Marc Inc., a Lake Grove web and logo design and marketing firm.

He’s seen people put words in the subject line like “Re: Our Recent Conversation” when there was no conversation, just to get people to open the email.

“I look at that as spam,” he notes.

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  • Stress benefits. Referring to tips and deals in subject lines also can be attractive, like perhaps a coupon code that can be used on your e-commerce site, Savino says. But make sure the body of the email delivers what the subject line suggests.

“At the end of the day, it boils down to the quality of your content and how well it resonates with your recipient,” Khera says.