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Creating an Effective E-Mail “Opening” Header

January 26th, 2010 by Katherine

Today’s e-mail users have more messages than time to read them, and are extremely wary of spam and phishing. If a subject heading looks at all suspicious, many recipients delete the message unopened. How to title your e-marketing messages so they pass this initial test?

1. Get rid of asterisks and other symbols rarely used in standard written text. Not only do they trigger “spam” warnings, they look unprofessional anyway.

2. Put all words of the header in standard format—all-caps and extra spacing arouse as much suspicion as do symbols. Capital letters also provoke the reaction “Who do you think you’re shouting at?”

3. Don’t promise a “Great Bargain” or say anything that sounds risqué or sensationalist. Recipients will mentally categorize you with countless junk ads that use similar headers.


4. Don’t tell lies! Nobody wants to do business with someone who is dishonest, and it’s dishonest to use a header that sounds interesting but has no relevance to the message text, or to imply “you contacted us first” by starting a header with “Re:” if the message isn’t a genuine reply. (Don’t use “Re:” for “Regarding,” either. It may be traditional in office memos, but in e-mail headers it just confuses recipients and wastes space.)

5. Never leave a header blank. Very few people open a message solely for the purpose of learning what it’s about.

6. Limit your header to six words so it won’t run out of display space. Recipients may hesitate to open an e-mail if they can’t read the whole title, especially if what they do see is ambiguous. For the same reason:

7. Put the most important words first. Tell recipients exactly what your message is about before they run out of patience or their Subject displays run out of room.

8. Do include your company’s name if you expect most recipients will recognize it as trustworthy. Don’t do this for a really big-name company, though, especially if your mailing list includes people without current accounts. Phishing messages purportedly from major banks or Web sites have made the public suspicious of universally recognized names.

9. Don’t bother setting your server to include the recipient’s name or e-mail address in the header. It won’t improve the message’s chances of being read; it only wastes space that could be used to describe what you’re offering.

10. Research “spam indicators” (you can find a lot of information just by typing those words into a search engine) to learn what else not to do.

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