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There’s a reason Google created a promotions tab in Gmail. People are getting hammered with spam email day in and day out. That means as content marketers, it’s our job to immediately communicate that we aren’t… and the only way to do that is through the subject line.

In this video, I describe some of the best practices we use when executing email outreach to stand out in the inbox and make sure our content gets opened. Tips include “soft” A/B tests, the hierarchy of asset types, and more.

Audio Version

Video Transcription

Hi, I’m Ross Hudgens, founder of Siege Media, and today I want to share some of our best email marketing subject line best practices. We do a lot of email outreach here at Siege, sometimes send a thousand-plus emails per week, and not spam emails, either, very targeted ones to get coverage in really high-end publications, and hopefully some of these tips can help you get some of those placements yourself. So the first is just a general framework of every subject line.

1. Make it Compelling, Short, & Personalized

As a general practice, I love [ASSET TYPE] for [WEBSITE]: [POST SUMMARY]. So we kind of have it explained here on the white board, but essentially the idea is if you have an infographic, you’d say, “Infographic for Siege Media: Best infographics of 2018,” as the title.

Essentially what this does is it’s short, it’s personalized, it sets expectation. You still have room to say something clever, give the good landing page experience of adding the subject at the end, and overall, it’s punchy. People will get a lot of email spam in their inbox, and I think a good differentiator is to have the website in there.

If you don’t have a website sometimes you can put their name, if it’s a personal blogger. But I prefer also putting website over everything else, because website in the subject line will actually nudge them to link to you.

There is something to personalizing and saying their name, and you’ll see that in a lot of email marketing best practices, but in SEO specifically, if you’re trying to get that link, you don’t want to be too aggressive, and say, “Hey, link to me,” in your body many times, that just comes off aggressive.

Normally I recommend share, something like that. But these subtle nudges using the website name can actually psychologically prime them to link to you, so I do like that in the subject line as a best practice. Again, [ASSET TYPE] for [WEBSITE]: [POST SUMMARY] as a framework.

2. Utilize the Hierarchy of Asset Types

Next, I suggest you use the hierarchy of asset types within your larger subject line. What I mean by hierarchy of asset types is just… generally people are going to like certain asset types more than others when you pitch them.

So you want to leverage that preference when pitching them. So examples of that are interactive, news, data study, animation, guide, visual, those kinds of things, in that order.

Again, interactive, news, data study, animation, guide, visual. They have a lot of value, in that order, in terms of being more preferential and worthy of a click and a coverage, as compared to something like blog posts. If you have something that falls into multiple categories, I’d suggest picking the asset type that is higher on the list.

Also I don’t suggest using something like infographic, because generally that does not have a very high affinity in most markets. That doesn’t mean never do it, as it’s still valuable in a few markets.

I actually suggest to use visual over infographic in subject lines for multiple reasons, one, that very thing, that they don’t have a great reputation. So if you build a great one, I think people can look past that with that kind of inference. And then second, visual is just shorter than infographic.

You have limited space in the subject line, so when you use that powerfully, you’re going to have a more effective subject line overall, so I prefer visual, and just generally recommend not using infographic when you put that in your subject line.

3. Align Subject Lines With Website Content

And next is to twist subject lines to align with the content and the person you’re pitching. So I just mentioned that infographics are not something to use in subject lines, but I would actually contradict that if you’re pitching a blog that covers infographics specifically, does it every Friday, say. Or, specifically, DesignTAXI will cover infographics frequently.

If you say that and you put infographic in the subject line, that more effectively communicates to their psychology of how they cover content. So if you can frame your subject line to appeal to that psychology and how they cover things, you’re going to do better. For example, if it’s a news reporter, saying news makes sense.

If it’s a blogger, you want to say data study, because they don’t really cover news. They might cover an infographic, they might randomly cover that kind of thing. It just makes more sense as an application. Similarly, if they have an animation of the day, and you were going to say guide instead, you would want to say animation. Or maybe they have Friday links on Friday. You might say, “idea for your Friday links” in the subject line.

And those kind of things can trigger the psychology to make them know that you personalize to them specifically. So keep that in mind when thinking about the hierarchy and appealing it specifically to that blog or website to have even more effectiveness and get more opens and coverage overall from your content.

4. Internally Soft A/B Test Your Subject Lines

Finally is think about a soft A/B. So when you’re doing email outreach, you can’t do a true A/B test, besides on a macro level, because unless you’re really spamming people and sending thousands of emails, you’re not going to get to true statistical significance with your emails. So how we get across that, kind of, framework, is that we actually test it within our team.

So I would suggest sending emails, sending your email subject, your body as well, to your team and actually get their feedback on their preferred subject lines. It’s kind of a soft way to get feedback on your subject line and get the highest-performing one is by testing through that audience.

Because if you’re even using great tools like BuzzStream, you’re not going to have true confidence in whatever you’re sending unless you’re sending a ton of those same kind of emails for whatever reason, and most people are just not going to do that.

And to summarize, get more value out of email subject lines when pitching content, and that is to use the [ASSET TYPE] for [WEBSITE]: [POST SUMMARY] framework. Also tutilize the hierarchy of asset types, twist subject lines to align with the people you’re pitching, and also do soft A/B tests with your team to get their opinion on the best subject lines overall.

I hope you got a lot of value out of this video. You like it, give us a thumbs-up, subscribe, and let me know what you thought of it. Thanks for watching.

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