6 Simple Email Copywriting Techniques
What is it with marketing emails these days? Why all the fancy bells and whistles? Plain-text emails are just as effective. In fact, they’re often more persuasive than all the sizzle.
Because here’s the thing about successful emails – the ones that convert recipients into shiny new customers:
It’s all about the words.
In this post I’m going to share 6 simple email copywriting techniques.
You’ll discover how to nail the subject line and preview text. There will be tips for avoiding the spam folder – and most importantly, you’ll find out how to persuade readers to take action.
1. Nail the subject line
I’m starting with the subject line because it’s the most crucial part of your email.
Subject lines are the gatekeepers between an opened email, instant deletion or (the horror!) being marked as spam.
OK, you want practical writing tips. Here they are:
Catchy subject lines are a great idea, but being cute isn’t a priority. First and foremost, your subject line must be clear.
Clarity always, always beats cleverness.
Once you’ve drafted a clear subject line, you can play around making it cuddly.
Keep it brief
Short, snappy subject lines (6 -10 words) have the best open rate.
Readers don’t have the time or patience for wordy waffle – and remember… mobile phones. They cut off longer headlines.
Use action-based words
In subject lines, actionable words are powerful. The reader is clearly told how they can use information in the email, so they’re more likely to open it.
Find great places to drink beer right now
Steer clear of formality or business jargon. You want to sound warm and friendly.
Uh-oh, your subscription is about to expire
The reader’s eye is naturally drawn to (just a few) words within brackets. This subject line was written by one of Groupon’s copywriters.
The deals that make us proud (unlike our nephew, Steve)
The other day, I received this from a company called Manicube. No surprises, I opened their email straight away.
*Don’t open this email*
Being different makes your email stand out – but be careful. The content quality must deliver on the promise of a fabulous subject line.
2. Make it personal
What do I mean by `personal’? Well, it’s a lot more than just inserting a [FIRSTNAME] every now and again… because who’s impressed by that any more?
Are you blasting out identical emails to everyone on your list? This is not personal.
To give you an example, I once subscribed to a London-based digital marketing company. Their emails kept offering me copywriting services.
Marketing tips, social media or website design? Yeah, sure. I would have been interested. Website copywriting? Jog on. Their lack of thoughtful segmentation led to a rapid unsubscribe.
The more segmented your list, the easier it becomes to make things personal. You can send to people who will open the email and find its content useful.
3. Make it even more personal
Your subscriber has opened the email and started to skim the content. How do you get them to stick around and take the required action?
This is where the writing itself needs to get personal. As you’re drafting the email, pretend there’s just one recipient.
Imagine your ideal customer. If you were speaking to them, what would you say? Would you talk about yourself at length?
Nope. You would probably ask questions, explain how you can help and generally make this person feel included in the conversation.
Here are 7 useful tips:
- Understand the reader’s pain points. What bothers them the most?
- Ask rhetorical questions
- Prove you can solve their problem, and what they’ll gain as a result
- Avoid industry jargon
- Keep it short and to the point. The ideal email length is just 125 words
- Sentences should contain no more than 20 words, paragraphs just 2 or 3 lines
- Use words such as “you” and “your”. The content is about the recipient, not the sender
4. Don’t forget the preview text
Email preview text (sometimes called preheader text) is important. It helps the reader decide whether the email is valuable to them.
The length of preview text varies, but you’re looking at between 35 and 140 characters to persuade the recipient to perform the magic click.
The text is usually taken from the first line of your email so this is not the place for wasted words. You have a matter of seconds to pique the reader’s interest.
Try and pick up from the subject line so that both sections of text work as a whole.
Subject line: Find great places to drink beer right now
Preview text: If you like beer, you’ll love this email…
Subject line: *Don’t open this email*
Preview text: Oh, you opened it. You’re obviously feeling adventurous….
5. How to avoid the spam folder
There are lots of reasons why emails end up in spam, and I can’t cover all of them here. But let’s get this one out of the way.
Buying email lists
If you’ve bought an email list, ditch it immediately. And, if you’re thinking of buying one… don’t. None of these people have given you permission to email them.
Also, you’ll have an accuracy problem. After multiple hard bounces from outdated email addresses, your domain reputation becomes terminally untrustworthy.
In short, your address will be blacklisted. Every email you send (including those to your mum) will be consigned to spam. Forever.
… or more specifically, lack of reader engagement. Webmail providers notice how many of your emails have been opened, and how many are deleted.
Yeah, it sucks. That’s why the subject line and preview text are so important.
Punctuation, spelling and grammar
Huh? Why is punctuation relevant to the spam folder? Well, I’ll tell you.
Exclamation marks (!!!) and SHOUTY capital letters are classic spam trigger signals.
As for grammar and spelling, check your spam folder now. You’ll probably notice several subject lines with obvious grammatical and spelling mistakes.
The wrong kind of words
Unfortunately, the list of spam trigger words is pretty long. Some are so obvious you’d have to be an idiot to use them.
`Fast cash’, anyone?
Here are some of the less obvious ones:
It’s depressing, isn’t it? And we only got as far as `M’.
There are hundreds of these words. I’d recommend a quick Google search to avoid inadvertently falling into a valuable customer’s spam folder.
Too many links
Emails with too many links often trigger the spam filter.
Shortened links are particularly problematic (via bitly.com or similar) because the destination URL is hidden.
Spam filters don’t like that.
Also, interestingly, they aren’t impressed by hyperlinks. Instead of using a hyperlink like, say, A (very) simple guide to SEO you’re better off using the `raw link’, i.e., https://www.keywordcopywriting.co.uk/a-very-simple-guide-to-seo/ because it shows the URL you’ll be taken to.
And here’s another thing about overusing links in emails:
When people click away from your email, they miss the main event – your call to action (CTA).
6. Include one clear, simple call to action
It’s tempting to overdo the CTA. You go overboard with a multitude of buttons in the hope that the reader will click one.
This is a mistake. Faced with multiple CTAs – click here, download this, sign up for that – your reader will leave without clicking anything.
Think carefully about the required action. Then include just one clear, simple CTA.
Provided your email has demonstrated the value of acting, its recipient will do so.
Talking of which…
If you’d like a professional copywriter to write emails for you, click on this word here.