Crafting an effective email might feel like an overwhelming task most of the time. You put hours of effort into writing the perfect email subject line, preview text, and body only to have your open and click-through rates fall flat.
Why don’t your subscribers to take action? What are you doing wrong?
What is email copywriting?
For copy to be engaging, whether it’s written for an ad or an email, the first rule is that it must be something people want to read. With email copywriting, that starts with the subject line. Even before your subscribers open the email, the subject line copy does the hard work. This is why A/B testing your subject lines will inspire you to become a better email copywriter.
Because data doesn’t lie. Just as the headline to a blog post or landing page draws the reader in, a well-crafted subject line entices the subscriber to click. And with digital marketing, especially email marketing, nothing happens until someone clicks on a link.
To become a true email copywriting pro takes time. It’s been said that it’s harder to write a good short story than a full blown novel. The same is true for email. That’s why we drew from our body of knowledge to provide you helpful tips.
8 email copywriting tips
Writing copy for your emails can be time-consuming and stressful for marketers. If that sounds familiar, then you’re on the right path.
Sending out messages to subscribers isn’t something to take lightly. Your readers have provided you with a direct line to their inbox.
That’s pretty intimate.
The good news is that subscribers want to hear from you. In fact, 77% of people across all age groups and demographics prefer email over other permission-based advertising.
But if you don’t meet expectations, they’ll throw your emails straight into the trash bin—or even click that dreaded unsubscribe button.
Take a deep breath, put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes, and use these eight tips to write effective email copy that will have your subscribers engaged and acting on your next email marketing campaign.
1. Nail the subject line
Your email subject line is the headline equivalent for your email copy. If it isn’t relevant or interesting and doesn’t inspire your readers to take action, they won’t open it.
Put a lot of time into writing your subject line just like you would writing an engaging blog headline. If you spend four hours total with your email copywriting, you should spend half of that on your subject line.
Keep a few factors in mind as you run through some different options for your next subject line:
- Length: Research shows that short subject lines—between six and ten words—had the best open rate. This is likely because most people spend time reading emails on their mobile devices. If your email subject line is long, it might look great on a browser but mobile users won’t get the whole story—and they definitely won’t click it.
- Word choice: Use action verbs in your subject line. This will help subscribers understand what you want them to do before they even open the email. Use phrases like “act now,” “you deserve this,” or “don’t miss out” to create a sense of urgency.
- Keep it personal: Using the names of real people in your “to” and “from” fields will earn you higher open rates. Email is a personal medium, treat it that way. It’s refreshing for readers to see an email in their inbox from a real person’s name rather than a company.
2. Don’t forget the preview text
When it comes to email copywriting, your preview text is a lot like a Tweet before Twitter increased the character count. You only had a few characters to pique subscriber interest and entice them to read beyond the subject line.
For users on mobile devices, this preview text helps them decide whether or not the email is worth opening. Here’s how this looks on a typical mobile device on iPhone, featuring some snippets from a few top-level marketers including Talia Wolf, a leading conversion expert:
It’s important to note that when you make a promise in your headline, you should follow through with that promise in the preview text.
Use that short snippet to give your subscribers a solid idea of what’s inside the email. If it’s relevant to them and intriguing enough, they’ll probably open it.
Remember, short and brief is better.
3. Get personal
This cannot be stressed enough: email copywriting needs to be personal if you want it to convert. That’s the bottom line.
So, how can you put this into action?
It might feel silly at first but instead of writing for hundreds, thousands, or millions of people, pretend you’re writing the email for one person. Pretend you’re talking directly to one friend or one customer. Let them know about the exciting stuff you want to tell them and explain what you want them to do.
Keep it conversational.
By nature, email is private and personal. If you want your copy to resonate with your readers, you need to approach them on a personal level.
This email from the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation uses the words “I” and “you” to help the email feel like a personal conversation between two friends. It clearly lets the reader know how they can help and take action.
4. Avoid industry jargon
You’re not writing to show readers how much you know about your industry. Skip the industry jargon and use terms that real people can understand.
Even lawyers and investment firms should avoid technical language in emails for average consumers.
Instead, focus on pain points. How can your brand or your products help customers overcome an obstacle or save money and time?
This email from Capital One had a lot of potential to be boring but instead, it’s a relatable and actionable email. As a bonus, it gives the reader an opportunity to provide feedback.
5. Choose your words carefully
Keeping in line with the conversational tone, use the words “you” and “your” quite a bit as you go about your email copywriting. This will let your readers know that the email is about them and not you.
You’ll also want to focus on the benefits of what you’re offering rather than the features. When you talk about features, the focus is on you, your company, and your product.
When you talk about benefits, the focus is on how your product or service can enrich the lives of your subscribers.
Talking about benefits instead of features centers the email around your subscribers rather than your company and that’s exactly what readers want to see in their inbox.
Welcome emails are an excellent opportunity to start things on the right foot.
6. Keep things short and concise
If you’re writing several hundred words of copy in your emails, you’re doing it wrong.
Although people spend a lot of time scrolling through their inboxes while they complete other tasks—6.4 hours a day in many cases—people only skim individual emails.
Get right to the point. Let your subscribers know what’s up, how you’re ready to help, and what you want them to do.
Break up your copy with lots of white space: huge blocks of text will send readers running for the back button. Use bulleted lists, short sentences, and questions as needed to get your point across.
This email from Fortnite includes lots of attention-grabbing graphics and concise text to keep readers engaged and inspire them to take action.
7. Make sure your content is relevant
If you just learned about a cool new video game, would you call or message everyone in your contacts to tell them about it? No, you’d contact only the people who care about video games.
Likewise, you shouldn’t send the same email to all of your subscribers. Creating general emails for your entire list won’t resonate with anyone and they certainly won’t convert. In fact, if you’re still sending general email blasts, now’s the time to retire that email marketing tactic.
Instead, break your subscriber list into segments based on what they’ve clicked in the past, age groups, shopping habits, when they signed up, and other factors that make sense for your industry and brands.
Spend time getting to know your audience and email copywriting will get a lot easier because you’ll already know what they want.
This email from Airbnb is super personalized to provide suggestions based on the reader’s travel destination. This email copywriting example shows that just a little information can go a long way.
8. Include a single and simple call-to-action
It can be tempting to fill an email with multiple CTAs in the hopes that at least one will resonate with your subscribers enough to get them to click something.
But the truth is, if you give your subscribers too many links and buttons to click, they probably won’t click any of them. Your copy should be simple and you should include a single CTA that clearly states what you want your readers to do. Don’t beat around the bush. Your readers don’t have time for that.
Bitly knows what to do. Look at that big, bright, and simple CTA button.
The key to effective email copywriting is understanding your audience and how you can help them.
After you figure that out, you can speak to them in a conversational tone. Don’t be afraid to A/B test emails and send out previews to a select group of your most engaged subscribers to see what works.
At the end of the day, email is personal. Treat it as such. Talk to your readers like human beings and they’re more likely to feel compelled to take action.