Subject Line

Subject Line: Why’s He Got a Turnip in his Pipe?

By Dave Cottrell

Subject line – Why’s He Got a Turnip in his Pipe? Did that make you a bit curious? If you got that subject line in your email, would you open it? Could you resist opening it? Good!

Subject line - get it right

Dr. Suess is very familiar to many of us. If you are under a hundred years old and you have children or grandchildren, you probably read books to them written by Dr. Suess. “The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Go, Dog, Go,” are just a few of the familiar titles. How does Dr. Suess help you in getting people’s attention?

Copy writing is a skill that can make all the difference between making a sale or not, but unless you get people’s attention, first, the best copy in the world is just not going to get read.

Dr. Suess, used to do things like walking onto a bus “smoking” a pipe with a turnip in it. People would come up to him and ask him why he was smoking a pipe with a turnip in it! His answer was simple. “So that people will ask me why I have a turnip in my pipe!”

What a great way to start a conversation!!

This is what we’re all trying to do when we create a headline, an email subject line, a tweet or a share on FB and any other social media we use.

It’s absolutely critical to get your reader’s attention! Without mastering subject line, you could write the most interesting, informative and valuable copy, all day, every day, put it in front of thousands, and get dismal results.

Once again, there are many self-proclaimed gurus who will tall you all about how to spin blog articles, how to get lots of Likes on FB, how to get thousands of Twitter followers, etc., but those are all useless if people aren’t paying any attention to you, and it’s a fact that they won’t even notice you, among all the bits and bytes of information they all get in this high information world, unless you GET their attention!

Just as an exercise, her is a list I put together of places where you MUST create an irresistible subject line:

  1. Email – most people know this.

  2. Blog titles – also critical and there’s a right way to do it that will greatly increase potential readers

  3. Twitter – your “tweets” are really a 140 character subject line to get people to click through to where the rest of the information is, be it on your blog or a sales page. Don’t be careless with your tweets! If you create compelling and interesting subject lines, your tweets will get read.

  4. Tumblr – Wow! What an opportunity that often gets missed, here! The NAME section is your subject line! Make it a good one! Then there is a second opportunity for another “subject line,” in the DESCRIPTION section. Don’t overdo it, but make it a bit longer and build on the subject line at the top. Remember that a subject line is like really tasty crumbs leading the reader to the whole cake.

  5. Google Plus – Again, it needs a good subject line to get read. Make sure your article or sales page has a catchy photo, because that will also draw attention to the subject line.

  6. LinkedIn – many forget that LinkedIn is also one of the oldest social media sites, and if you’re a member, you also have a feed there. There is a lot of spammy posting on the site, so again, your subject line, the text that you create when you share on LinkedIn, has to be really interesting and enticing,

  7. Reddit – Again, it needs a good subject! Don’t simply stay with the title from the article or sales page. Change it up. They give you the space to do it! As they clearly state at the top of their submission area, “You are submitting a link. The key to a successful submission is interesting content and a descriptive title.” The title is the subject line.

  8. Scoop.it – This is one of the most popular curating sites in the world. It gives you the opportunity to share to several social sites at once, so the above focus on subject lines also and very importantly applies here. You CAN and SHOULD use Scoop.it for your blog articles (I do not recommend it for your sales page, unless your sales page is written like a news article). However, when you use Scoop.it, don’t simply click the Scoop.it app in your browser, then click the publish button. You can edit any area of the new scoop before you publish it. Again, make sure it has an enticing subject line.

  9. Buffer – Be careful how you use this one. Remember that it sends to multiple social sites that you have chosen at once, including FB, Twitter and Google Plus. If you have any of those accounts linked to each other already, you need to unlink them or it will create loops. Again, when you used Buffer, don’t simply click and send, but check and rewrite the post to make it an enticing subject line. Remember that your goal is never to sell something with your social media posts; it is to get attention and lead people to click the link to the main article.

  10. Hootsuite – Hootsuite is very much like Buffer, other than it has the potential to send to way more places, plus it lets you monitor all the posts and keep up with related conversations, right in their interface. Carefully craft your subject line for each post, for maximum interest. Also, on Hootsuite, check the list of places your post will be sent. If you’re sharing an article about hunting, you might want to remove twitter and FB accounts related to cute little animals from the feed, first. It is simple to customize for each send.

  11. Delicious – Delicious is similar to Tumblr. It has been around a long time, and should also be considered. The more often you share good information using good subject lines, the more people you will get noticing you. Both sites use related links, meaning that somebody who clicks on another similar link might also click on yours. The more people you follow on Delicious, the more people are likely to follow you and see your creative subject lines and great stories.

  12. Digg – Digg is a most interesting site, and if there is one site on the internet, more than any other, that underscores the importance of a good subject line, it is Digg.com. Thousands of Digg users around the world comb through thousands of articles that have been recommended by thousands of other readers. As shared by Julia Layton in How Digg Works , “Digg is sort of like Slashdot without the editors, bringing a democratic approach to the news-submission Web site. At Digg, the site’s users make all of the content-related decisions.” In other words, you need to get the attention of real people who are LOOKING for good content on the internet, and then back it up with the good content they are looking for. Considering the massive amount of information coming at them, your subject line has to be outstanding to get their attention.

    (An interesting and recent change is Stumbledupon. I am somewhat baffled by what they have done in removing all opportunities to have any input about a page, other than to let you like it. Time will tell where that will go.)

This is a short list. As the images in this article show, screenshots taken today, there are too many to list. These are the ones I am most likely to use.

The subject line is often the one, single key to getting people to read your articles, visit your sales page, or open an email from you. Therefore it’s critical to be careful in creating them!

There are several places on the internet where you can test your subject line before actually using it.

  1. SubjectLine.com Gives you a score and some pointers

  2. Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer This is an amazing tool, truly. Try it.

  3. Litmus Very handy for email subject lines. This will let you check to see if your subject line will fit every common email client.

  4. Email Subject Line Tester Make sure your email subject line won’t land your email in the spam folder. Using this may make you tear your hair out for a while, but in the end, your email deliveries will go WAY up, especially if you have a large list. Watch here to see what happens to an email from the time you click the SEND button to the time it is delivered.

Squeeze pages, SEO, website design, ad copy, etc., are all very important, but if your subject line or headline is poorly or carelessly crafted, you could be losing or diminishing all the hard work you’ve put into these other things. Why’s he got a turnip in his pipe? It could be that what he’s smoking is helping him be way more successful than all his competitors!

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5 comments

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  • Hi Dave.. some very good points and tools for people who are looking at the best way to use subject lines on different networks, because that is important, but I feel that you forgot one very important place where people need to start paying attention to their emails from the “subject line” to the content and that is mobile.

    More and more people are turning to mobile to read their mail, do their Facebooking and tweeting about their lunches (^-^) The fact is that subject lines look different on mobile and on different mobile devises as well.. Unless you are wanting to write your email subject lines and content on your mobile, then that one tool that you mentioned – Litmus – will show you how a mail looks on the different devices..unfortunately, when using the free tool, you will get to see only Blackberry..better one than none I guess.
    Thanks for an interesting post that got me thinking…
    Diane (Blogneta) recently posted…Four Tips for Making Money Online FROM Home!My Profile

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  • Good points, Diane. Yes, mobile IS important, and one thing that people can do, at the very least, and always should do, just as web-pages should always be checked in different browsers, they should be checked on mobile, as well. With my Android, it matters not what the subject line is. It is the same in Gmail on my Android phone and tablet as it is on the internet. Ditto with Netaddress. Nothing gets left out, like it does in some email clients. I would recommend that people focus most on a good subject line and double check to see what it looks like on as many platforms as they can, after. The only thing that some mail programs and possibly some devices do is to shorten subject lines in emails, so IF the subject line is being used for email marketing, that has to be checked.
    Dave Cottrell recently posted…Are You Pinging?My Profile

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