How to Write an Email Subject Line for Link Building and Content Marketing Outreach


Spend a few minutes on a journalist’s Twitter timeline and you are bound to run into at least one post complaining about marketing and PR pitches. If you want a good laugh (or cry), @smugjourno is a bona fide wall of shame for PR professionals.

Recent PR email: “Happy almost Friday!” These notes take a small piece of my soul away each time.

— Alex Vadukul (@AlexVadukul) April 6, 2017

Even though at times there can be some tension between journalists and PRs, to some extent, writers and editors depend on PR professionals for content, ideas, and sources. Despite taking to Twitter to vent about #BadPr, our survey of 1,300 publishers found that nearly four out of five writers and editors agreed: PR pitches are at least “slightly valuable” to their jobs.  

With their inboxes flooded with pitches, it’s no wonder that journalists get annoyed when pitches are off-topic or otherwise miss the mark. In a sea of submissions, how can your email possibly stand out?  

Based on our survey of 500 publishers, eighty-five percent (85%) of writers determine whether or not to open an email based on the subject line alone. The subject line is arguably the single most important aspect to focus on in order to earn a higher placement rate for your content marketing outreach. So, what are the best email subject lines for link building and content marketing outreach?

What Makes a Successful Subject Line?

Journalists are busy and might receive anywhere from 50 to 500 email pitches in their inbox a week. With only a few seconds to get their attention, it’s vital that your subject line is crafted in a way that elicits curiosity. Otherwise, it will remain unopened and drown in the sea of pitches in their inbox.

So, what do journalists like to see in a subject line? More than 50% of publishers surveyed said subject lines should be descriptive, specific, and tailored to their beat.

This begs the question, what does a subject line that is descriptive, specific, and tailored actually look like?

There are a few different categories that subject lines fall into, and, depending on the type of content you’re pitching, one format may be better suited than the other. Your subject line is the gatekeeper to great placements, so customizing each one to align with your target’s interests will go a long way.

At Fractl, our digital PR team specializes in content marketing outreach for link acquisition. Based on our own experience, we’ve found that using subject lines that mimic potential article headlines can be a great way to increase open rates. By creating a subject line that resembles an article headline a publisher might use, the writer can more easily envision a story.  We’ve also learned that most of our successful subject lines fall into one of four categories. 

Static Based Subject Line

A Statistic-Based subject line is a favorite for our team. This type of subject line can be used for any of the content that you’re pitching that includes unique research or data. An example of a statistic based subject line would be “Nearly 50% of men admit the ideal woman is below-average weight”. See how that statistic is nearly replicated in the Daily Mail headline.

Information Gap Subject Line

An Information Gap subject line is named based on the “information gap theory of curiosity.” An example of an information gap subject line for the Huffington Post placement could be “This is the ‘ideal’ woman’s body around the world.” The information gap subject line gives you just enough information to tempt your target into clicking to find out more.

Content Title Subject Line

The Content Title subject line is one of the easiest to write and is a favorite for content marketing and link acquisition. Why? Because you’re explaining to the journalist upfront what your pitch is about in a straightforward way. An example of a content title subject line for this LADbible placement could be “Study Reveals the Most Anxiety-Inducing Sex Position”.

Personalized Subject Line

Finally, the personalized subject line is one that doesn’t relate to the body of your pitch at all. A personalized subject line is crafted based off of information you’ve learned about your contact via their Twitter profile, Instagram, or previous coverage. While it’s arguably the most time-consuming to craft, it’s a favorite because it will distinguish your pitch from all the others, especially when you’re reaching out to a well-known author writer at a top tier publisher. An example of a personalized subject line could be “Cheers from a fellow Whole30 failure (you beat me—I only made it 12 days”.

Best Subject Line Writing Tips for Content Marketing Outreach

Do your Research

While carefully crafting the perfect pitch and subject line will take time, the most time-consuming aspect of outreach should be researching your target in advance. Ask yourself:

  • Is this the best person to pitch at this publication for this specific topic?
  • Does this person write frequently or often cover outside studies?
  • What type of headlines does this person use? Does my subject line mimic their writing style?
  • Does this person have a quirky bio or funny tweet I can reference to personalize my pitch even more?

Be Brief

In a survey of 500 publishers, we found that  75% of publishers prefer subject lines under 10 words. That means if you’re working with a lengthy statistic, try finding a shorter one that’s just as compelling. Test different synonyms and phrases to keep it under 10 words. And if you can’t say what you need to say briefly, the best practice is to place the most compelling information in the front of the subject line, so the journalist will see the most intriguing things first.

Be Descriptive About What You’re Offering

For link acquisition outreach, it’s common to be pitching some type of content that the publisher can use for a story. What is it that you’re offering? Whether an infographic, an interactive map, exclusive data or a full-fledged study, these descriptive words signal to the journalist that you’re an authoritative source and that you are offering something valuable and unique to their audience.

Conclusion

While subject lines are an important first step in getting your content in front of the right people, what matters more is having a cohesive content marketing strategy in place. After all, no matter how well thought out your subject line is, if the content you’re pitching is sub-par, your results will be sub-par.

At Fractl, our digital PR team specializes in content marketing outreach for link acquisition. Strong, authoritative link building is the result of high-quality outreach. Our seasoned outreach specialists take the emotional, innovative, and data-driven content we produce for our clients and get their name mentioned by the web’s top publishers.

Read more about what content marketing can do for your brand here.