Most mailing software these days will allow you to personalize your mailings, and, not surprisingly, most commercial emailers take advantage of this, personalizing their mailings in all sorts of ways. Using the recipient’s actual name when addressing them seems like it should be a really good idea.
But it isn’t always the best idea. In fact, here are 3 reasons that personalizing your subject lines, in particular, can get you in trouble with spam filters and users, and kill your deliverabilty:
1. An enormous amount of spam these days has personal names in the subject lines. For example, if the spammer has somehow gotten hold of your name, it will have your name in the subject line. In other cases there are random personal names in the subject line – for example right now there is a lot of spam flying around with “From Firstname Lastname” as the subject line (where Firstname is some random first name, and Lastname is some random last name). Because of this, many spam filters are tagging email which has names in the subject line as spam.
2. For the most part, the only email that has personal names in the subject line is either spam, or commercial bulk email. This means that even if your email with the personalized subject gets delivered to the inbox, the recipient may never open it, because they perceive that any email with their name in the subject – unless it’s from grandma or a friend – is spam.
3. Even if the recipient recognizes your “From” address, and realizes that you aren’t a spammer – they know that any email with their name on it is likely to be a bulk commercial message, and they are as likely as not to not open it. They may even be annoyed that you took the liberty of using their first name. After all, you don’t really have a personal relationship with them, do you? Or they may perceive that you are trying to trick them by using their first name, to make them think that your email is a personal message just for them. And when they see that you used their name to get them to read what is clearly not a personal message, but rather a message that was sent to many others, they may get even more annoyed. And if they are annoyed enough, they may even hit “this is spam” just because they are annoyed at you. And even if they don’t hit “this is spam” – if they simply just don’t open your email any more – that is going to adversely effect your deliverability.
Now, this isn’t to say that nobody should ever personalize subject lines. Every single mailing list is different; the demographics of the recipient base are different, the relationship the sender has with their list is different, and even each mailing campaign is different. So you should test and test again, to see how the results that you get, with your mailing list, differ when you both include, and omit, personal names in the subject line.
But, don’t just include those names because you can, without being sure that it’s having the result you want, and not creating a result that you didn’t intend.