The Art of the Subject Line

emailmarketing Dec 06, 2017

At their most effective, subject lines can entice a customer to open your carefully crafted email. At their worst, they do nothing at all, absolutely nothing – the body of your email is left unnoticed or a customer sends your email straight to the trash. The shame! With 33% of email recipients opening emails based on subject lines, you can’t afford to neglect them.

Your email content could be the Beyoncé of email content, the absolute best, but if your subject lines are letting you down and people aren’t opening your emails then your content is pointless.

You need to create email campaigns with compelling subject lines that give readers a good reason to open an email. There are lots of ways to do this and it’s about experimenting with language and tone to see what works best – it all depends on your sector and audience though and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

Let’s look at a few different tips you can use:


It’s endearing when people use your name in a conversation. It adds that little bit of familiarity and direct language to pique your interest in a conversation. And let’s face it – humans are very self-centered creatures, so when we hear our own name it’s like ‘wow, me’ and we’re likely to be more interested in what someone’s saying. Especially when scrolling through an inbox.

Luckily, it’s really easy to insert names into subject line fields and use merge tags to personalize subject lines with names and locations. This can work particularly effectively with targeted automation like specific discounts for birthdays etc.

Personalization is super simple to enact and it has a positive impact on open rates.

Clear and Concise

It goes without saying, but you haven’t got a lot of room to maneuver with subject lines – grabbing attention is paramount. This is especially the case when looking at emails on mobile devices, so trying to keep your subject line word count and avoid almost writing your next novel is recommended.

Making it obvious what you’re sending an email about, such as a Thank You email can mean that people are more likely to open an email because they want to hear more. That’s not to say a bit of mystery and intrigue isn’t effective – sometimes a whimsical subject line can make people open your email to work out what’s going on.

The key takeaway is A/B test your subject line lengths and plays around with format to see how they affect your open rates. Subject lines with 30 or fewer characters have an above average open rate, so it’s worth taking a closer look at.

Anyone for an emoji?

Ah, the humble emoji; the bane of your existence or a fun way to communicate? Well, it’s up to your audience and doesn't be afraid to use an emoji here and there to test the waters and see if your customers respond favorably.

Emojis can work really well on mobile devices and add some visual cues which can really grab a customer’s attention. Try them out, but don’t go too overboard – you’ll know if they’re appropriate or not for your audience demographics.

Direct, actionable language

Using words and phrases that inspire your customers to take action is a sound bet for increased open rates. Direct words like ‘you’, ‘you’re’ and ‘you’ll’ can pique the attention of your readers and makes them feel like they’re being spoken and addressed by a brand.

The actionable language you can decide to use will be words that are about ‘doing something’. So, for example ‘take’, ‘look’, ‘download’ are all words that ask your audience to take the next step in their customer journey.

Urgent subject lines

“Quick! Not long left to use your discount” – using urgent (alert, tomorrow, running out etc) language can help to encourage your audience to take action within a smaller window of time. In your email campaign, you’ll need to have a sequence that makes sense and serves as a reminder for your customers about time-sensitive deals and promotional offers. Urgency tends to result in higher open rates because you’re actively trying to get the audience to take action within a specific time-frame.

There are similar results when you’re promoting a special announcement or an invitation to an event or offer.

Final Thoughts

Basically, whatever amazing ideas you come up with for your subject lines, they must be A/B tested, so you can work out whether they’re effective and appropriate for your audiences. To do this, you can create multiple versions of your campaign that are identical apart from the subject lines you’re choosing to use – take a look at the open rates and learn from your results.

Using a range of positive words and terms can really impact your open rates. Overall, it seems that using personalization, urgency and actionable language can really make a difference. Choosing your words wisely can drastically change your results. Test ideas and use what works with your audiences – wacky, humorous subject lines have their place but so do time-sensitive lines. It’s all about giving good reasons for your audiences to open emails and read your fantastic content.


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