Email subject lines have a lot of responsibility. Not only do they compete against a sea of other emails at the inbox, but they also determine whether or not someone actually opens the email. In fact, 69 percent of people will report an email as spam based on the subject line alone!
Challenges aside, you can craft an effective email subject line that captures both attention and clicks. You may have to try out a few different ideas to get there, but you can let the data help you understand what works best for your audience.
To get you started, here are a few tips and tricks to writing better subject lines for your email marketing.
To get you inspired to write a click-worthy copy, here are a few exceptional examples.
Want to leverage email as a marketing tool to drive more traffic, sales, and conversions? Check out the Advanced Email Marketing Training Course.
Master the Length
It may seem arbitrary, but studies have shown that shorter email subject lines have higher open rates. Marketo, for instance, shows the highest open rates occur in four-word subject lines:
According to Backlinko, subject lines with no more than 16 characters are even more effective, due to their likeliness to reach the inbox and a certain level of mystery.
Of course, your audience may or may not react similarly, so your best bet is to test different subject lines to find the silver bullet.
Make Them Curious
Is there anything better than an email subject line your readers can’t resist? With the right words in place, you can create the kind of curiosity that leaves readers needing to know — or with, what some might call, the fear of missing out (FOMO).
Plant Therapy does this well:
Not only does the email subject line leave readers wanting to know more (why won’t they regret it?), but their inbox preview copy supports the subject line by making it nearly impossible not to click on the email (they want to be glad they opened it).
Tip: When using curiosity language, make sure the reward in the actual email is deserving of the click. There’s nothing worse than feeling baited into something undesirable (it will probably also encourage readers to unsubscribe).
There is no time like the present to create an irresistible email subject line, especially if you’re offering a limited-time discount, and you want readers to act on it.
Creating a sense of urgency in your email subject lines can help increase your open rates and encourage readers to become customers.
Here’s a great example from Berkey Filters:
To communicate the time-sensitive nature of their offer, Berkey uses language that encourages readers to do something right away and tells them how long they have left to do it. The hourglass emoji reinforces the message and helps the email stand out in a crowded inbox. When trying to nudge readers to take action, urgency language can help as long as you keep it positive. Your recipients don’t want to feel like something bad is going to happen if they don’t take you up on the offer.
Whether you include the recipient’s first name in your copy, or you use language that reflects personal behaviors and interests, getting closer to your readers means you need to go deeper with your copy.
American Express does this successfully by relating to the reader’s personal interests:
By segmenting their recipients into those who specifically like dining, American Express speaks directly to the pastimes of their readers and promises rewards to boot.
It is possible to get too personal, so be careful with what you write. For example, instead of saying, “We see you favorited new underwear last week on our website,” you might try, “Your favorite items are now 50% off!”
Emojis have been showing up in email subject lines more regularly, and for good reason—they attract attention and can drive emotion. On mobile devices—where 46 percent of people read emails—they can be helpful in communicating when space is limited.
Then again, a recent study shows the use of emojis in email subject lines increases negative sentiment and does not increase the likelihood of the email being opened. Interestingly, the same study also reveals readers are more likely to direct attention to emoji emails in a crowded inbox.
Again, if you want to test the effectiveness of emojis for your specific audience, it’s best to test email subject lines for the verdict. You may be surprised at the results, as many of us assume we know what our audience wants without looking at the data.
Make an Offer
When you want to increase email open rates, there is no better way than including an offer your customers can’t refuse.
This is exactly the approach Apple takes with their email subject line:
By promising free delivery in two hours, Apple surprises readers with an offer that’s unexpected and quite valuable for those who can’t make it to a physical store. If you want to capture sales from customers who are still thinking about a purchase, then an email subject line with the right offer could be just the thing to get the conversion.
When creating an offer email subject line, make sure nothing about your language is misleading. It’s okay to elaborate in the email content, but the subject line needs to be 100 percent accurate.
Leverage Preview Text
Preview text is the snippet of information that immediately follows the email subject line. Yes, I know this section isn’t “technically” the subject line, but it does appear alongside it. Why not take advantage of this supporting text?
Here’s an example from Peet’s Coffee:
The preview text reads “Exclusive early access to our Fall beverages.” This lets readers know what to expect to find when they open the email (because even though the very short subject line, “Psst…”, catches the eye, it’s even more likely someone will open it when they have a clue to follow it up.
Note: Some preview text automatically draws from the content of your email, but many times you can customize what you actually want this area to communicate.
Looking forward to improve your emailing skills? Try answering these Email Marketing Test Questions and assess your understading of the concepts!
While it’s fine to get creative with your email subject lines, there may be even more effective ways to attract your readers and entice them to open. It’s helpful to know what studies show works for people, but the best evidence you have is to test different subject lines and see what your specific audience prefers. Then, you can leverage that information as you write more and more highly effective email subject lines your readers will love.
Want to Learn More?
Email marketing is a critical part of any end-to-end digital marketing campaign. To get you or your team up to speed on the latest tools, tricks, and best practices, check out our Digital Marketing Associate Master’s Program through which you can prepare to ace the HubSpot email marketing certification.