Can anyone else relate to the love-hate relationship I have with email subject lines? How can I get someone to open my email with fewer than 45 characters? If the subject line is too long, you risk the message being cut off from the inbox view. Too short and it may not get the point across.
The job of the email subject line is simple; to be opened or to be sent to the trash. That means having an effective subject line is crucial. You only get one first impression — and that is a lot of pressure.
Rather than just brainstorming a subject line that might entice the reader to open it, there has to be a simpler way. Lucky for you, this blog is here to give you tips and tricks for creating an awesome subject line that will get your emails opened.
Before we get to the meat and potatoes of how to produce great subject lines, we need to fully grasp the importance the subject line holds. Here are some interesting statistics according to Keap (which is a tool we will get to later).
- More than 47% of subscribers open an email based solely on the subject line.
- More than 69% of subscribers tag an email as spam based on the subject line alone.
- Using particular keywords in your subject line can increase or decrease open rates.
- Playing with people’s emotions like curiosity and fear of missing out also affects how well recipients respond.
Based on those statistics, it is safe to say that a lot is riding on the subject line to get your email opened. Now, let’s dive into the top tips for creating effective subject lines.
What to Avoid
Subject lines should catch the attention of the reader. However, some tactics will send your email straight to the spam folder. To keep spam filters from catching your emails, here are some tactics to avoid:
- OPEN NOW! IMPORTANT MESSAGE! — Refrain from using all caps.
- Hi there!!!! Want to hear some exciting news!?!?!?! — Keep from overusing punctuation.
- Free gift for you! - Stay away from using promotion words like free, gift, or flash sale.
It’s also important to keep in mind the CAN-SPAM Act. Despite its name, CAN-SPAM is a law enforced by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that sets rules and requirements for commercial emails and messages. Here are a few fundamental rules to follow when it comes to your subject lines:
- Don’t use misleading subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
- Identify the message as an ad. This does not necessarily have to be said in the subject line, but it could. You must clearly reveal that your message is an advertisement.
For the full list of rules and regulations, click here.
Now that you know the top things to avoid, let’s review the characteristics that make up a successful subject.
Characteristics of a Successful Subject Line
The subject line makes or breaks it for the recipient. If the subject line does not grab their attention, they will not open it. It is as simple as that.
Think of the subject line as the cover of a book. Ever heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Let me tell you a secret… Most people decide if they want to read the book based on the cover. The same thing happens with subject lines.
Here are 6 characteristics you can incorporate into your subject.
1. Insert Emojis ⬇️
When you add emojis to a subject line, it adds a visual appeal. With a pop of color, emojis have shown to be effective in increasing open rates and engagement according to HubSpot. Where you place the emoji is important as well. Typically, emojis placed at the end of subject lines tend to perform well, but others can be added elsewhere to add value. Here are a few examples:
- We ❤️ our customers! Here’s why.
- Attend our open house! You won’t want to miss the party. 🎉
- 🚨 Attention: Important information about your account inside! 🚨
2. Add Personalization
To catch the recipient's attention, personalize the email. That might look like including their first name, their company name, or their location in your subject line.
People love the familiarity of seeing their name or location. According to HubSpot research, it increases the open rate if you add first and last names, than if you did not.
If you do not have that information, address them using “you” and “your” to create that personal feel. Take a look:
- Jan, this is your last chance to RSVP!
- Kristen, here are some fun weekend activities in Grand Rapids, MI.
- We are reaching out to 1 Bold Step for some input!
3. Call the Reader to Action
Use a call to action to entice your readers to open the email. The simple trick is to use action verbs at the beginning to grab their attention.
- Check out our new blog ➡️
- Register for our upcoming event today!
- Learn new tricks for marketing success here.
These are all great examples of how you can incorporate a call to action within your subject line.
4. Keep it Short
According to HubSpot, an email subject line should be less than 45 characters. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room. The subject line does not have to give every detail of the email. It has to grab attention to get the reader to open and read the details within the email.
- Newsletter alert 🚨
- Thank you for your business!
- You’re invited!
Shorter subject lines also leave some mystery to the email and lead the reader to curiosity.
5. Ask a Question
Questions can make the subject line personable. They are attention grabbers by generating an automatic response in the reader’s mind. They can also be a gentle reminder or an easy way to spark interest in new materials.
Here are some examples:
- Have you read our new blog yet?
- Did you claim your seat?
- Are you busy on May 3?
6. Be Consistent
Your subject line is the first thing people notice while skimming through their inboxes. Below the subject line is the preview text, which is a more detailed description of what is in the email.
The subject line and the preview text should align. If there is any conflicting information, the reader is likely to skip over the email. Once that trust is gone, it can be difficult to regain. Here are a few examples:
Subject line: Check out our new blog!
Preview text: In this blog, we will provide tips on writing awesome subject lines.
Subject: Claim your seat now.
Preview text: Hi Julie, In 2 weeks, we will be hosting our annual gala. RSVP here!
While writing subject lines, I like brainstorming tactics to get the creative juices flowing. I often start with several tactics that help spark ideas. Here are some of my favorite tools to help generate great subject lines.
Keap lives rent-free in my bookmarks. It is a free tool that generates subject lines in 3 easy steps. This is a helpful tool if you get stuck brainstorming.
- Pick which type of email you want to use your subject line for.
- Some examples are newsletters, follow-ups, registration, etc.
- Enter keywords that you want your subject line to describe. There are three categories to provide more detail:
- Category of interest or keyword
- Desired result
- What they want to avoid.
- Generate the subject lines!
Once the subject lines generate, you can scroll through and choose the best one or take inspiration to make it your own! The more specific the keywords are, the better — so keep that in mind when you use Keap.
Mailmuch is another free subject line generator. There are 2 easy steps between you and generating great subject lines.
- Enter keywords in the following areas:
- What is the email about?
- Generate subject lines!
It is a similar tool to Keap, but it could still lead to other subject line ideas.
Send Check It
Send Check It is a free subject line tester. Once you have decided on a subject line, this tool lets you test the potential open rate.
The home page has a space to insert your subject line. Click the test button, and it will give you a percentage of what it thinks the success rate will be. It bases success on scannability, reading level, and length.
This is not a perfect tool, but it does help guide you in the right direction of where to improve.
Some might argue that the subject line is the most critical part of the email. Remember to use these tips and tricks the next time you are struggling to come up with the perfect subject line.