HOW TO WRITE A GREAT SUBJECT LINE: 29 WAYS
BY Dana Kessler
We’re sure you’ve heard about the importance of email marketing. And we’re sure you put a lot of effort into your emails. That’s great. In this blog post, we’ll teach you a few tricks that will take your email marketing to the next level. Read it to learn how to write great subject lines, that more customers will want to read.
3 amazing facts about email marketing:
- 35% of marketing emails are opened based on the subject line alone.
- 69% of emails marked as spam are marked that way because of their subject line.
- When emails from a certain sender (let’s say you) don’t get opened regularly, you run the risk of your future emails getting sent directly to spam.
As you can see, great subject lines are REALLY important. They need to grab people’s attention and stand out in their inbox. A good subject line has to promise people something they want, or intrigue them enough to click.
How do you do that? Easy. Here are 30 ways to write great subject lines.
1. Save it for the end
Even though it’s the first thing people see from your email, the subject line is the last thing you should write. Once you’ve crafted your email, it will be much easier for you to come up with a suitable subject line. So don’t worry about it till you’re done writing your email.
2. Keep it short and sweet
People scan through their inbox quickly. Plus, many of them do so on their mobile. In fact, 61.9% of all emails are now opened and read on mobile devices, which means people go over their inbox on a narrow screen that only displays the first few words of the subject line. You want them to read your whole subject line. You don’t want it to get cut short by their device. So, short subject lines are the way to go.
How short? A desktop inbox usually displays about 60 characters of an email’s subject line, while mobile devices show 25-30 characters. So keep your subject lines as short as possible: no more than 40 characters and preferably between 5 to 7 words -- or even less. You can use this free word counter to count the number of characters.
3. Start with the important part
In case your subject does get cut off (by the device or the reader’s short attention span), be sure to start with what’s most important to you. If you’re giving 50% off all purchases this coming weekend, mention that at the beginning of your subject line, not the end.
4. Don’t sound too salesy
The biggest thing to avoid is being sent to the spam folder. So, try not to sound too salesy or pushy. Avoid: ALL CAPS, exclamation marks, and don’t use words like “buy now” or “free” in your subject line. Your subject line should tell people that you’re sharing information they might be interested in and your expertise. It should NOT sound like a sales pitch.
5. Stir up your subscribers' curiosity
A subject line has to be intriguing. It has to make the recipient curious enough to open your email. Think about it like a teaser: You don’t want to give everything away in the subject line -- just enough to make people click. You can use a cliffhanger in your subject line or just say something intriguing. Here’s a good example from an email sent by Pocket: “The Billionaire Who Wanted To Die Broke”. What’s that all about? Now that’s a subject line that you can’t not click on.
Check Also: 5 Ways to Attract New Customers to Your Business
6. Be unexpected
This takes some time and creativity, but if you (or someone in your business) has a knack for it, just know that surprising, weird, and unexpected subject lines are great for getting people to open your email.
Remember Barack Obama’s “Join me for dinner?” emails? Now that was an unexpected subject line (considering the identity of the sender)!
7. Use (but don’t abuse) emojis
People love emojis. So much so that an emoji in the subject line increases the open rate of emails by 29% and the click through rate by 28%. Here is a great list of best practices for using emoji in an email subject line.
However, it’s important to remember not to use emojis too often, because that could make them look like spam.
Pro tip: Send the email you’ll be sending your subscribers to yourself first, and be sure to open it on your mobile. Emojis sometimes turn into random characters or numbers on mobile. Sending it to yourself first will tell you if that’s the case, before you send the email to your entire list.
Important to avoid: Avoid using emojis to replace words -- only to enhance them -- otherwise you run the risk of being unclear.
8. Give them hope
Another type of effective subject line is the optimistic one. Try to write a subject line that offers a solution to a problem or promises a dream come true. SPEAR Physical Therapy did a great job with the subject line “Reach Your Running Goals | RSVP for Free Exercise Techniques: 8/27”. If you’re a runner, there’s a good chance you’d want to read how to reach your running goals. A hopeful subject line will prompt people to open your email. Just don’t make a promise you can’t keep.
9. Use FOMO
FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out. The idea is to write a subject line that tells people what they’ll be missing if they don’t open your email. Here are a few examples: “Don’t miss out on our early bird tickets”. “Order yours now before they’re all gone”. “What’s this new trend everyone is talking about?”
10. Create a sense of urgency and exclusivity
If your subject line promises an urgent or exclusive deal, people will feel the need to open your email ASAP. Subject lines that create a sense of urgency and exclusivity have a 22% higher open rate. So, include an element of scarcity (limited number) or urgency (limited time) to your subject lines. Use terms like “last chance” or “tonight only”.
11. Include a specific date or deadline
A date or a deadline for a specific event or special offer is another way to create a sense of urgency and to get people to open your email. This type of email can also be spread out in a series of emails: an initial announcement, later a reminder email, and then the final-chance email. The subject line should say exactly that.
12. Ask a question
And give the answer inside the email. Questions tend to make people curious, and it could make them want to open your email to find out the answer. Here’s an example from a company called Playbuzz, which creates quizzes and trivia: “Can We Guess Your Age Based On Your Taste in Celebrities?”. Wouldn't you want to find out?
13. Use power words
What are power words? We’re glad you asked. These are persuasive words that trigger an emotional response and influence people to do something. And they make for effective subject lines. There are hundreds of power words, and they can serve to trigger different emotions.
For example, if you want to get people to feel that something is a novelty, you can use power words like “discover” or “latest”. But if you want them to feel something is going to be simple, you might want to use power words like “painless” or “step-by-step”. Here’s a huge list of useful power words you can use.
14. Give clear instructions
Many people respond well to clear instructions. Tell your readers what to do. Use command words like “join”, “try”, “take”, “learn”, “get”, “find” or “tell”. However, avoid being salesy.
15. Include numbers in your subject line
According to research, email open rates are higher when a number is present in the subject line. People just love data and hard facts. So, go ahead and include a number. It can be the percentage of the discount you’re offering, your new opening hours, or the number of items on a list your email contains (see our next tip). Or it can be any other relevant number you can think of.
16. Make a list
People love lists. So from time to time, include a list in your email. Here’s an example: “8 easy ways to…” or “5 tips for…”. The name of your list should be your subject line. If the list is interesting and intriguing, your subject line will be so too.
17. Promise - and deliver - valuable information
If your email can offer people a piece of helpful information, something that might improve their lives or make it easier in some way -- say so in your subject line. Of course, it should be around your business’s expertise. For example “10 Winter Home Maintenance Tips to Get You Ready for Winter”, or “Ow to Get Rid of That Belly Fat, 10 Minutes a Day”. Or “5 Hidden Ways to Boost Your Tax Refund”.
18. Talk about your customers’ pains
As a business owner, you know your customers’ pains. It would be great to send them emails offering solutions to their pains. But in order to get your emails opened, don’t mention the solution in your subject line -- mention the pain.
IKEA killed it with the subject line: “Where do all these toys go?”, which, we’re sure, hit the right note with parents struggling to keep their homes tidy. With that subject line, IKEA let their subscribers know that it understands them. And, it gave them a good reason to open the email: to see what IKEA is offering to make this problem (and all the toys) go away.
19. Make ‘em laugh
The oldest trick in the book -- but it works every time. Funny subject lines are the best. We loved Groupon’s subject line: "Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)". Here’s a list of more funny email subject lines to draw inspiration from.
20. Offer a discount
70% of people open commercial emails, because they are looking for a deal, discount, or coupon. So if you happen to be offering one, don’t be shy about it, put it in your subject line.
21. Use title case
Data shows that using title case gives you a sense of authority and gives your emails a higher open rate. What is title case? It’s when all major words are capitalized, while minor words are lowercase. You can follow this example:
Title case: This Is How It's Done
Sentence case: This is how it's done
Lower case: this is how it's done
You can also use this title case converter.
22. Make it personal
Research shows that people are 26% more likely to open emails with personalized subject lines, because it makes them feel that you’re speaking directly to them. It’s important to note, that writing a personalized subject line, doesn’t just mean mentioning the recipient by name.
It means mentioning something that’s relevant to that person, that shows you know them and you know their interests or needs. If the subject line mentions the recipient’s last purchase or the area they live in, for instance, that means it’s personalized. Pinterest’s subject lines are always spot-on in terms of personalization. Take for example this one: “Check out 17 ideas we found for you”.
23. Use pronouns
Using pronouns like “we” and “you/yours” in your subject line also creates personalization, because it suggests a personal relationship between you and the person getting the email.
The British online retailer Next did this well with the subject line “Family day out? We got you covered”. The “we” makes you feel like there’s a relationship between the company and the recipient of the mail.
24. Make an announcement
Words like “new” and “introducing” are effective in subject lines, because they create the feeling that your email is about to announce something that your readers don't know yet. This will give people an incentive to open your email. Of course, all these kinds of promises need to be kept.
25. Try a little alliteration
Alliteration means that neighboring words repeat the same sound, like in kids tongue twisters such as Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. They work great in marketing too. Try using phrases like “pack a punch” or “make more money” or any other alliterations you can think of.
26.. And rhymes
Rhymes grab people’s attention. This fun little gadget will help you rhyme in no time -- see what we did there?
27. Use social proof
People tend to want things that others have, or want to do things that others are doing. Mainly if those others are in great numbers or are celebrities, influencers, experts or authority figures. You can use this in your subject lines. For example, by mentioning impressive numbers (“Join our XXXX subscribers''), or promoting your best sellers or customer favorites (if it’s a product or service everybody’s buying, it must be good). Here are more great ideas of how to use social proof in your subject lines.
28. Use “How to” in your subject line
A subject line like “How to win more customers” or “How to fill those empty seats” is great. The important thing is to focus on the benefit, so make sure your “How to” subject lines offer to teach your subscribers something useful that gives them actual value. “The complete guide to X”, or “X ways to do Y” also work well.
29. Be timely
Your subject line should be no less timely than your email itself. It’s obvious you shouldn’t be offering your customers summer deals in winter, but try and be more precise than that. Mention holidays, elections or any particular special event in your subject lines.
And here’s a list of 10 things you should avoid in your subject lines:
a. Never use ALL CAPS in your subject line -- it seems like you are shouting, plus many spam filters don't like it either.
b. Don't use special characters like $, #, @, & in your subject lines -- they run the risk of being identified as spam.
c. Don't use too many punctuation marks -- meaning, 3 max.
d. Avoid spam trigger words like these.
e. Don’t use more than 10 words in your subject line. To play it extra-safe: don’t use more than 7. Remember: Long subject lines get cut off, especially on mobiles.
f. Avoid one-word subject lines.
g. Never use misleading or deceptive subject lines.
h. Avoid using emojis to replace words -- only to enhance them -- otherwise, you run the risk of being unclear.
i. Avoid sending “do not reply” subject lines, because it makes it clear that a robot generates them, and no one wants that.
j. Avoid looking like a Reply or Forward -- some businesses do that. Don’t. It’s a dubious strategy, and it doesn’t work.