What is a Good Email Subject Line?

It’s been said many times that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

But when it comes to your marketing email, no one seems to have a problem with making a snap decision.

Crafting quality email subject lines to drive open rates

The subject line in an email is the single line of text email recipients see when they receive your email in their inbox. Since email inboxes are inundated with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of emails per day, catchy email subject lines are more important than ever. This one line of text can often determine whether an email is opened or sent straight to trash.

Good email subject lines can make a powerful impact on your readers. The words you choose for your email subject lines can have a big impact on whether or not the hard work you’ve put into your email will pay off. No matter how sophisticated or well-crafted your email campaigns are, they are worthless if your target audience doesn’t open the email.

Spending a little extra time on your email subject lines will help you boost email open rates, avoid the spam folder, and get your message in front of the right people.

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Here are 12 subject line tweaks to consider before sending out your next round of marketing emails:

1. Cut it down

What good is your subject line if people can’t read it? Often times, people check emails from mobile devices, swiping right through emails that don’t prompt a sense of urgency. Make sure your subject line doesn’t get cut short by keeping it under 40 characters or about five to seven words.

Your readers want to scan through their inbox quickly. Sometimes subject lines that use only a word or two can stand out and get the most engagement.

How Bisque Imports does it: “TGIF!”

Bisque importsBisque Imports CC

Bisque importsBisque importsBisque imports

2. Take out anything spammy

Subject lines that are aggressively salesy are often the most likely to be marked as spam. That means you should avoid loud punctuation like all caps and multiple exclamation points, as well as overtly promotional language like “Buy now” or “Free.” These are sure-fire ways to have your marketing emails sent straight to the spam folder.

Instead of focusing on promotion, try offering your expertise and sharing information your audience will find useful.

How Mother Earth Pillows does it: “Essential Oils…Learn what they do!”

Mother Earth

3. Ask open-ended questions

Why should you use questions in your subject lines? Questions are a great way to focus your readers’ attention and pique their curiosity.

Questions also feel incomplete on their own. Using a question will inspire readers to open the email in search of an answer.

How Strong Women, Strong Girls does it: “Who was Wonder Woman’s Role Model?”

Strong Women Strong Girls

4. Include a deadline

Considering there’s no shortage of distractions standing between you and your readers. The deadline tactic creates a sense of urgency that can encourage readers to prioritize your email.

A successful promotional strategy, for an event or a special offer, will likely include a series of emails. You can send out an initial announcement, letting people know about an upcoming date. As the deadline approaches, remind users of the promotion in a “last chance” follow-up email.

Don’t be afraid to make the turnaround time as short as 24 hours. “Now or never” phrases are often the most successful.

How the Manchester Animal Shelter does it: “Cruisin’ 4 Critters is August 2nd Register Today!”

Manchester Animal Shelter

5. Try a teaser

Think about why people love movie trailers, but hate commercials. There’s power in drawing people in with a preview, rather than giving away the punchline right at the start. Great subject lines do just that.

Try to think of something that will hook your readers and spark their interest.

How The Tropical Travelers does it: Destination Weddings…Want Rock Star Treatment?”

tropical travelers

6. Give a command

On the other hand, some people respond best to direct instructions. If your email has a direct call to action, like encouraging people to buy tickets for an event, don’t be afraid to let your subject line reflect that.

How United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley does it: “Join us at the MLH Scholars Luncheon!”

United Way of Massachusetts

7. Add a list

You’ve probably noticed how popular list posts are right now. If not, look no further than the title of this blog post.

People love lists because they allow us to make sense of big, complicated concepts through a series of smaller parts.  Use a list in your subject line as a way to let your readers know your content is well organized and easily digestible.

How Constant Contact does it: “5 Tips for Instagram Success”

CTCT example

8. Make an announcement

If you have something new and exciting to share about your business or organization, channel that enthusiasm into your subject line.

Although it’s hard to craft personalized emails to a long marketing email list, sharing announcements with email subscribers is a great way to boost that sense of personalization, as readers will feel like they’re amongst the first to know about this offer.

How Fluent City does it:  “The winners of the postcard contest are…”

Fluent City email

9. Be unique

To craft great subject lines you need to understand two things: who your audience is, and what your business can offer them that they can’t get anywhere else. Think about what your business is specifically known for and highlight that in your subject line.

Don’t be afraid to put your business’s name right in the subject line, especially if your company is well known and backed by social proof. Many people will open emails simply based on the sender alone, so don’t miss the chance to reinforce your specific brand.

How Taza Chocolate does it: “Taza Hot Fudge And A Cherry On Top!”

Taza chocolate

10. Tell a joke

Most people aren’t bursting into laughter while going through their inbox. That means if you can write a funny subject line, you’re going to get a lot of attention. Ok, so maybe you won’t have your audience busting up in laughter, but you might just be able to convince them to open the email by at least making them smile with a joke that isn’t completely cringe-worthy.

Depending on the tone your business is going for, you can test out some puns or wordplay to get some laughs and engagement out of your contacts.

How Boloco does it: “real baseball fans eat burritos”

Boloco email

11. Say something unexpected

If funny isn’t really your thing, why not give surprising a try? This could be anything from a little-known fact about your industry, an eyebrow-raising statistic, or just something people aren’t used to hearing from a sales email.

Sharing something unexpected means your readers will want to read The
novelty will also increase the likelihood that people will remember your email later on.

How The Basketry does it: “Join us for a Bling-ing good time”

The Basketry email

12. Use multimedia

Adding a video, linking to a presentation or podcast, or including a helpful guide are all great ways to make your email content varied and more engaging.

So, if you’re putting in the effort and going beyond plain text emails, make sure you’re telling your contacts right from the subject line so they don’t miss out!

How Reel Works does it: “Reel Works Kickstarter – New Video!”

Reel Works email

In summary, the subject line of an email is the single line of text people see when they receive your email. This one line of text can often determine whether an email is opened or sent straight to trash, so make sure it’s optimized toward your audience. With these tips in mind, you’re ready to write good email subject lines that will get your emails the attention they deserve.

But don’t rely on our advice alone.

Take a look at your own inbox and see which emails you’ve been opening. Putting yourself in your contacts’ shoes is one of the best ways to write a subject line that will get you noticed and boost your business.

Have questions or advice? Discuss this post in the Constant Contact Community.

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Improve Your Open Rates with These 12 Subject Line Tweaks

Ready to do more business with email marketing?

Start your free 60-day trial today. Learn more about our 60-day free email marketing trial.

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