How to write great email subject lines

Nearly half of email users decide whether or not to read a message based solely on the subject line. Make sure you get it right.
6 minute read
Qasim Zulfiqar @BluLitmus
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for How to write great email subject lines

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Learn how your subject lines can impact the conversion of your marketing emails

It's natural to feel frustrated when your email campaign doesn't give you the results you were hoping for. Despite having a great message and proper targeting, it can be really tough to figure out exactly why your campaign failed to perform.

But while you've heard the old axiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” in the world of email marketing, the opposite is true. Most people are able to effectively judge whether they want to read an email based purely on the subject line.

Subject lines are the one thing that sets your message apart from a sea of emails. Users often decide whether to read the email or trash it based purely on the subject lines.

What are subject lines so important?

Subject lines are the most visible parts of emails. They're what the readers get to see first when they receive the emails in their inbox. Most of our inboxes get flooded with thousands of emails in a month. This high volume means that readers pay less attention than ever to new emails. That makes it all the more important for marketers to focus on having a VERY strong subject line. Having a strong subject line can be the biggest difference between getting your message read or having it end up in the trash.

Strong subject lines can have a massive effect on readers. You only get about 60 characters, so every single word is important. Remember, no matter how well written your email is, it's useless if it never gets opened.

Going the extra mile on creating a kick-ass subject line can really go a long way in boosting your email response rates and making sure that your email is read by prospective customers.

According to a study by SuperOffice, 47% of customers make a decision to read an email-based purely on the subject line.

This highlights the importance of having a compelling subject line that entices the reader click through to open your email. You have to keep in mind that your reader is going to make the decision based only on the information that they have in front of them.

However, it can be really difficult to figure out all the steps to take to create the perfect subject line. There are so many different details to cover; what language should you use, what syntax should you use, what formal conventions need to be followed. All of the questions can feel really overwhelming.

That is why we've drafted a list of tips you can follow to create amazing email subject lines that your readers will click on.

1. Keep it short

Make sure that you follow the proper conventions for email subject lines by keeping them in the recommended limit of under 60 characters. That's the character limit that's visible in most email platforms' inbox view. You don’t want the most compelling part of your subject line to get chopped off.

Moreover, email recipients only have limited attention spans while reading their inbox. Keeping a short email subject line sometimes works best for visual impact and inducing a sense of curiosity.

2. Stay authentic

For email subject lines, staying authentic and personal is the best way to warrant responses. The worst thing you can do is sound like a spam email.

Be very careful when using aggressively sales-oriented words in your subject line. Your readers are looking for useful information when they hop into their email. No one likes to be bombarded with aggressive sales messages right off the bat.

Rather than putting your efforts into hard selling, position yourself as an expert by sharing insightful new information and your audience will automatically be drawn towards your content.

3. Ask open-ended questions

Asking questions is a great way to engage your reader's response. Most people are internally wired to respond to questions. Insightful questions allow your readers to instinctively give their input and connect with your email. This can be the perfect way to slowly warm your leads and bring them closer to making a sale.

By using insightful questions, you can massively increase the response rate of your emails.

4. Mention a fixed deadline

The fear of missing out is one of the biggest instinctive fears that we all have. You can capitalize on that fear by having a fixed deadline mentioned in your email subject. This leads to readers prioritizing your email and increases your response rate.

Deadlines are perfect when paired along with special offers associated with certain events. Any holiday is a great opportunity to use roll out a special offer and use deadlines to prompt customer action.

Deadlines can be perfectly paired with reminder emails to execute a much higher success rate. Emails with a "now or never” feel are extremely successful in appealing to audiences.

5. Experiment with teasers

There is a reason why movie trailers are some of the most commonly watched videos across the world whereas commercials are globally hated. Teasers have the power to draw in people by piquing their curiosity and saving the punchline for the perfect moment.

Use your subject line to tease the contents of the email. You can do this with one of the open-ended questions we mentioned before. Or, you can use a mildly cryptic statement that subtly alludes to the email's contents. Here's an example of a teaser subject line we recently used:

"These people started a trillion-dollar company, but YOU'VE got the advantage."

The subject line immediately makes you wonder who we're talking about, and what advantage you could possibly have.

6. Make a formal announcement

A formal announcement is a great tool to share important business news and information with your readers. Due to their formal feeling, users usually tend to interact with announcements way more than with normal emails. Sending them out to your customers can make them feel exclusive by letting them have the opportunity to know about offers first.

7. Use humor

Users are much more likely to interact with something that makes them laugh. But make sure you practice your comedic chops and jokes extensively before you send out humorous emails. Badly executed humor is way worse than no humor at all. And play it reasonably safe. You don't want to risk offending potential customers with edgy humor.

8. Reference pop culture and trends

Whether it's the latest Marvel movie or the results of the Super Bowl, there are certain bits of culture and current events that end up at the forefront of readers' minds. If you can leverage that in your emails, you can jump into a trend your readers are already thinking and talking about. It's also a great way to present your brand as personable and relatable.

9. Use a personal touch

In a sea of marketing-oriented emails, it's important to convey a personal touch. This can help your email stand out by forming a connection with the recipient. Using your recipient's first name in the subject line immediately grabs their attention, and makes the message feel more important and less spammy.

10. Don't repeat yourself

Don't go with generic, reusable subject lines. Always spend the time to draft new subject lines.

11. Don't be spammy

Spam filters will automatically flag certain words, and divert your email to the recipient's spam folder. Different email platforms and different users may have different levels of spam filtration, but try to play it safe. Words like "free," "cheap," and "guaranteed" can trip spam filters, as can chaining together a bunch of special characters like dollar signs or exclamation points.

Also, use that caps lock sparingly. Yes, we know, we used all caps in one of our examples above. It worked for us because our subscribers get enough emails from us to classify us as a safe sender, but if you're working with a relatively new list, using all caps in your subject line is flirting with danger.

12. Get some help

So marketing copy isn't your forté? Don't worry. You can get help from an email marketing expert. Consider finding a seasoned copywriter to help you craft your next email campaign. It could make the difference between a flood of leads and a trip to your recipients' trash folder.

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