Write Email Subject Lines That Get Opened


Apr 22, 2014

People today are inundated with information more than ever before and we don’t have time to soak it all in.  Each of your customers and prospects get a substantial amount of emails every day, and a lot of them are never opened.  The chances of your email being overlooked are pretty high unless you have a distinctive subject line.

Your subject line is your first (and maybe your last) impression on your recipients. In many ways, your email subject line is as important as the email contents. After all, a great message is worthless if it is not seen.

There are a number of different approaches when it comes to creating effective subject lines. We’ll be covering 5 different types of effective email subject lines and outlining examples of each.

Simple, Straight Forward Subject Lines

Many recipients want marketers to be clear and concise with subject lines.  Time is at a premium and subject lines that are direct allow recipients to quickly asses an email’s value to them personally or their organization.

MailChimptm conducted an email subject line study and found that short, descriptive subject lines perform better than tacky appeals. Many marketers disagree with the findings and believe that humor and creativity are vital to the creation of a good subject line.  We believe that the concise approach is most applicable with notification emails, in which a user already has a connection with the content you’re delivering. These emails have a specific purpose, and their subject lines should be specific as well.


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Personalized Subject Lines

Incorporating personalization into email subject lines is another way to increase open rates. By personalization we are not referring to incorporating a recipient’s name, but rather specific offers and language that are based upon the known interests of each member of your audience. It is good practice to understand your audience well enough to know what language, style, and messages will be attractive to each of them.


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Funny Email Subject Lines

An amusing subject line can stand out among the other emails. Humor can be interpreted differently by members of your audience which can make it difficult to appeal to the masses. If you know your audience well and your emails are targeted, a well-placed joke can get your email opened and create loyalty within the recipients.


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The “touch me” line is likely to be understood by most readers, but the other “funny” email subject line might be lost on some users who didn’t attend Hogwarts.

Email Subject Lines with Numbers & Lists

Incorporating digits into your subject line attracts attention as recipients are drawn to numbers. Lists are easier for our brains to process and they create curiosity, in addition to providing the promise of a quick and easy read.

An article at The New Yorker identifies why lists stand out in our consciousness:

“Whenever we’re scanning the environment for nothing in particular, our visual system is arrested by the things that don’t fit—features that suddenly change or somehow stand out from the background. A headline that is graphically salient in some way has a greater chance of capturing our eye, and in an environment where dozens of headlines and stories vie for attention, numerals break up the visual field.”


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Punctuation in Email Subject Lines

Question marks and unusual punctuation offer another way to get your emails noticed.  Using unusual symbols or unusual punctuation can be a good way to attract interest and increase open rates.  Asking your recipients a question engages them and enters you into a dialogue with your audience, making them more likely to be opened.


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Keep these things in mind when writing your subject lines:

Write multiple subject lines. You should write 5-10 subject lines for every email, then choose the best.

Know your audience. The more you understand your audience the better able you will be at writing messages that resonate with them.

Tone matters. Most good email subject lines rely on a conversational tone to attract readers.

Pay attention to the preview. The email preview that follows the subject line is a valuable piece of property, and yet so many businesses ignore it or let it get filled with garbage text.

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© Action Graphics, 2014. 

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