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5 Tips to Create the Best Email Marketing Subject Lines

August 22, 2019 Julia Motis

laptop using emailThe subject line is the first thing people see when your email hits their inbox. For email marketing, that means you have less than a full sentence to grab someone’s attention enough to compel them to click and read further. To do that, you’ll need to have some good subject line practices in your tool belt. Here are our top five:

1. Follow these style guidelines

The average email platform will only show about 60 characters of a subject line on a desktop, so don’t go any longer than that. To have the full effect, your readers need to see the complete subject line. 

Additionally, about 77% of email opens are on mobile, so put the most important words at the beginning of the subject line, in case those are the only words that get read.

Along with that, most email platforms show the “from” email before the subject line, so make sure to use a person’s name there rather than the company name to give it more of a one-on-one feel and that all-important sense of familiarity. Definitely avoid sender names like “No-reply” or “Click here.” That’s how you get your emails put straight into the reject pile.

It’s tempting to treat subject lines like titles, but that can come across a little too formal to most readers. Use sentence case (capitalizing only the first letter of the sentence) to appear more casual and conversational, as if you’re the reader’s friend, sending him or her a personal message. And don’t overuse exclamation points or use ALL CAPS EITHER BECAUSE IT’S OVER-THE-TOP AND ANNOYING (see?). 

2. Keep it simple

While a subject line is a good place to be clever, make sure you’re not confusing people. Keep the tongue twisters and business jargon to a minimum. Get straight to the point, and don’t waste words/characters on extraneous information. 

Read your subject line out loud a few times in a row. If you stumble on any part of it, guess what? Your audience most likely will too. So keep Peter Piper and his pickled peppers out of your subject lines. 

3. Use logical keywords for searching

These days we’re all about finding things as quickly as possible without hassle. If I’m searching for an email that I saved for later and it’s not at the top of my inbox anymore, it better be easily searchable. I think I’m in the majority on this. 

For example, if I’m sending an external newsletter that includes information about an upcoming marketing seminar and the link to RSVP to it, the words “marketing seminar,” or some variation of that, should be in the subject line. 

4. Leave them wondering

The subject line is the first thing people see when your email hits their inbox. For email marketing, that means you have less than a full sentence to grab someone’s attention enough to compel them to click and read further.

But don’t put EVERY relevant word into the subject line. Think of the subject line as a preview or a hint. You want it to point to what’s inside the email, but without saying exactly what’s inside. You want the recipients to wonder what content they’ll be led to and how it will benefit them. 

However, avoid asking a leading question, then answering it yourself, or starting a sentence in the subject line and completing it in the body. Both come across really cheesy.

5. Be a little bit daring

Don’t be afraid to come up with something outside-the-box. No one ever drew attention by sticking to the status quo. The most attention-grabbing subject lines use tactics such as: being controversial, using a number (such as from a listicle), quoting or referencing pop culture and creating urgency with deadlines or calls for immediate action. Some of my favorite subject lines are from news round-up emailers like theSkimm or Morning Brew.

Use emojis, if the situation calls for it. They can add that visual element that draws people’s eyes, especially if they are used intelligently with your content to add to, rather than subtract from, the email’s appeal.

However, be careful about going too off-the-rails when trying to hook the recipient, or your emails might start getting flagged as spam. 

The best way to think when you’re creating an email and writing a subject line is: “What would attract (or annoy) me?” We all send AND receive numerous emails every day, so we’re actually more expert on the subject than we think. Take note of what other companies are doing that caught your eye or combine a few tactics to create your own secret formula. You never know what’s truly going to work if you don’t give it a try and measure your results. Over time, you might just become an email marketing pro.

What kind of subject lines catch your attention the most? Share with us below.

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