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You invest so much time perfecting email copy, adding quality images and choosing the best call to action, but what’s the point if no one opens your email? That’s where a killer subject line comes in.

Your email subject line is arguably the most important aspect of your email, because ultimately it’s what’s driving people to click through to your products or services. First impressions matter, so make it count!

People always judge emails by their subject lines. And, if yours isn’t standing out, looks spammy or isn’t showing correctly, you’ll fall short of generating those leads. Data shows that 47% of people open emails based on the subject line alone. That’s a lot of pressure!

But don’t worry—in this article, we’ll go over some email subject line best practices and things to avoid.

Email Subject Line Best Practices

1. Keep it short and sweet

With up to 46% of emails being opened on mobile devices, it’s important to consider how your subject line will display on those smaller screens. Many email providers stop showing a subject line on mobiles anywhere from 33 and 43 characters. So to make sure your subject hits home, put the important info at the very beginning.

Generally speaking, 82% of marketers send subject lines with 60 characters or less, which is why we recommend writing subject lines between 30 and 59 characters. Although, creating an even shorter subject line containing 20 or less characters could be a great opportunity to stand out from your competitors.

2. Use a personal sender name

Personalisation is key when sending emails, which is why using a real sender name is more inviting for people than using “noreply@companyname.com”.

Using a no-reply email is like shutting down a conversation before it’s even begun. And that’s the opposite of what we want. So, to avoid being marked as spam and give the best first impression use a personal sender name from a real person.

Why and how is this important to your subject line? Let’s think about how these emails will display in the inbox. The sender name and the subject line are the first 2 things a recipient will see, and if the sender name doesn’t sound or look like someone the recipient wants to hear from it’s more likely to be marked as spam.

3. Segment your lists

With this one it’s important to think about relevance. Ask yourself: “Is this email relevant to my entire email list?” The answer is probably “no”, and that’s where segmented lists come in.

Segmenting lists allows you to target your messages to specific people who have interacted to similar content in the past. So, if you’re sending out the top 10 new release tractors to a list of caterers you might want to think again. The subject line is where this starts and ends, the subject line has to be relevant to the email you’re sending and should consider who the target market is.

Not sure how to do it? Take a look at our article on how to segment your list here.

4. Don’t be misleading

It’s one thing to capture your recipients’ attention. It’s another to mislead for the click. No one wants to be the business that cried wolf, so avoid making false promises in your email subject lines. Otherwise you may see your open rates dwindle.

Your subject line sets the expectation for what the reader will see inside. So when it’s not the same message, your audience will inadvertently learn not to trust you. This can lead to more unsubscribes and lower open rates.

5. Use numbers

Numbers, especially odd ones, draw attention and stand out against letters. So, for a higher open rate we suggest incorporating numbers into your subject line, but only if it makes sense to do so.

Data by YesWare suggests that email open and reply rates were higher for email subject lines that contained numbers:

  • Average open rate without number: 51.9%
  • Average open rate with number: 53.2%

Hubspot also state that subject lines with data and numbers help your emails get noticed and stand out thanks to the clear and straightforward message.

6. Use incentives

People love to feel like they’re getting a bargain, which is why incentives work wonders in email subject lines. Put your offer up front for all to see, and you should see your open rates rise.

7. Create urgency

Ever heard of the fear of missing out (FOMO)? It’s a great strategy to use in your email subject line. Creating a sense of urgency gets people to take action because they don’t like missing out or losing out on a great deal. According to Chief Marketer in a study by Email Center, subject lines that create urgency and exclusivity can give a 22% higher open rate. So, if you have a great sale running, make sure you create a bit of urgency to increase your open rate.

8. Use top performing words

Fact is, some words work better than others in subject lines. Some pique interest, while others get ignored. According to Alchemy Worx, here are just 5 of the top performing words based on open rate:

  • Upgrade (65.68% open rate)
  • Just (64.76% open rate)
  • Content (59.05% open rate)
  • Go (55.84% open rate)
  • Wonderful (55.10% open rate)

Source: Alchemy Worx, 2015

Things To Avoid

1. Avoid spam trigger words

As mentioned earlier, some words perform better than others. So, it comes as no surprise that 69% of emails flagged as spam are reported because of the email subject line. To avoid the spam filter, check out this article and try to avoid the following words:

  • Miss
  • Deals
  • Groovy
  • Conditions
  • Friday!
  • 100%
  • $$$
  • Free

These words don’t have a positive impact on your subject line, and therefore should be avoided.

2. Avoid exclamation points!!!

Exclamation points can make your otherwise great subject line look unprofessional and spammy. So, it’s best to avoid using them, especially more than one. Exclamation points can work against you to dilute the message instead of giving it more impact, so whenever you’re tempted to include one, think about whether it adds any value to your message.

3. Don’t use ALL CAPS

No one likes being yelled at, so to avoid that we suggest refraining from using all caps in your subject line. It might grab attention, but it probably won’t be the attention you want (i.e. opening your email to click ‘unsubscribe’).

All-caps subject lines can be annoying and may even look like spam. According to Radicati Group, more than 85% of respondents prefer all lowercase subject lines. Instead of bombarding people with all caps, try a different tactic to grab their attention.

4. Avoid emojis and special characters

While some people suggest that emojis and special characters are a great way to grab attention and stand out from the crowd, it’s not always the case. Emojis can alienate your audience, some people love them, and some people don’t. Worse yet, they may even trigger the spam filter. You also run the risk of your subject line not displaying correctly, because of different device capabilities, when you insert an emoji or special character.

Remember, not all email providers are created equal. Where in some email clients emojis look great, in others it might be replaced with an empty box with a question mark inside it… which can negatively impact your open rates as well.

So, now you know the best practices and things to avoid when creating a killer email subject line, it’s time to get started!

Let us know if you found this article helpful in the comments below.


Sources: Alchemy Worx, Hubspot, martechseries.com, Campaign Monitor, business2community.com

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