7 Tips to Create Compelling Email Subject Lines

by Janna Hartley January 5, 2016
January 5, 2016

7 tips to create compelling email subject lines | Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications


There are a number of factors that can impact your email open rate. Some of these; who the email is sent from, the cleanliness of your list, and the day/time the email was sent, can be manipulated and controlled to a degree. There are however, external factors and limitations sometimes imposed by the email send provider that limit your control..


On the other hand, you have complete control over your subject line and it can make the biggest impact on the success or failure of your campaign. You can choose the general format, the words, length and the inclusion of personalization as appropriate.


Consider the volume of emails you receive per day. Now think about how you clean out your inbox on a daily basis. Do you delete based on a quick perusal of senders and subject lines, deleting anything that sounds spammy without even a glance at the content?


Based on the report by Adestra, which analyzed information from over 3 billion attempted email sends, “thank you” (or variation of this) had the highest above average rates whereas “early bird,” “white paper” and other words that might be found in offer-based emails had the lowest rates. This occurs because transactional emails often include “thank you” in the subject. Whereas offer emails are unsolicited and are likely to receive less engagement.


Keep in mind however, that no single keyword guarantees results. Context plays a key role and can elicit a response that is different than what you intended. It can be tricky to navigate through this successfully.


As Adestra illustrates, while many sales can be effected by discount rates, the discounts can have the opposite effect on the email effectiveness. While buyers might purchase something that is on sale for 50% off, including “50% off” in an email subject line can turn people off, either because they think the offer is bogus or because the email is viewed as spam. However these emails, if they pass the open test, have lower unsubscribe rates and higher click rates.


Here are some tips:



  • Keep your subject clear and focused. Be specific and communicate the value of your offer or opportunity. Mailchimp found that shorter subject lines which can be scanned more quickly and allow users to easily figure out if they are interested perform better. A good rule of thumb is to keep your subject line under 50 characters.
  • Put the most important words first. Even if you keep to the 50-character limit, you don’t know how much of the subject line will appear on your reader’s device, especially if that device is a phone.
  • Use targeted keywords. Sometimes, readers don’t have time to read your email when it is received. A memorable keyword will allow him/her to easily find your email later.
  • Create urgency. Setting time limits or perceived time limits can improve open rates and increase the odds a reader will respond or reply.
  • Personalize. Include personalization, (no, we don’t mean the recipient’s first name) such as geographic information or other previously gathered data that shows you understand your audience.
  • Tone down promotional emails. Avoid overly promotional words that could seem spammy as well as ALL CAPS or excessive exclamation points.
  • Try something new. Try humor, mystery or even emoji. Many email marketing solutions/systems allow you to A/B test your subject lines. Try some alternatives to gauge what resonates with your audience.

Need inspiration? Check out 18 of the Best Email Subject Lines You’ve Ever Read from the Hubspot blog.

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