14 Subject Line Writing Tips to Maximize Open Rates

Author: Corina Leslie

August 10, 2020
14 Subject Line Writing Tips to Maximize Open Rates

Shaurya Jain, founder of Attention Always Marketing, brings us some of his best subject line writing tips. Read this before you send your next email, and you’ll see higher open rates and better engagement.

The goal of any email campaign is to boost conversions, but you get those valuable leads only after you crack the open rate. People open your email if they find the subject line gives them a reason to do so. 

Did you know that 47% of people open emails based on the subject line only? The first impression is the last – make it count, and you’ve got your foot in the door. 

Subject line writing tips: how to get more people to open your emails

Without further ado, let’s get into the groove of how you can write great and catchy subject lines that can boost your open-rates. 

Personalize

As marketers, we may often find ourselves running after numbers – open-rates, click-throughs, and conversions. Customers, on the other side, are different. They’re looking for respect and value. Personalized email subject lines build an instant connection with a prospective customer.

How does email subject line personalization work?

It’s simple – the idea is to tweak your subject line based on consumer data such as demographics, location, and past buying behavior. At the basic level, adding the prospect’s name in the subject line works, but going beyond that adds a lot more context and works even better. 

Take a look at some of these examples:

Pay your potential customers respect, and they’ll give it back for sure. 

Make it short

Believe it or not, the art of copywriting is about saying more with fewer words. Yes, and it’s true with email subject lines as well.

82% of experts send subject lines with 60 characters or less, and the average email subject line has no more than 43.85 characters.

email subject line length

That’s it: you need to keep your subject lines crisp, simple, and descriptive. Give your prospects a peek into your email, and they’ll be intrigued to open. 

Add an emoji

Being concise yields results. Now sprinkle some emojis in your subject lines and see the difference they can make. 

Fact: 56% of brands using emoji in their email lines had a higher open rate. Emojis add a cute little visual to your subject line, making it a more expressive and catchy.

The big opportunity lies in the fact that emojis are an underused way of expression in email subject lines. Add one, and it’s likely to make your subject line stand out from the rest. 

Here are some examples of popular emojis and interesting subject lines:

email subject line writing with emojis

Create a sense of urgency

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says “hurry”?

That’s precisely how you want your email recipients to feel – that they’re indeed running out of time. 

The primary goal of an email subject line is to get the audience to take action. Make your audience feel they’re missing out on a big opportunity. 

A study by Return Path showed that creating urgency headed the list of approaches that helped improve email open rates. As you can see, the study also lists the top keywords in “Urgency” subject lines:

copywriting tips to create urgency

Besides adding these words to your subject line, you can also: 

  • use time-sensitive phrases to catch audience attention,
  • create a sense of scarcity,
  • communicate a deadline, and
  • talk about savings.

Nudge your subscribers to open and check out your emails, but don’t overdo it. Urgency works best when you’re running a promotional campaign or a deal that lasts for a limited time period. 

Show you care

In a world where people have so many options, showing you care about them is essential to keep your business successful. So, strive to make your subscribers feel special from the very first line: your subject.

Ask yourself: does it ignite a spark right away? Is the message it conveys customer-centric? Building strong relationships with your subscribers is the cornerstone of effective email marketing. And your subject line is a great place to start.

For instance, be thankful if the customer made a purchase. Also, ask for feedback that you can use to improve your offers.

Take a look at some of these examples:

Did your purchase live up to your expectations?

Like it? Love it? Hate it? We want to know.

Sweet! Thanks for being our customer.

(Source)

Go out of your way to be caring, and you’ll get better outcomes. 

Use numbers 

This might be the oldest trick to get clicks on blog post headlines, and it’s equally effective when it comes to writing email subject line copy.

A study by Yesware shows a clear correlation between numbered subject lines and higher email open rates. 

boost email open rates

Also, look at some of these examples:

1,750 points for you. Valentine’s flowers & more for them

🔥 Hot freebie alert! 15 free gifts, you pick 5

(Source)

Whether you’re offering loyalty points or gifts, numbers attract people’s attention. However, be careful not to come across as spammy. Add those numbers wherever they fit and make your subject lines shine. 

Use puns, have some fun

It’s not just your email vying for your recipient’s attention; there are hundreds of others. Thankfully, your audience is human and they love to be entertained. So go out there and try to make them smile.

Take a look at some of these examples: 

OpenTable: Licking your phone never tasted so good

Dollar Flight Club: You entered the giveaway! We love you

Fabletics: Your Butt Will Look Great in These Workout Pants

(Source)

If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at standup comedy, here’s your chance. As a reward, you may see your open rates increase, too.

But finding your funny bone isn’t all that simple. So here are some useful tips to make it work:

  • Tweak lines from famous movies or songs.
  • Use contrast by connecting two different things.
  • Take inspiration from celebrity gossip.

Be funny, crack a joke, but make sure you’re not offensive. Know your audience and their taste. Lastly, make sure you’re sticking to your brand voice

Try asking a question

Posing a question can get your audience to start thinking about a persistent problem. Maybe they’ve been shelving their plan to re-do their website or lose weight or plan their next trip.

Ask them a question to draw them into opening your email to find out more about a potential solution.

Take a look at this example from Strong Women, Strong Girls: Who was Wonder Woman’s Role Model?

question in subject line writing

Adding a question is a great way to make your email subject line interactive. Make your reader curious, and you’ll come out ahead.

Chris Porteus, who manages a 5K plus email list at My SEO Sucks, says that asking questions is his favorite way to engage his subscribers. “Asking questions about their business growth, future plans and current problems tends to get a lot of replies and business insights for them,” Porteus told me.

What’s in it for them?

A subject line is a window for the email recipients to know what’s inside. It’s best to make it as authentic as possible.

Describe your email value proposition in as simple words as possible. Be authentic and honest with your communication. Also, make sure that your subject line is timely and relevant.

Look at these examples:

13 email marketing trends you must know

Before you write another blog post, read this

(Source)

Don’t forget that your audience is smart and you can’t use clickbait subject lines and fool them with an offer or a giveaway that’s not worth their time or money.

You’ve got to grab their attention, but, at the same time, you need to establish and maintain a level of trust.

Solicit action

Don’t just assume that your readers will open your email – ask for it. Inspire them with the right call-to-action. One of the best ways to do this is to add an action verb at the beginning of your email subject line. 

Here are some good examples of some genuinely actionable subject lines:

Win Free Supply of Microgreens for One Year

Do This Right Now and 2X Your Freelance Income

The call-to-action is a vital pillar for effective copywriting, and that’s why it’s an integral part of a winning email subject line.

Give social proof

In a subject line? Yes, talking about your existing customers in your email subject lines can indeed work magic. 

Studies show that mentioning a known customer in an email subject line can shoot up open rates by up to 460 percent.

For one, social proof builds trust and breaks through the clutter. At the same time, it adds familiarity. Readers respond quickly if they see a well-known brand or personality in a subject line.

Here are some excellent examples of subject lines with social proof:

Here’s what Detroit’s best CEOs had to say about us

Now, we’re tried and tested by mothers!

Kids love us! You would too!

It’s overwhelming how much love we’ve gotten!

Dr. Kishore had a few kind words to share

The Guardian had a few kind words

We’re now the best in the west!

(Source)

Be it awards, recognitions or press mentions, it all adds up to the merits of your brand. You’ve worked hard to get there. So flaunt it, and get those eyeballs to notice it and open your email.

Choose the right words

Studies indicate that some specific words in subject lines improve open rates while others reduce them.

Here Coschedule’s list of words that will add to your campaigns’ open rates:

power words subject line writing

And here are words and phrases you should avoid when writing your email subject lines, according to Coschedule:

words to avoid in email subject line

Choose your words carefully and:

  • you won’t come across as spammy or end up triggering a spam filter,
  • you’ll get better open rates and response rates on your email campaigns.

Stay away from the title case

You may think using the title case in your subject lines makes your brand look more professional. It used to; not anymore.

As copywriter Laura Belgray says, conversational is the new professional. The more relatable your language is, the more engagement you’ll get.

So, steer away from the title case and use the sentence case instead. In people’s inboxes, your emails will look like any other message from a colleague or a friend. Hence, more clickable and enjoyable.

Use a friendly tone and sender name

Speaking of sounding warmer and more relatable: both your tone and your sender name should come across this way.

So, consider having someone on behalf of your company writing the email and using their name in the “from” section. Also, you could use the name of someone you’ve collaborated with. If these people have interacted with your prospects, they’re more familiar to them. 

For example, “John from X” would be a good way to go about creating a sender’s name. 

email sender name

Waqar, the founder of Content Studio, says that he is the face of the company and most people associate the company with his name. He is the one to host all the webinars and jump on calls for enterprise clients. Sending all the emails under his name helps to build subscribers’ trust and familiarity.

In a nutshell: use a sender name that’s easy to recognize and make your subject line relatable and inviting.

Bonus subject line writing tips

Apart from the tips above, let’s visit some of the basics of email subject line writing:

  • Know what you’re selling and focus on your key value proposition.
  • Tailor your subject line to your audience. If you have segmented lists, make sure the subject lines are different for each of them.
  • Write down your campaign goals. This will help you craft the right call-to-action.
  • Define the tone of your email subject lines and your campaign. Align them to your brand voice. 
  • Ask yourself a simple question: “Why would my audience open my email?”
  • Use A/B tests to understand which subject lines are working best for your campaign. 

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