Email subject lines are one of the most critical factors impacting email marketing campaign success.

Nowadays, our inboxes are full of emails, and these emails are competing for our attention. In fact, it can take us less than a second to decide the fate of the email message: leave for later, open or delete. Therefore, let’s learn how to create effective subject lines for your email marketing campaigns to ensure you have the best chance of getting your emails opened.

Primary Goal of the Subject Line: Capture Attention

If your email subject line does not immediately capture the reader’s attention, most likely, they will not open your email at all. That’s the unfortunate reality. That said, there are many ways to get noticed in the inbox, and we will take a look at some of the easy fixes that can help increase your email open rates.

Many email marketing professionals know that the subject lines should be interesting and unique. That said, interesting and unique are very broad descriptions of a good subject line. It is important to know what makes the subject line interesting to your audience.

Ask yourself, what makes them open your emails? Is it humour?

Or maybe controversy in the subject lines makes them attractive to your readers. Or perhaps unique facts can encourage them to open your email. Maybe you’re marketing to Millennials, and your audience is reacting to emoticons in the subject lines. Remember, some audiences are only driven by incentives – such as an offer or a discount.

Here’s an example subject line with a clear incentive from The Works to inspire your creativity:

The Works: 2 for £5 Mix&Match

Therefore, you need to find ways to make the subject lines unique and interesting to your email subscribers.

Try to be Clear and Not Misleading

The hard part is that while being creative and trying to be unique, you still need to be clear and not misleading. Remember, the subject line basically acts as a short description of your email. In most cases, it’s the first and potentially the only chance to convince your subscribers to open your email.

Misleading subject lines create discontent and even anger – and that can lead to unsubscribes, complaints and even the email being marked as spam. And that can cause delivery issues and negatively impact your sender reputation.

Different Fonts and Styles – a No for Now

Sometimes you might see someone experimenting with hardcoded subject lines that have a different font or style. While it can catch attention and look unique – unfortunately, email marketing is just not there yet to support these kinds of efforts.

Here’s a good example – a bolded font, italicised subject line:

You’ll lose nothing if you open it

Agreed, the subject line stands out, but that, alas, is something that will get your email into the junk folder. And guess what, this subject line is taken from a 100% spam email. Thus, while in future we might be talking about fonts and styles of effective subject lines, it’s a definite no for now.

The Length of the Subject Lines

Email best practices indicate that less than 50 characters in the subject line will generate a better open rate. Some marketers believe that short subject lines can even positively impact the email click rate. However, while the rule of thumb is to have a short subject line, it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all scenario.

Different businesses have different communications; different industries have different types of customers and share different kinds of information. B2C email engagement is not the same as B2B.

Therefore, while a short subject line may positively impact a sales push B2C email, a more informative, long subject line could work better for the B2B audience, who will potentially open their emails primarily in Outlook.

The advice here is to test. Use the A/B testing feature of your email marketing platform to get to know the customer. The more you test, the more you’ll learn, and these insights will help you develop strong and effective subject lines.

Informative Subject Lines

Naturally, businesses send different types of email marketing communications. A single tactic to make the subject line effective potentially won’t work on all different email messages. Creating informative subject lines is another easy method to make the subject lines more compelling to the email recipients.

For example, if you’re promoting a webinar on marketing resource management or an online event – add a date, the guest speaker name or another critical piece of information to the subject line to sway the reader to open the email.

Personalisation Can Help Too

Personalisation in the subject lines has been known to increase the open rate for a while now. But personalisation isn’t just placing the recipient’s first name in the email subject line. It can be based on shopping habits, gender or other demographic factors.

However, personalisation might not be the right tactics to be used in all types of emails. Thus, make sure you don’t overdo it (don’t put first names or last names in every email you deploy).

Personalisation also depends on what information you have in your database. If you’re personalising by adding a merge field straight from your database, make sure that field contains the correct information. Some of your subscribers might opt-in with fake names, or you can have blanks in your database fields. So make sure your data is there to support your personalisation efforts.

Urgency Grabs Attention

There’s no arguing that urgency can help get better results. If you have a fast-approaching deadline or need a last sales push, make sure your subject line reflects that: “24-hour flash sale is on now!”, “Early bird pricing is valid for 7 days only!” etc. An exclamation mark can help express urgency too. Here’s a nice example of how Tribe Skincare used urgency in their email subject line:

Tribe Skincare: Last chance to save 15% storewide

Questions in the Subject Line Can Be Very Effective

When you’re conducting an A/B test, try to create two different subject lines – one as a statement and another as a question. See which one gets more engagement. Questions in the subject lines have been known to increase open rates too. For example: “Spring savings are on now!” and “Are you ready for spring savings?” can give you some very beneficial information back from the email A/B test.

Here’s a good example of a question in the email subject line from Thinking about travel? Get 15% off

If you cannot think of a way to create a question for your subject line, another good tactic to get more attention to your subject line is to use a How-to statement. How-to subject lines can be very engaging too, but they might not fit all types of email communications.

Email Subject Lines Can Determine the Success of Your Campaign

Marketers take plenty of time planning their email campaign content and CTAs. Unfortunately, sometimes the subject lines get overlooked.

Here’s our advice – don’t rush with your subject lines; take your time. Strong and effective subject lines can help convince your email recipients to open your emails and even act on the calls-to-action. Write subject lines that fit your business and engage your email subscribers.

We’ve given you some easy fixes to make your subject lines more compelling. So, next time you’re creating an email marketing campaign, make sure your subject line gets the attention it deserves!