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How to Write a Good Email Subject Line

Businesses, small and large, are always looking for ways to make their lead development and marketing messages more effective. With email being the most common form of communication between your business and prospects, it’s important that your emails interest them enough to open your emails. The secret to getting your emails to stick out in someone’s inbox is all about learning how to craft a good email subject line.

Your Email Subject Line’s Goal

There are many factors to consider when trying to create a good subject line for an email. However, the overall goal of your email’s subject line is to stand out to a prospect when they’re going through their email inbox. Your subject line is your email’s first impression and it needs to get someone to stop scrolling through their busy inbox.

The second goal for your email subject line is to intrigue an observing reader enough to open the email. A good email subject line needs make a promise that something worthwhile for the prospect lies within your email. That’s a tall order for just a few words, but if you follow the tips and best practices we’ve assembled, you’ll be on your way to crafting effective and impactful e-mail subjects that will improve open rates for your email lead generation and help you convert more prospects.

Top Tips for Creating a Great Email Subject Line 

Below we have put together a crash course of the basic rules and simplest top tips to help you improve your email subject lines. These tips are easy to remember, simple to follow, and you can see an immediate improvement to your email efforts using them.

Make Your Subject Line Interesting

One of the primary goals of your email subject line is to create a reason for someone to open the email based off just a few words. That’s why many of the best subject lines make a promise to the reader. Lead with an offer for your reader or make a promise to them that your email will fulfill. Spark your reader’s curiosity by installing in them the idea that something of great value can be theirs just by clicking to open your email.

Make Your Subject Line Direct

Email subject lines are short. You only have a few words to get across the subject of your email and provide your reader motivation to open the email. Writing a subject line is not the time to try and be coy, witty, or evasive with what you need to communicate. Don’t be afraid to come right our and explain exactly what you’re selling and why it benefits your reader. FREE can be a powerful motivator, as can the idea that what you offer is scarce in time or quantity. People can often be motivated by the fear they will miss out on something great.

Make Your Subject Line Personal, Appropriately

Adding a personal touch to your email, either manually or through marketing automation, can help grab the attention of someone scanning through their inbox. According to Dale Carnegie, “a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” Using a person’s first name often works well, but it is not always appropriate. For example, many physicians often prefer to be referred to by Dr. LAST NAME in business matters.

Make Your Subject Line Relevant

As a marketing agency we work very diligently to ensure we are always communicating with the right people at the right time. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what is on their mind at this time and how that relates to the content of your communication. Including timely information like the financial quarter, or upcoming holiday can often grab a reader’s attention. An October email subject line like, “The Most Important Q4 KPIs You’re Not Tracking,” is Interesting, Direct, and Relevant to the reader.

Make Your Subject Line Intriguing

Try creating an email subject line that’s intriguing, and piques the reader’s curiosity. You can do this by posing a question that makes the reader curious to find out the answer. Or, you can take a snippet from a client testimonial and offer part of the story so the reader will want to learn more.

Email Subject Line Best Practices 

Now that you know what to write for your email subject line following the top tips, here are some email subject line best practices to help show you how to craft a great email subject line to improve your email open rates. Experiment with them and see how you can refine your subject lines.

  • Speak the tone of your brand and use language that’s easy for your audience to understand
  • Clear and concise trumps clever, aim for 40 characters of less to avoid your subject line being cut off
  • You don’t have to avoid humor, even bad puns can help your email grab attention
  • Don’t bait and switch, your subject should always match your email’s contents
  • Avoid “Newsletter,” it sounds boring and can drop open rates by as much as 20%
  • Use action verbs to tell your reader exactly what to do, “Food Banks Need Your Help, Donate These 7 Items Now!”
  • Make your reader feel special or exclusive, such as “Email Subscriber Only Special Offer”
  • Use grammatical devices like leading with numerals or alliteration
  • Write your subject line to one person, YOU can be quite powerful
  • Always double-check your grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Avoid ALL CAPS, brackets and repetitive punctuation like ?! and !!
  • Emoji and special characters must make sense for your audience and content

Practice Writing Subject Lines

There’s no magic to writing a good subject line that substitutes for putting in effort. The best subject lines are often the result of experimentation and variation on the same idea. The marketing copywriter best practice is to write seven variations of your email subject line and choose the best two to A/B test in your emails. If one headline outperforms the other it serves as the template for your next email subject line. The path to the best email subject line isn’t through a stroke of genius but by writing, experimenting a lot, and revision.

Use Your Email Preheader Copy

If you’e ever checked your email on an iPhone, you’ve noticed how short the email subject line is, but also that each email includes a short summary of the email. That email summary is your email’s 140-character preheader. 

This preheader is your secret to becoming a subject line writing pro. Use the preheader space to supplement and boost your email subject line and take advantage of valuable inbox real estate for your email that would otherwise be filled with a message like, “email not displaying correctly, click for web version”. Using the preheader copy is a great way to help your email stand out in your recipient’s email inbox.

Bringing It All Together

Writing effective e-mail subject lines is as much a science as it is art. And like any scientific endeavor, there is an element of experimentation and continual refinement to ensure the best results. What works in a subject line today may not work tomorrow. Also, if you continually use similar lines, your recipients may grow bored and skip opening your emails. Because of this there is no single best email subject line.

Just think of what emails you personally choose to open. Why do you decide to read some emails and ignore others? Consider what goes through your mind when skimming your inbox when you start composing your next subject line. You may even want to take notes of good and bad examples of subject lines when you check your email to help inspire yourself.

By following the tips and tricks we’ve outlined, as well as continuing to evolve your subject line writing skills, you’ll soon be writing the type of dynamic email subject lines that beg for your recipients to open your emails and engage with your content. If you’re looking for even more help for your email communication or digital marketing, Contact Us.

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