12 Best Practices to Create Excellent Email Marketing Subject Lines

12 Best Practices to Create Excellent Email Marketing Subject Lines

With an average ROI of $36 for every dollar spent, email marketing is no doubt one of the surest ways of connecting with your target customers at a deep and personal level. However, only well-structured and monitored campaigns record such a high ROI. 

Consequently, the quality and structure of email marketing subject lines significantly determine the success of email marketing campaigns. That’s why it’s imperative to develop smart ways of structuring your subject line to get the highest email conversion rate

Do you want your email content opened, read, and clicked? It all starts with the subject line. Let’s find out how to make it effective.

Do you want your email content opened, read, and clicked? It all starts with the subject line. Let's find out how to make it effective.

What Makes a Good Subject Line?

The subject line is arguably the most crucial part of your marketing emails because it’s the first thing people see in their inboxes. If well structured, it will channel qualified leads to your website to complete a purchase. If poorly structured, leads will ignore the email or even mark it as spam. Here are seven tips on how to create a compelling subject line.

What Makes a Good Subject Line?

Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency is a tested and effective way of encouraging your email’s recipients to take the desired action. 

For instance, if your goal is to popularize an upcoming promotion or sale, include the start and end dates in the subject line. The date will automatically attract them to stop scrolling and open the email so as to not miss out.

Structure the subject line so that they feel they may miss the discount if they don’t read the email immediately and take the desired action. However, refrain from being too demanding. Subject lines such as “Limited Time Offer” and “Only Available Today” may seem urgent, but they are combative.

The secret to applying this hack is by focusing on the benefits the service or product offers to customers. For example, try something like “Last chance for Shopify optimization secrets!”

Curiosity

Some subject lines effectively deliver the intended messages because they communicate the benefits to the audience outright. Spicing up your email campaign by creating a sense of mystery will pique the audience’s interest without revealing the primary objective of the email.

For example, the “Top Facebook Tools for Business Marketing” subject line should automatically grasp the recipient’s attention and motivate them to open the email for insights on these tools. 

Strike a balance between making the subject line easy to understand and intriguing. Steer clear of questions that could result in a negative answer; “Are you ready for the new mortgage terms?” will most likely result in a negative response. Revising it to “Eager to Learn the Benefits of the New Mortgage Terms?” should increase the open rate.

One case study shows how one company managed to get 927% more sign-ups by optimizing the subject line to create curiosity.

Further Reading: What is a Good Average Open Rate for Email Marketing?

Offers

People are always looking for discounts online. They love products and services that give them new experiences, especially those discounted or free. So, increase the open rate by including an offer in the subject lines such as “Start Your Summer Vacation Right — 25% Off Sunglasses.”

Ensure that the offer is meaningful and provides real value to the target customers. Consider your profit margin when determining the discount percentage to avoid plunging your business into financial turmoil.

Personalization

Before launching an email campaign, you should do email segmentation based on target customers’ interests, ages, previous purchases, and other factors relevant to your business. The emails you send out should be adapted for each group based on their needs and preferences.

Therefore, take time to personalize the email to encourage customers to open and read the email. Otherwise, if the subject line is generic, there is a high likelihood that the email will either be deleted or marked as spam.

Relevance and Timelines

A relevant subject line encourages people to subscribe and join your weekly newsletter mailing list because they want to stay informed about the topic or services you offer. Similar to spicing up curiosity, highlighting important industry trends and topics shows your brand is an authority.

Also, the subject line should coincide with what is happening in the world. For example, if the campaign is meant to encourage people to buy gifts for Christmas, the subject should have a festive seasonal theme. It should not be applicable in campaigns run during other times of the year. 

For example, “Treat Yourself to Something Special This Christmas Season” is ideal for emails meant to give customers ideas of Christmas gifts available in your store. 

Further Reading: 10 Types of Email Marketing Campaigns You Need to Send to Your Customers and Prospects

Name Recognition

First, it’s important to note this strategy works best when influential people are aligned with your brand, services, and products. Every industry has influential people who are respected across the globe. 

For example, Neil Patel is best known for helping businesses improve website SEO and generate revenue through e-commerce. Mentioning his name in the subject line of an email meant to encourage the recipient to use your SEO or content marketing services will boost open and click-through rates.

Having a clear understanding of the audience’s interests and preferences will help you know the people they recognize and admire. Include the names in the subject line and email body to spur engagement.

Cool Stories

An excellent email subject line is like a properly optimized post-click landing page headline – without it, potential customers won’t bother to read the content on the page. Make your subject line stand out by creating an allusion to a story to intrigue the audience.

For example: “Fodor’s Travel: 8 Places in the U.S. Where You Can Actually See the Northern Lights.”

The story should be relevant to your industry and your brand. If not, you risk confusing the readers and giving them a reason not to open the email.

Use the above tips to create the best subject lines for your upcoming email marketing campaign. Note that subject lines that worked a few years ago may be void today. Refrain from recycling them — every campaign should have a unique subject line.

Also, you need to have the right email template for each campaign.

Further Reading: How to Create the Perfect Content for Your Email Marketing

Now, let’s check out email subject line practices that may help you tailor your own.

Email Subject Line Best Practices

Having killer marketing email copy is great, but if the subject line is vague and ineffective in capturing the target customers’ attention, you won’t record substantial results. Here are 12 email subject line practices that should point you in the right direction.

Email Subject Line Best Practices

1. Keep It Short and Sweet

The subject line should be on the shorter side to grab the recipient’s attention effectively. Because most emails are read on smartphones and other mobile devices, part of the subject line will be cut off if it’s long.

Short subject lines are the best, as they are punchy and deliver the message fast. The audience will get an idea of the email’s contents just by glancing at it. Here are two examples to get you started:

  • I can help you get more customers
  • This SEO strategy generates massive traffic and sales

The goal is to convey the intended message in as few words as possible – don’t be verbose.

2. Use a Familiar Sender Name

The ordinary savvy customer is bombarded by thousands of marketing emails every day. The last thing they want is a generic email from a company they have never heard of or interacted with. Go against the grind by making sure your sender name is as human as possible to make the email relatable.

As many experts say, what a brand name is to a product, a sender name is to a marketing email. The name can either be a spoiler of the email’s content or a conversation starter.

If the email is for customers familiar with your brand, the sender’s name should be your brand’s name. Then, the subscribers will know the email is from your company outright.

Alternatively, if you have been sending out an email to leads from your CRM, including your name in the most obvious place, the subject line, will create an impression of trustworthiness. You are the lead owner, and the customers are already familiar with you. Write the brand name alongside your name to make the email more relatable to the audience.

While you’re at it, check out these email signature examples for ideas on how to make your emails more personal.

Further Reading: How a CRM Can Boost Your Email Marketing

3. Use Personalization Tokens

Convince the recipient that the email was only meant for them by personalizing the email subject line. One simple, super-effective way of achieving this goal is by including the recipient’s name in the subject line.

We highlighted the need to segment your customers in preparation for the email marketing campaign. Use an emailing tool that can automatically pick the names and insert subject lines to add a feeling of rapport.

Further Reading: The 19 Best Email Marketing Software Tools to Consider Investing in Today

4. Segment Your Lists

Use information gathered during market research to personalize the subject line. For example, based on their current stage in the sales funnel, you can craft a subject line to encourage them to complete the purchase.

If the goal is to re-engage with customers who abandoned their carts, you can use any of the following subject lines:

  • Oops, you forgot something
  • Ready to buy? Complete your order now
  • You left something behind

Remember not to be too pushy lest you evoke negative emotions and discourage them from visiting your store again to complete the purchase.

5. Don’t Make False Promises

Like a blog post title, the email subject line gives the recipient an idea of what to expect when they open the email. It’s a promise to the reader, and you cannot afford to make false promises. Therefore, resist the urge to trick them into opening the email to safeguard your business reputation and credibility.

Sure, a false promise may work the first time, but soon the customers will start ignoring and marking the emails as spam.

6. Time It Right

Timing is important when doing email marketing. Send an email at the right time and make sure the subject line is optimized to reflect the essence of the email. For example, “Uh-oh, your car insurance is expiring” will work magic for a car insurance company if sent two to three weeks before the client’s car insurance policy expires.

Be sure to include a captivating CTA in the email’s body to get a response faster. You can encourage them to pay for the next insurance policy immediately by offering a short-term discount code.

7. Exclamation Marks and Questions Shouldn’t Be Used Together

We get that you want to create a sense of urgency and pique the target customer’s attention, but using an exclamation mark and a question in the same subject line won’t cut it.

A subject line such as “Want more customers? Act Now!” is way too combative, and most customers will mark the email as spam or opt to unsubscribe from your list.

“Act Now” is one of the most common phrases used in spam emails. Some web servers flag emails with such words or emails with a question and exclamation mark in the subject line. Open-ended or rhetorical questions are a sign of ignorance and lack of focus. The point is, don’t alienate the target customers with such subject lines.

8. Preview Text Should Be Engaging

Preview text is not part of the subject line, but it’s displayed alongside it – and so it should also be optimized to increase your email open rate.

Ideally, the preview text gives the recipient a clue about the email’s contents and helps them decide whether to open, ignore, delete, or mark the email as spam. Most email programs, such as Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Gmail, and iPhone’s Mail app, display the preview text next to the subject line.

The length of the text depends on the user’s settings. The text is usually pulled from the first sentences in the email’s body. Ensure that this section is engaging and resonates with the recipient’s needs.

9. Make the Recipient Feel Special

Have you ever heard of the psychology of exclusivity? The most successful email marketers use it to get maximum ROI from each email to prospects. Making the email recipients feel special and valued will nurture loyalty and trust.

Here are a few ideas for inspiration:

  • An exclusive offer just for you
  • Our Christmas gift to you
  • You’re invited
  • Private Invite
  • For our loyal customers only

When writing a pitch, the goal is to use the subject line to show them they are important to your brand and that you care.

10. Include Action-Oriented Verbs

Action-oriented verbs will encourage them to click on the CTA. They should be placed at the start of the subject line to trigger the recipient to open the email by evoking positive emotions and instilling urgency.

For example, “Dine with Manchester United Legend Wayne Rooney” is better than “Manchester United Legends Dinner” if the goal is to invite people to the team’s annual legends dinner.

11. Use Numbers

One guaranteed way of sabotaging your campaign is by having vague email subject lines. Stand out from the competitors and show the recipient you mean business by spicing up the subject line with data and numbers.

However, please don’t go overboard, as savvy online shoppers can tell when a subject line is exaggerated to trick them into opening an email.

12. Test Subject Lines

Stop shooting in the dark and expecting to hit the target in your quest to find the ideal subject lines. Instead, experiment with A/B tests. Restructure the subject line and choice of words based on the test results.

How you structure your email subject lines will determine the success of your campaign. The above practices should place your brand miles ahead of the competitors by enabling you to engage with target customers effectively. 

How to Write Good Subject Lines

Writing a good subject line requires practice and continuous experimentation to find the ideal format for each campaign. It can break or make your campaign. Use the following steps to write engaging subject lines without breaking a sweat. 

1. Decide the Purpose of the Email

Knowing the result or goal you want to achieve will help you create custom subject lines for each email campaign.

2. Work on the Call to Action

Determine the right call to action based on your information about the recipient. For example, a discount or freebie can encourage new customers to place their first order.

3. Create Multiple Subject Lines

Having multiple subject lines will ensure you don’t use the same sentence or wording for multiple email campaigns.

4. Involve Other Team Members

Asking team members what they think about a particular subject line will give you a different perspective. Be open-minded and ready to tweak it using their feedback.

5. A/B Test the Subject Line

Experiment with different email marketing subject lines and monitor the results to identify a format that best suits your brand.

The above five steps will help you craft catchy subject lines that resonate with the campaign’s goals. Be sure to match the subject line with the email contents to avoid misleading the target customers. Every email feature should work in tandem to ensure the campaign is successful. 

Email Subject Line Examples

A properly optimized subject line is the bread and butter of your email marketing campaign. It’s the primary factor recipients use to decide whether to open, delete, snooze, or flag the email as spam. Here are some subject line examples for inspiration.

Email Subject Line Examples

Personal Subject Lines

Joybird: We’d love your feedback, Kevin!

Fabletics: Hey Kevin, ready for some Disney magic?

Creative Subject Lines

Blockchain.com: 3-Must Knows About Private Keys

Semify: Pack a punch in 2022 with our strategy building secrets 

Social Proof Subject Lines

Beauty Bay: Guess what Olivia Buckland is wearing?

Origins: Find Our Why This Face is Sold Every 10 Secs

Conclusion

Clearly, creating compelling and engaging email marketing subject lines is the secret remedy for success in email marketing. Adhering to the highlighted email subject line practices will ensure each campaign delivers the expected results. By using some of our tips, we hope you can develop creative and engaging subject lines of your own. You already have great content to share — now, prove it in your subject line.

Looking for more email marketing advice? Check out these posts:

Author Bio

Roman Shvydun writes informative articles about marketing, business, productivity, workplace culture, etc. His posts focus on balancing information with SEO needs, but never at the expense of providing an entertaining read. See a few more examples of Roman’s articles by visiting his Twitter here.

Hero photo by Phil Desforges on Unsplash

Optimizing email marketing subject lines enhances your email marketing performance. Here's 12 tips to creating compelling subject lines
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