email subject headlinesIt’s a taboo.

It has to be.

I mean, why else would we mysteriously forget to credit the subject line of that last “awesome” article/ email we shared/forwarded?

Comes back at you doesn’t it?

Although a small part of your entire marketing campaign, a killer email subject-line is the difference between attracting your target audience to open your message and entering your marketing funnel, or being passed over.

The title of your email is the only hook your campaign has in a sea of emails.

It has a single purpose: to get your email opened.

To improve your email subject lines, it must do two things:

  1. Stand out in the inbox
  2. Readily communicate a strong reason for being clicked

Here are the top proven tips for writing email titles that generate rapid click-through.

Tip #1: Use a Real Email Address

Contrary to popular belief, your company’s email address is part of the subject line.

It comes before the subject line itself and can significantly affect your open rates.

So, for example: would you open an email that comes from [email protected]? Would you actually add this email address to your address book?


Because it looks like it was generated automatically? Because its unprofessional, or because it gives the impression that no one actually put in the effort before sending it to you? In a phrase, it sets a wrong impression.

When it comes to emails, impressions matter.

Although we know that companies send mass emails every day, and that it is not humanely possible for them to personally see to every email that is sent, however, the wrong email address sets the wrong kind of impression.

So, use a more personalized email address. An email from the marketing team or creative team is good. An email directly from the team lead or the department head is even better.

Let people see a real name in the email address and break the ice.


Tip #2: Know Your Email Subject Lines

Here are the most generalised categorisation of types of email headlines. Your choice will depend on the type of campaign you have (awareness, lead generation, subscription, etc.) and the content that you will be offering.

  1. Why – You give a reason “3 Reasons Why your email campaign failed”
  2. Benefit – You state the benefit of opening the email “Boost landing page ROI by 34%”
  3. How-to – “17 technique for creating your money space”
  4. Question – Ask an intriguing question “Tired of your leaky marketing funnel?”
  5. Testimonial – Use a case study “How Ryan Jacob gained 70% increase on ROI”
  6. News – “Why Dell made the biggest acquisition in tech history?”
  7. Intriguing – “Discover the 3 Hidden Techniques Old Buddhist Monks Use…”
  8. Personalized – Targeting specific segment of the audience with personalized tokens “John Taken, Here is How You can…”

Identifying the right subject headline is crucial to the success of your campaign. So invest time understanding the essence of your message and what best resonates with your audience before selecting the right one.


Tip #3: Keep it short

Email managers offer limited space for your subject line, leaving the rest in dots…

Although it may vary from screen to screen, the general rule of thumb is that all of them show up to 50 characters. That’s 8 –11 words. It might prove difficult, and so you can do either of two things:

  1. Bring it within the 50 character limit by striking any unnecessary “a”, “is”, “the” and get straight to the point
  2. Bring the meat upfront and leave the details to trail into oblivion


Tip #4: Personalize it with their name

Build rapport by adding your recipient’s name in the title. Anyone would become curious skimming through their inbox and landing on their name. But be careful. Adding a name just took up some valuable characters from your subject line, and so the remainder should build a case: so why did you just call them by their name?

No one likes to be engaged (by being called) and then being led into a lame-ass discussion and conversation. How would you like if someone called you by your name and then started talking about something that’s nowhere near relevant to you or your needs.

In case you don’t have the data or tools to add a personalization token, simply use a “you” or “your,” to build rapport.


Tip #5: Use a Compelling Email Preview

Email managers display a short snippet of your email right below the title. This is normally the first two lines of the emails, or a customized blurb (like a meta description).

Make it count by either using a very strong introduction or adding a compelling text blurb that adds context or explanation to the subject line.


Tip #6: Write Clearly

Powerful subject lines are always to the point. Make your intention, or the benefits that the email will offer clear. Even when you’re using titles that build curiosity, avoid confusion jargons and complex titles.

Clearly state what your audience will gain by opening your email. I mean, telling them “How to boost your open rates with the right subject line”, a more compelling title can be “7 Tips to Boost your open rates by 30%”

Whether you start directly and communicate the benefit, ask a question, or make an enticing statement, use clear and simple language.


Tip #7: Be Honest. Never Mislead

Email titles that promise a benefit are enticing. They get the emails opened. However, if your email does not deliver on its promise, you will simply lose your audience’s trust and at least end up on their blocked, and unsubscribe list.

Social reviews and whistle blowing are a whole level of possibilities.

Subject lines are supposed to do more than just getting your email opened. They set the basic promise or idea of what is in store for the audience. Your title leads to the content of the email, which leads to a possible click through to your website, online resource, a purchase, a call in, etc.

If you start with a misleading promise, your audience will not be able to follow the steps in your marketing funnel.


Tip #8: Test Your Subject Lines with A/B testing

Create a variation for your email title. This is no different than testing CTAs and content headlines for your blog and landing pages. Find out which subject line is working best for your email. You never know which strikes a better chord with the audience at the moment.

Try different styles for hooking the audience. Apart from the numbered, how to’s, and other benefit oriented subject lines, try testing an urgent variation of the subject line. Try subject lines that offer a deadline period for the giveaways such as “today only” and “lasts till this [day]”, “only for the first [thousand] subscribers”, “till the stock lasts”, etc.


Tip #9: Don’t be Boring

Stop wasting precious words. Rip out any boring, hard-to-read words from your title. A thank you email for subscribing should simply say “Thank You for subscribing [Name]” or “Your Subscription Has been Confirmed” instead of “Dear Customer# Thank You for subscribing to …”.

You must have seen those “Order #12345678910 is in process”, a simple “Dear Customer, Your order is being processed” is a lot better even if more verbose.

Make your recipients feel special with magical titles like “Thanking our beloved customers”, “Just for you/our customers, as a token of our gratitude,” etc.


Tip #10: Choose the Right Time

The right subject line with the right time is a match made in heaven. An email about “this weeks catchup” sent mid Friday is a great example, or a special offer sent early in the morning when people are leaving for work and recruiting.


Tip #11: Use Numbers

Numbers catch attention faster than words. So, number your subject lines with the right numbers. For instance, 7 looks a lot sharper than a 5 or a 10.


Tip #12: Ask a Core Question

People are always searching for answers, but more often than not, they are looking for the right questions that would get them the right answers. Use the subject line to ask a fundamental and powerful question like “Are you making these 13 SMM mistakes?”

When you have a detailed customer profile, finding the right questions that resonates with your audience is easy and makes for a great title statement.


Tip #13: AVOID Capitalizations


Reading capitalized letters is hard, and although it is a great way for stopping skimmers in their tracks, overuse (like complete titles) often backfires. Use it to focus on a single keyword, and even then test it out through A/B testing.

In Conclusion – Work Your Way from Your End Goals

I believe that the best way of creating epic subject lines is to review your entire campaign. Starting with the end goal – perhaps downloading a resource by clicking the CTA on your landing page that your customers will reach by reading through your email.

Once you know what you want to achieve in the end, you can refine your existing content so that all your efforts can narrow down to a highly targeted subject line.

If you need help in your email marketing campaigns, please visit this page for all the info on what Online Marketing Whiz can do for you.

Open the conversation.

Ask us anything. From basic questions to complex queries about marketing, optimisation and design.

Get in touch