92% of online adults use email in some form.
Before you get too excited, Mailchimp has reported that the average open rate of emails, across all industries, is a measly 20.81%.
So what does that mean for you as a business owner?
While email marketing should be a core strategy for any business selling something, it’s not enough to write great emails.
It all begins with the email subject line.
Think about your morning.
When you woke up, you grabbed your phone and checked your inbox (even though you keep swearing that you won’t obsessively check your email).
You checked for emails from customers or clients first. Maybe an email or two from a personal friend.
Then you tackled the mountain of newsletters you’re subscribed to, ignoring most of them but tapping on the ones that catch your eye.
Those are the lone emails that compelled you to click on them and read, while the other emails get sent off to the trash box or exiled to permanent “unread.”
Now, you don’t want that type of fate for the emails you spend countless hours writing to your own audience.
Today, we’re going to look at what makes a compelling email subject line that inspires readers to click and read.
Best Practices for Writing Email Subject Lines
First, let’s go over a few tips while you’re writing your email subject lines.
Email subject lines are like tweets. You only have so many characters to say something to capture the attention of your audience.
So let’s make that email subject line count.
Keep the Email Subject Line Relevant
The worst type of subject line (and this applies to blog posts or articles too) is the kind that misleads its audience.
Some people call this “clickbait.”
You’ve probably seen it before.
- You won’t believe how she lost 60 lbs in 2 weeks.
- This miraculous treatment cured his terminal illness.
- Make six figures in six weeks even if you have no workable skills.
Now, if you really have a cure for extreme weight loss, terminal illness, and being broke, by all means, use these headlines and back it up with great content.
But if you can’t prove your headline true, don’t use it.
Titan Web Marketing Solutions says that clickbait is such an issue with major publications such as Buzzfeed and Huffpost that people are rallying to get them blocked from Facebook and Twitter.
Compelling readers to click on your subject line because it’s interesting and outlandish might work the first two times you do it, but readers will eventually catch on. To make it worse, if you continue to be dishonest about the content within your emails, your readers will unsubscribe.
Those are potential customers you just lost.
So when you’re writing your subject lines, please be honest.
Keep your Email Subject Line Concise
Ever receive a text message where someone asks, “How ya doing?”
Sure, they might be truly curious about what you’re up to.
But if it’s from someone you haven’t heard from in a while, there’s a good chance that they’re about to ask you for something.
They’ll start with a little bit of small talk and then go for the ask when they feel like you’re warmed up enough.
When it comes to email subject lines, you want to do the complete opposite.
Don’t say hey.
Don’t ask them how their day is.
Get straight to the point, right in the email subject line.
Here are some great examples:
- [LAST CHANCE] 85% off sale ends today! (Digital Marketer)
- How to work with me: Application LIVE (Jamie Jensen)
- If It’s Not Simple, It’s Bullshit (Daily Stoic)
The first one from Digital Marketer shows that the email is about a sale that they’re about to end. You’ve likely received several emails about the sale already so this email is targeted specifically to their hot leads. If you’ve been on the fence about buying, this is the email you need to click on before the doors close.
The second email subject line is from Jamie Jensen, a copywriter. Again, this is an email from hot leads who know who Jamie Jensen is and wants to work with her. Right in this email subject line, she tells you that you’re going to learn exactly how to work with her.
Lastly, we have an informational newsletter from Daily Stoic. From the email subject line itself, you can tell that the Daily Stoic is going to tell you about living with simplicity. The email subject line is short, concise, and direct. (Seriously, they held nothing back with this subject line).
Remember that your Reader is a Human Being
When you’re writing your email subject lines, remember that there’s a human being on the other end deciding whether to ignore your email or read it.
So when you’re writing your email subject line, ask yourself whether you’d click on it.
Chances are if you write something dry, boring, or stuffy, you wouldn’t be interested in the email and neither would your audience.
(And that’s a waste of all the great content you’re putting inside).
Here are some examples of great email subject lines that humanize their audience:
- Want extra help? ✨ (Lifesum)
- ❗️Attention Pizza Fans. This One’s For YOU! (Papa John’s)
- May I make a suggestion? (Joe Vitale)
Lifesum is a fitness app that customizes your macros and caloric goals according to a survey that you take. After you sign up, you get access to a selection of different ways to go about your goals. Fitness goals are tough and make you a little vulnerable. I love that they sent an email asking if you’d “Want extra help?” because it shows that they understand how hard it is to take that first step.
Papa John’s email subject line is another great one. Obviously, if you’re subscribed to Papa John’s newsletter, you’re a pizza fan. They’re addressing their audience directly by using this subject line. As a bonus, the email itself was a promotional sale they were running so it was definitely relevant to the subject line.
The last one is by Joe Vitale, a manifestation coach. He made the email subject line a question, phrasing it in a way that’s polite, to the point, and pressure-free. It also piques your curiosity in what exactly that suggestion is.
Types of Email Subject Lines
With the best practices in mind, let’s explore the different types of email subject lines you can use.
When choosing an email subject line, it should be in line with your business’s branding.
Also, remember your audience. You might love a subject line because it’s quirky and clever, but if your audience prefers a more serious tone, you might not get the open rates you’re looking for.
Scarcity Email Subject Line
The scarcity email subject line is the one playing on your audience’s fear of missing out.
More often than not, people make an impulsive purchase not because they genuinely need the product, but because they’re scared of missing out.
There are two different types of scarcity email subject lines.
- Availability – These email subject lines are for products or services that have limited availability. For example, you might have 50 left of a certain product or you’re only taking 3 new clients for the next quarter.
- Cost – Prices don’t always stay the same. Another type of email subject line is the one that reflects cost going up soon or that this is the last time something will be offered at a discounted rate.
Here are two examples that put great use of scarcity into practice:
- Choose or Lose! Free Gift Worth up to $210, with your purchase. (Estee Lauder)
- Earn double points today only! (Jersey Mike’s Subs)
The email subject line by Estee Lauder dangles a free gift in front of you, saying that you’ll lose the free gift worth $210 if you don’t open this email and check out what’s inside. This encourages Estee Lauder’s customers to open the email and see what they could possibly get for free.
The second email subject line by Jersey Mike’s Subs is clear and to the point. You can earn double points today only so the reader can’t hold off on clicking the email for too long. The reader needs to open the email ASAP and see the details of the double points deal before it’s gone.
Curiosity Email Subject Line
We both love and hate surprises.
The anticipation of wondering what the surprise is can be exhilarating, which is something we can replicate in an email subject line.
Write an email subject line that creates anticipation and sparks curiosity in the reader.
Tease out the content inside the email itself.
- 9 Disgusting Facts about Thanksgiving (Eat This Not That)
- $3.50 per session = no brainer (Digital Marketer)
The first email subject line, by Eat This Not That, definitely piques my curiosity because I have no idea what 9 disgusting facts about Thanksgiving could be… but now I want to know!
The second email subject line, by Digital Marketer, uses the low price point of $3.50 to entice the reader to open the email. What’s $3.50 per session? How do I get in on that? You’ll only know if you open the email.
Self-Interest Email Subject Lines
We constantly want to better ourselves.
That’s why self-interest email subject lines are effective. It encourages us to read an email or sign up for a product that promises to help us be a better version of ourselves.
A popular way to start a self-interest email subject line is with the words “How to.”
It seems simple and generic but it’s effective because you are telling your reader you’re teaching them something inside the email.
As a bonus, self-interest email subject lines qualify your reader for the content inside. If they’re interested in the subject line, they’re more likely to engage with the email body.
- Need some style inspo? Check this out… (J.Crew FACTORY)
- 1,750 points for you. Valentine’s flowers & more for them. (JetBlue)
The first email, from J.Crew FACTORY is about teaching you, the reader, about style. The email subject line itself tells you exactly what you’ll get – if you open this email, you’ll be inspired. For those that have been struggling in the style department lately, this email is perfect.
The JetBlue email tells you what you’re getting if you open this promotion. That’s 1,750 points that you can use for a future flight. For travelers, this is definitely an email that serves self-interest. The flowers and extras are bonuses.
Authority Email Subject Lines
You’ll often hear that the best practice when it comes to writing content is writing for your audience and about them.
But sometimes, you need to talk about yourself a little bit.
Show off your credibility.
That’s where authority email subject lines come into play.
If you’ve done something amazing recently, write about it, and then break it down for your audience to follow.
An alternative is to give your audience a command, such as “buy now” or “be there.” Note, this mostly works with hot leads and an audience you have nurtured already. Newbie readers might be put off by your authoritative approach so segment your list accordingly.
- Give The Glow ✨ Shop New Limited Edition Skincare Gifts (Estee Lauder)
- Don’t Open This Email (Manicube)
This Estee Lauder email subject line gently tells the reader to “shop now.” As a bonus, they also play on the scarcity mindset by calling the gifts “limited edition.”
Manicube does almost a reverse-authority by saying “Don’t open this email” instead of “open this email.” It plays on the curiosity aspect of an email subject line while still maintaining an authoritative voice.
Frequently Asked Questions about Email Subject Lines
How long should the email subject line be?
Keep it concise and to the point.
Your email subject line has one goal: to get your reader to click on the email and read the content inside.
So the answer to this question isn’t necessarily about how long the email subject line is but how effective it is.
Use as few or as many words as it takes to keep your reader’s attention and compel them to click on the email subject line.
Should I personalize my email subject line?
The Reynolds Journalism Institute tested personalized email subject lines.
Personalized email subject lines nearly doubled the open rate of the email and more than tripled the click rate of the content inside.
Most newsletter services offer a way for you to personalize the emails you send. For example, it’s [First Name] for Ontraport.
The downside to personalizing the email subject line is if the person receiving the email misspelled their name or put it in all caps. However, don’t let that hold you back from using personalization in your emails.
Should I add emojis, caps lock, exclamation points, etc. to my email subject line?
I once worked with a client who asked that I put emojis in her email subject lines. She swore that it raised conversion rates, although I didn’t see a huge difference between the emojis and non-emojis.
However, it doesn’t mean that emojis don’t have a place in your email subject lines.
The key is to remember your message and your audience.
Does the emoji enhance the email subject line or is it only there for vanity?
Would your audience react well to an emoji or would they find it immature?
The same goes with adding caps lock, exclamation points, and other changes to your email subject line.
Make sure that it serves a purpose and your audience will respond positively to it.
Now write an email subject line that compels your audience to click and read.
Do you have an email subject line that converted well with your audience? Share it with us in the comments below.