Article first published in March 2007, updated July 2020
Your email subject line is the first thing your subscriber sees in their inbox, and that can be the moment they decide to open it, ignore it, or delete it. As designers, we risk spending all our time battling with rendering problems in Outlook or CSS in Gmail without even considering the subject line.
Tips for improving your email subject lines
While the physical design of your email is essential, you have to also keep in mind that, to create a high-performing email, you need to consider every aspect of the email, from top to bottom. That means starting with your email subject line.
Did you know that approximately 47% of all email recipients will choose whether or not to open an email based solely on the subject line?
So how can you improve your email subject lines to boost your open rates? There are several things you’ll want to keep in mind, including:
Email subject line length
While your email subject line is the first piece of information that your readers see, it’s crucial to remember that you don’t have a lot of real estate to work with. Most browsers (both desktop and mobile) show a limited number of characters (including spaces). The ideal character length for a subject line is about 41 characters. That amounts to approximately seven words.
Consider including an emoji in your subject line.
We use emojis in our correspondences throughout our day in chats and text messages. Still, have you ever considered adding them to your email subject lines? It’s worth experimenting with, since studies have shown that 56% of brands who use emojis in their email subject lines have seen higher open rates.
Try subject line formulas.
Subject line formulas are a simple way to brainstorm different subject lines you can use and test for maximum engagement. The formulas are essentially strategies you can implement for specific types of campaigns.
Here are some formulas you might consider using:
- The question: Ask readers a question so they’ll want to engage and maybe even respond.
- The how-to: Promise to teach subscribers something useful.
- The scarcity: Tell subscribers there isn’t much time left to buy a product.
- The announcement: Give subscribers something to be excited about.
- The curiosity gap: Make subscribers feel the need to open the email.
- The surprise: Create a wild subject line to grab subscriber attention.
- The personalized: Use subscriber data to make the subject line feel custom-made.
Real subject lines you can use for inspiration
Ready to start creating the perfect email subject lines? Here are few excellent real-life email subject lines to use for inspiration:
- The email you’ve been waiting for
- Summer glowing! $5 ANY Body Brush!
- Your subscription keeps getting better
- Meet us backstage
- Unmissable blogs to improve your digital performance
We’ve dug up this little collection of links to help you and your clients craft more effective subject lines. Next time you send a campaign, spend a little more time working with your client on that subject line and compare your open rates with previous attempts.
Here are some excellent reference links on improving your subject lines:
- Writing Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines for the Web – by Jakob Nielsen
- The Art of the Subject Line – by Brad Berens
- Getting the Subject Line Right – by Gail Goodman
- How To Be a Subject Line Superhero – by the Campaign Monitor Team
- The Email Minute 16: Which Subject Line Formulas Can Get You Clicks? – by the Campaign Monitor Team
- 6 Subject Line Tips to Break Through the Clutter – by McKenzie Gregory
We’ve left the best for last—over at CopyBlogger, Brian Clark is taking headlines and rewriting them to be more effective. It’s not specific to email subject lines, but Brian explains his process, and you can learn a lot from his approach.
If you’ve written a really successful subject line (or a spectacularly unsuccessful one), leave us a comment below.
Crafting the perfectly clickable email subject line isn’t nearly as difficult as you may think. Here are a few tips you’ll want to keep top of mind:
- Length matters; keep it short and sweet
- Consider using an emoji
Looking for a simple-to-use email marketing platform for your brand? Then join over 2 million marketers worldwide and give Campaign Monitor a try.