How to Write the Best Email Subject Lines

What are the best subject lines to get your emails opened? An attention-grabbing email subject line is the key to getting your prospect to open your email. The more subscribers who open your emails, the more exposure you’ll get for your products, services, or website. Here are four subject line best practices to get your messages opened and read.

Are you happy with the results of your recent email marketing campaigns? Are they getting opened and acted on? If you are sending to a list of people who have asked to be on your mailing list and you’re not getting good results when you send out mailings, the culprit could be your email subject line.

The best email subject lines work like good advertising headlines do. They entice the viewer to read more. With a print headline, the headline merely has to encourage the reader to glance a little further down the page they are already reading. In email, however, the subject line has to work harder. It has to be powerful enough to get the recipient to take the decisive action of clicking on the email so they can preview it or read it in full.

What are the best email subject lines to get your readers to click? Follow these guidelines to make your headlines command attention:

Put Yourself in Your Reader’s Shoes

Although there are a lot of variables, the most important is that good subject lines need to appeal to the recipient’s self-interest, not yours. In other words, email marketing subject lines should focus on the reader and a goal he or she wants to achieve. 

Here’s an example: Suppose you are a web hosting company and you have an opt-in mailing list of web developers. You’ve started a new program where you’ll pay a referral fee for new web hosting accounts and you want to make the developers on your mailing list aware of the new program. If you send out a mailing with a subject line that reads, “Partner with OurCompanyName and Succeed,” your open rate and response rate are likely to be low. The reason: Even though you include the word “succeed” at the end of the subject line, the focus of the subject line is what you want to happen — partner with you. 

Change the email subject line to, “Earn Top Commissions on Web Hosting Referrals,” and your open rate and response rate will increase because you’ll be focusing on what your readers want to do – make more money. (The text of the email would obviously need to back up that claim and include a call to action that would get readers to call you or fill out a web form to sign up for the program.)

RELATED: 6 Tips to Write Mobile Friendly Subject Lines

Make Your Subject Line Interesting

To get your email marketing campaigns opened, your subject line has to make the recipients think “This is something I want to know more about now.” To accomplish that, the subject line has to hint at the contents of the email and do so in a way that piques the reader’s curiosity.

Bland subject lines, even if they have some relevancy to the reader, won’t cut it. There are just too many emails constantly vying for their attention. Here are some examples of email subject lines that were in my inbox one day. How many of them would you want to be bothered opening?

Yes, a monthly newsletter is what you promised to send subscribers, but using “MyCompany Monthly News – Issue 10” as your subject line offers no hint at what’s inside or why it’s worth reading. Instead, make your subject line read “Convert More Leads – Free Workshop,” or “Get more vacation for less money,” Or, “What’s killing your lawn?” Make your business name or your name – if that’s what people expect to see – show in the From line so the email is identified with your business.

Appeal to Their Emotions

Although most people like to think that their decisions are made logically, emotion usually plays an important role. That’s especially true when the decision involves which emails to open in an inbox and which to delete. When time is an issue – and it almost always is when someone’s weeding through emails–subject lines that trigger emotions are more likely to get opened than those that don’t. Here are some of the most common emotional triggers.

  1. Avoidance
  2. Belonging
  3. Competitiveness / one-upmanship
  4. Convenience / simplicity
  5. Curiosity
  6. Ego enhancement
  7. Exclusivity
  8. Fear
  9. Financial gain
  10. Financial loss
  11. Guilt
  12. Indulgence/ personal gratification
  13. Power
  14. Needs
  15. Peace of Mind
  16. Scarcity
  17. Self-Improvement
  18. Social influence (social proof)
  19. Stress Reduction
  20. Time-Saving Ability
  21. Trust
  22. Value

Pay particular attention to emotional trigger words for sales email subject lines. Using words that trigger customer emotions related to your product or service will improve your open rate and email marketing ROI.

RELATED: How to Use Click-Through Rates to Create More Successful Emails

Keep Subject Lines Short

Your entire subject line doesn’t always show in your recipient’s inbox. The smaller the screen the person is using to read their mail, the fewer words will be displayed. Thus, if the subject line you write says, “Our new back pain therapy kills patients’ need for drugs,” what the reader may see is:

“Our new back pain therapy kills patients”

So, put the important words at the beginning of your subject. Remember, a large number of the people on your email list are probably opening your email on their phones.

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