Your email’s subject line is your first wave hello and if it isn’t convincing, your message is far more likely to go straight into the trash. You could have the most dazzling body content in the world, but what does it matter if no one reads it? According to HubSpot, average click-to-open rates run at around 14%. If that number is discouraging to you, there’s good news. By refining your subject lines, you can absolutely improve on it!

Here are 10 tips to help you write email subject lines that will make a superb first impression and inspire your audience to engage.


1. Pay Attention to the Length

In their study analyzing 12 million outreach emails, Backlinko discovered that the ideal length for a subject line is between 36-50 characters. Go outside this range and you’ll begin to see your response rates drop off. It makes sense because shorter subject lines tend to lack specificity, and longer ones are more difficult to quickly grasp.


2. Personalize Your Subject Lines (and Be Creative About It)

Dynamic tags allow you to boost the personalization of email subject lines, and using them wisely can have a real impact on your open rates. This is one of the reasons an organized and comprehensive approach to data can have such a big impact. Using personalization in your subject lines might look like:

  • “<First Name>, How Is Your 401K Looking Today?”
  • “Reduce Employee Turnover at <Organization Name>”

Some marketers have turned personalization into an art form, getting truly creative with how they reach out. In 150 of the Best Email Subject Lines We've Ever Seen, HubSpot spotlights Wag!, an on-demand dog-walking app that uses personalized pet names in their subject lines to boost relevancy and make readers smile.


3. Inject a Sense of Urgency

The easier it is to put something off, the more likely that item will be forgotten or discarded. Words that convey urgency can improve your open rates because they trigger a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). Consider utilizing words and phrases such as:

  • “Today”
  • “Now”
  • “Limited Time Offer”
  • “Ending Soon”
  • “Don’t Miss Out”
  • “Last Chance”

ABN - Top 10 Tips for Writing Enticing Email Subject Lines - graphic1

4. Unearth the Right Voice (and Keep It Friendly)

You’ve likely invested time and effort into cultivating your brand’s voice, and you know the tone your customers and prospects find most compelling. However, keep in mind that the subject lines for marketing emails aren’t going to do as well if they seem overly formal, stuffy, or distant. People are more likely to spend their limited time and attention on emails that read like they came from a friend or confidant rather than a corporate entity.


5. Make the Value Obvious

If you’re not extremely clear about what people will get out of reading your email, then they’re less likely to engage. Maybe you recently added a new service. That’s great, but why should people care? What does it have to do with their lives? Be direct about this point, or your audience might conclude your message isn’t important. 

  • Okay: “Perfect Plants and Pottery is expanding!” 
  • Better: “We’re growing! What it means for your terrarium.”

Your readers always need to be the stars of your story.


6. Employ Lists

There’s nothing people enjoy quite as much as a good list (except maybe an ice cream sandwich on a hot day). In his popular Inbound session, Email Myths Busted! What’s REALLY Working Now!, marketing expert Jay Schwedelson shared that 34-39% of people are more likely to open emails with subject lines referencing lists. For example:

  • “9 Habits to Help You Sleep Better at Night”
  • “The 5 Hottest Healthcare Marketing Tactics”

If there’s a way to organize your email’s body content into a list and reference that format in the subject line, give it a try!


7. Consider an Emoji or Two

The secret’s out. Emojis aren’t only for texting or for responding to funny messages in Slack. A well-placed, well-considered emoji can impact open rates. Jay Schwedelson shared that using bookend emojis in subject lines increased his open rates by 31%. 

However, you don’t want to get too enthusiastic when you’re plopping emojis into subject lines. Too many can make your message feel spammy and, if your emojis aren’t relevant, you might get some irritated eyerolls from your readers. This Constant Contact post has helpful tips for emoji usage.


8. Ask a Question

When you ask someone a question, their brain immediately begins searching for potential answers. Not only are questions tools to keep conversations flowing, but they’re also a powerful way to make your readers the stars. When you engage with their experience and knowledge, you’re not simply talking about yourself. Consider these options:

  • Okay: “How to Support Patients”
  • Better: “What Is the Best Way to Support Patients?”

9. Don’t Be Tricky or Rude

Maybe this tip is obvious, but you need to stay on your audience’s good side. Some marketers try to grab readers’ attention with a big promise in their subject line but don’t deliver in the body copy. Others might stray from a quirky or attention-grabbing tone into being impolite or insulting. 

Keep it civil, keep it kind, and don’t pull the rug out from under your readers. Your brand’s integrity and reputation are worth far more than a slightly higher open rate. You’ll also see an increase in remove requests if you lose your audience’s goodwill. 


10. Don’t Get Too Attached!

A healthy email marketing campaign is one that evolves over time with the assistance of testing and reporting. If some of your subject lines are underperforming, you don’t have to commit to them for life! Make tweaks, try a different approach, and see where you can boost your numbers. 

Split-testing, or AB testing, also offers great insights into which subject lines hit the mark with your audience. This form of testing allows you to trial two different subject lines and send them out to different portions of your list to discover which performs best. This CopyBlogger post suggests testing personalized subject lines against ones without personalization, testing title case subject lines against sentence case versions, and more. 

Track your results and over time, you’ll develop a comprehensive understanding of how best to boost engagement and make an impression on your specific audience.

Want more content marketing tips? Read our post on 10 Content Trends To Set You Up For Success In 2022.

Written by: Sarah Lofgren
Category: Content, Marketing
July 7, 2022
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