Email subject lines – the experts weigh in on what works and what doesn’t.


email marketingEmail marketing isn’t going to work if the email subject line flops. If you can’t get your email opened, then it doesn’t matter what sizzling offer it contains.

Smart small businesses are harnessing the power of email marketing as an effective means of presenting information to clients – both current and future. Of course for an email campaign to have any impact, the message needs to be opened and then read by the recipient.

That means a great email subject line.

Without doubt once your email arrives at it’s destination, it will be jostling for attention amongst many other messages in an already overcrowded inbox.

According to email marketing experts, the key to having your email read is the subject line and here we’ve gathered 7 of our favourite expert’s top tips for email subject lines that standout and increase opens.

1. Make it actionable – use a verb

According to HUBSPOT, a key marketing authority website, using verbs in your email subject line is akin to writing a call-to-action. Actionable words will assist to create a sense of urgency and excitement plus it’s then clear to the recipient there’s something for them to do.

E.g. “Meet renowned Australian author Tim Winton in Sydney.”

2. Make it clear – and avoid the ‘cute’

HUBSPOT also suggests your email subject line be checked, and then rechecked, for clarity. Using a keyword at the beginning of your subject line will help increase clarity and let the recipient know what this email is all about. A great rule of thumb they say is making sure witty subject lines never come at the expense of clarity.

Advice from AWEBER, one of the world’s leading email management systems, supports this and say the email subject lines that work the best are those that “tell exactly what you’re going to get.”

3. Make it brief – under 50 characters

Many email marketing experts, including MAILCHIMP, recommend brevity is best when it comes to email subject lines. Campaign analysis undertaken by MailChimp in November 2014 revealed significantly greater open rates for emails with subject lines 50 characters or fewer. Unless greater detail is needed for clarity, longer subject lines do not result in more engagement.

4. Make it local, not necessarily personal

Including the recipient’s first name in an email subject line has long been considered an effective method of personalisation to entice the opening of a message.

Interestingly, MailChimp’s recent study of over 200 million emails suggests providing localisation, such as a city or town name, improves open rates. UNBOUNCE support this and suggest, “using geo-location to increase personalisation.”

5. Make it a unique solution to a problem they have

If your target reader has an identifiable and genuine pain point, then an email subject line referring to a unique solution will be of great interest to them.

As suggested by Copyblogger, a subject line promising them a remarkable answer addresses the “what’s in it for me?” question will encourage a recipient to invest in your message.

6. Make it a question

Constant Contact, a leading provider of email services, recommends asking a question in your subject line. A question, rather than statement, will ideally capture attention and arouse curiosity.

Of course, a question just begs to be answered and the reader should be inspired to click through in search of an answer. And that’s an email opened!

7. Make the benefit obvious

A subject line that clearly offers a benefit is one sure-fire way of grabbing attention amongst a busy inbox. Because a benefit promises a favourable outcome, rather than just highlighting a feature, according to MEQUODA people have much more enthusiasm for benefit driven headlines and subject lines.

At the end of the day

While applying each of the above 7 tips may not guarantee your emails will always be read, you can bet your message does have the best chance of standing out from the crowd. When people are bombarded with multiple messages daily it’s essential to implement strategies such as these to increase the likelihood of your email being seen, opened and then actioned.


Emails can grow your business, as long as you stay out of the Spam folder. We’ve put together the SPAM-FREE Short Cut Guide to Emailing. It’s free! Click here to get it.


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