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How to Write Engaging Email Subject Lines: 20 Tips

Date: 2023-10-05 | Time of reading: 15 minutes (2871 words)

How to Write Engaging Email Subject Lines: 20 Tips

The fact that subscribers pay attention to email subject lines is evident: in 2022, 47% of marketers reported testing various email subject lines to increase open rates and clicks.

The email subject line may seem like a minor element compared to the overall content of an email campaign. However, it's often the only chance to stand out in a crowded inbox. In this article, we will tell you how to improve your email subject lines and increase attention to your emails.

What benefits does a catchy email subject line provide?

Regardless of the email's goal, there are several key elements that should be present in any email.

Sense of urgency

Creating a sense of urgency is an effective way to prompt people to take targeted action. According to statistics, headlines that use words like "urgent," "important," or "attention" have a higher open rate. However, it's essential not to overuse these calls to action. It's better to show that people might miss out on something, emphasizing the limited time of the offer.

If you specify specific start and end dates for sales and promotions, subscribers are more likely to read the email to find out what benefits they will get during that time.

Subject line example

Subject line example

You can also create a sense of urgency by limiting the time period during which users can access webinars or content or by providing a promo code.

Arousing curiosity

Certainly, headlines are effective when they convey the message: "You will benefit if you open this email." However, sometimes it's necessary to maintain a sense of mystery because human curiosity or interest can be stronger than reason.

Subject line example

Subject line example

Subject line example

Users, once intrigued, open such emails to get additional information. The open rate for a "mysterious" email is usually much higher. However, it's essential to make sure not to overdo it. Most importantly, the mysterious subject line should match the content of the email. Otherwise, your email may end up in the spam folder.

Realizing usefulness

Emphasize the usefulness in the email subject line, highlighting the benefit that the customer will gain by opening your email. Recipients are more likely to open emails if they understand that they can purchase a product on favorable terms.

Subject line example

Emphasized uniqueness

Each subscriber is different from the others, and the emails targeting them should be different too. Therefore, marketers need to learn more about their readers: their tastes, professions, likes, and dislikes. Try to create content by segments to reach your target audience.

Subject line example

Recognition of relevance

When people subscribe to an email newsletter, they want to receive fresh news or learn more about a specific topic. Keep track of the relevance and timeliness of your emails, write headlines with the appropriate theme – this will help your brand establish authority in its industry and encourage people to open and read your emails.

Subject line example

Subject line example

High recognizability

Celebrities attract people: there's hardly anyone who has never had at least one idol. If you know your audience's preferences, mentioning a celebrity's name in your content can significantly increase interest in the email.

Subject line example

Applying this method is only possible if celebrities truly have some connection to your brand, product, or service. Then, along with the popularity of the star, your recognition among the masses will also grow.

Attracting attention

Recipient curiosity serves another purpose. Before reading the email, the customer must open it. Without this, all the intricacies inside are useless.

Subject line example

That's why catchy headlines are invented. A good headline will intrigue the audience, and people will want to learn more.

Non-intrusiveness

It is believed that a concise headline is a plus, although Gartner reports that "long, detailed headlines of 70 characters or more are just as effective as headlines of 11-20 characters."

Subject line example

Conduct A/B testing on different segments of your audience to determine the optimal length of headlines.

20 tips for creating email subject lines

1. Boost your inspiration

When in doubt, turn to examples. Go through your email inbox and find your favorite email newsletters with successful word combinations and emojis. You'll likely come across a headline that will suit your email.

Boost your inspiration

2. Make the sender's name recognizable

When choosing a sender's name for your emails, make it as natural as possible. For example, Olivia@yourcompany.com. Such a name creates a friendly, casual impression on the recipient when they open their email inbox.

If you have already interacted with a customer, you can send them an email under your own name. This makes a better impression since customers will perceive you as a specific person rather than an impersonal brand.

Joanna Wiebe from Copy Hacker explains: "If the sender's name doesn't sound very flattering, then the next subject line in the email doesn't matter anymore."

Make the sender's name recognizable

Make the sender's name recognizable

Modern people are very busy. They don't want to waste time on reading emails that seem unclear to them.

3. Don't use "no-reply" in the sender's name

Usually, people don't open emails from unfamiliar senders due to the high volume of spam. Robots can be even worse than spam. Everyone has been in a situation where you call a company, and you can't get the robot to connect you to a live specialist. It's very frustrating. Similarly, email is a personalized way of communicating with people. So never use the email address noreply@company.com.

4. Personalize your emails

Personalize your emails

Everyone likes it when they are addressed by name. Research has shown that emails with the recipient's name in the subject line are more likely to be opened than those without it.

Another effective personalization strategy is adapting email subject lines to the recipient's location. For example, you can provide the recipient with a list of the best open bars and restaurants in their city.

Small details in personalization show that you know more about your subscribers than just their email addresses. However, if you cannot or do not want to use personalization in the email subject line, you can use words like 'You' or 'Your' to give the recipient the impression that you are addressing them personally.

5. Segment your audience

Mass emailing to a list isn't equally valuable for all recipients. For example, vegetarians would be puzzled by an email featuring the best steakhouses in town. Customers who have just signed up won't appreciate thematic research and case studies if they were expecting to receive news updates.

Use information about your customers' actions, from filling out registration forms to the industries they work in and their personal preferences, to personalize your customers' experience.

In email marketing, always segment your recipient list for personalized offers.

6. Don't deceive

The subject of the email should reflect its actual content. If it doesn't, readers will feel they are being deceived. Such emails, if not marked as spam, will eventually be ignored.

7. Keep your promises: emphasize them in the subject line

Conversely, if you're sending an email in response to a customer's request (for instance, they clicked a link from a previous email where you promised a guide or an ebook), write in the email subject line: "Your ebook is here."

 Keep your promises: emphasize them in the subject line

So, the recipient will immediately understand what to expect in the email and is likely to open it.

8. Choose the right moment

Sending an email with the right subject line at the right time can have a significant impact on open rates and click-through rates.

For example, Eater's newsletter was sent on a Wednesday evening at 6:45 PM with the subject line "Where to go for a beer." This was a highly effective strategy, especially considering that the newsletter was sent just before the start of "happy hour."

The day of the week also matters. Fridays have the highest email open rates (around 19%), while Saturdays have the lowest (17%).

Another example is the classic Warby Parker email with the subject line "Oops, your pre-order is expiring soon." This email was sent two weeks before the recipient's planned purchase.

Timing and relevance are crucial factors in email marketing success.

Choose the right moment

Sending the email at the right time, Warby Parker increased the likelihood of it being opened and included a relevant call to action.

9. Be more concise

Remember that most email inboxes are skimmed through, so the clearer the subject line, the better.

Think about the benefit your email will bring to readers and create a concise headline. It's better to write in the subject line, "How to increase your Open rate by 50% today" rather than "Increase your opening rate." If you need to lengthen the subject line, make it relevant.

10. Use the right verbs

Imagine the email subject line as a call to action (CTA). Email subject lines that start with a call to action typically look more attractive and can significantly increase click-through rates. Action-oriented verbs create a sense of interest and urgency, making people want to read the email.

Use the right verbs

Use the right verbs

11. Your client is special – convey this to them

The psychology of exclusivity is very powerful: everyone enjoys feeling special. You need to choose your words in a way that, after reading the email subject line, the client understands that they are truly important to you.

Your client is special

For example:

  • "Just for you…"
  • "Special offer for our beloved customers"
  • "A gift for you…"
  • "We invite you…"

12. Make limited-time offers

While we don't recommend using the phrase "Act now!" literally, as it has become quite overused, we encourage creating a sense of urgency and limited availability in your offers.

Make limited-time offers

The more creative your approach, the more noticeable the effect will be. However, don't overdo it: catchy headlines should be used with caution, preferably only in cases where urgent action is genuinely required. Otherwise, you may be seen as the boy who cried wolf.

13. Be specific

Sometimes, when sending email campaigns, companies use vague phrases in their headlines. However, it's better to provide statistical data and rely on numbers – this is a real way to grab attention to your email, demonstrate clarity and conciseness in your message.

Subject line example

Subject line example

Regardless of whether you are talking about a blog or an email, using numbers in headlines is an effective marketing practice.

Numbers can represent the number of items in a list, a specific discount amount, or the size of a financial benefit. For example: "Become the 751st participant in the event."

14. Ask questions

If you pose a question in the email subject line that is relevant to your audience, it will engage the reader and motivate them to open and read the email. Ask provocative questions and those to which you are likely to hear a "yes" answer.

Examples: "Are you making these SEO mistakes?" "Do you know what's wrong with your website?"

Once, Zillow sent an email with the subject line "What can you afford?" It included a link to their website for renting apartments.

Such a headline gives hope that there are apartments within your budget, and you will open the email at least to compare your affordability with what's available in the market.

Subject line example

Subject line example

Subject line example

Another example: imagine receiving an email with the subject line: "What our customers are saying?"

DocuSign once used this approach to engage potential customers with their company. The email contained several stories from real customers. And people at the top of the sales funnel were more likely to make a purchase quickly.

15. Play with words

Approach the matter creatively – it's an excellent way to delight subscribers and liven up your email campaigns. One of the world's best examples is JetBlue: "Land wander-ful low fares now!"

The invention platform Quirky uses the term "Abra-cord-abra! Yeah, we said it" in the subject lines of their emails. This phrase, which is typically said right after a very silly joke, is very popular among their subscribers.

If you have a knack for wordplay, find a way to incorporate a relevant phrase into your email campaign. However, exercise restraint in this regard. If you're unsure about the appropriateness of a particular phrase, seek input from colleagues.

16. Don’t write IN ALL CAPS or use too many exclamation marks!!!

It comes across as aggressive and can be off-putting to recipients.

Don’t write subject line in all caps or use many exclamatory marks

No one likes being shouted at, so using all capital letters or multiple exclamation marks in a row can elicit a negative response. It not only irritates subscribers but also appears as spam.

Instead of resorting to these questionable techniques, focus on personalization, pay attention to the relevance of your content, and use engaging and positive language. Engaging your audience with content that resonates with them and using appealing, positive wording in your subject lines can lead to better open rates and engagement in your email marketing efforts.

17. Avoid using both question marks and exclamation marks in the subject line of an email

For instance, a subject line like "Want a quick solution? Act now!" can trigger spam filters and may not resonate well with your audience.

This format is considered outdated and can potentially turn off your recipients. Open-ended questions in subject lines can make it appear like you're not well-versed in the subject matter, which isn't ideal. Additionally, email servers are inclined to mark emails as spam if the subject line contains both question and exclamation marks. Therefore, it's best to steer clear of this method.

18. Utilize preheaders effectively

Preheaders aren't technically part of the subject line, but they appear next to it and are worth paying attention to.

Email clients like Gmail and Outlook display preheaders alongside the subject line. The exact amount of text shown may vary depending on the specific email client and user settings.

Utilize preheaders effectively

If you don't set the preview text manually, your email client will automatically extract it from the content of the email. Sometimes, this can look strange and deprive you of the opportunity to grab the audience's attention.

19. Conduct A/B testing of your email subject lines

A subject line that works effectively for one company may not work at all for another. It all depends on the specific audience. That's why it's useful to periodically conduct A/B testing.

While you may have an intuitive sense of which phrases in your subject line will prompt people to click on your email, it's worthwhile to A/B test the most important subject line phrases and adjust the wording accordingly.

20. Remind your audience about your brand

Sometimes, despite all your efforts, readers simply don't open your emails. This is a common issue in email marketing. Statistics show that marketers, for some reason, miss the opportunity to motivate their customers further and are hesitant to remind them about themselves.

Remind your audience about your brand

Re-sending emails that were initially ignored can indeed increase the Open rate, typically by an average of 11%. Make it clear to the recipient that you are sending the email again with subject lines like "Oops, you might have missed this," "Webinar happening this Friday," and so on. Don't hesitate to be creative and grab their attention.

The algorithm for writing a quality email subject line:

  • Step 1: Determine the goal of your email. Why are you sending the email, and how does the subject line reflect this goal? Define the purpose and intent of the email, and brainstorm ideas based on that.

  • Step 2: Define the Call to Action (CTA). What will entice subscribers to open the email and click through: a discount, a lead magnet, a guide? There should be something enticing inside that makes the reader want to learn more about what you're offering.

  • Step 3: Make the subject relevant. The first thing a reader sees is the email subject line. Ensure that it's a relevant topic or offer with a sense of urgency.

  • Step 4: Create multiple variations. Write several subject lines using different wording and tones. You'll need several ideas to choose the best one.

  • Step 5: Get feedback. Show your variations to colleagues and ask them which one they like the most. Hearing others' opinions can provide a different perspective on the subject line.

  • Step 6: Test the subject line. Conduct A/B testing to determine which subject line works best. Use the most effective subject lines in your marketing campaigns based on the test results.

Remember: catchy headlines increase click-through rates

If your subscribers don't open the email, they won't read it. By following the tips mentioned above, you'll be able to create creative, attention-grabbing subject lines. At first glance, readers will understand that there's excellent content inside.

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Author: Nataliya Makarova

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