6 Hacks for the Catchiest Email Subject Lines

Underwhelming open rates? Maybe your subject line could use a little tweaking. 

With shorter attention spans and highly crowded inboxes, today’s subscribers have become experts at filtering what they read online. Your email may have the best content, but if your subject line isn’t interesting enough, your subscribers may move on to the next email. In fact, 7 in 10 mark emails as spam based on the subject line alone.

To catch the attention of your subscribers, we’ve identified some of the elements that make a good subject line. Consider these when drafting your next email marketing campaign, and expect improved email open rates across the board.

1. Keep it short and sweet

Online users are now more mobile than ever. This means that emails are getting shorter—and subject lines are, too. You want to deliver your message in a few characters and still make it interesting enough for your subscribers. 

Some short, but eye-catching subject lines:

  • New dresses + save on shipping
  • Sneak peek at 2020’s fashion trends
  • Is your son the next wunderkind?

Remember that words such as “new” and “save” always stick out, so be sure to use them (when appropriate) in your future email marketing campaigns.

Here’s a table of the most effective words you can use:

Source: Campaign Monitor

2. Personalization works wonders

Don’t be a stranger. Let your subscribers know that you’re familiar with them and what they are interested in. Use their first name, leverage their preferences and hobbies, or celebrate special days with them. Just make sure that you have the right information about them, or your email will be sent straight to the bin.

Here are some examples of a personalized subject line:

  • John, here’s what we think your studio needs
  • It’s your birthday! Meals on us
  • Check out these concerts in your city

3. Add a hint of urgency

We all know this to be true: email subscribers tend to procrastinate on reading, especially if they’re distracted by hundreds of other tasks. If you want to improve open rates the moment you hit ‘send’, try including a deadline in the subject line. Many subscribers will open an email ASAP if they only have a few days or hours to get a promotion or access a service.

For example:

  • What are you waiting for? 2 days and the sale ends!
  • Hurry, tickets are almost sold out!
  • 15:00-18:00 | Sign-up period for today’s webinar

Check out these retail subject lines:

Source: Campaign Monitor

4. Make it educational

Your subscribers are on your mailing list for a reason. They may like your products, believe in your advocacy, or think you are the best in your industry, among others. Instead of offering a sale week after week, why not dedicate an email marketing campaign to share your knowledge?

Many businesses hook their subscribers with a “how-to” subject line or with one that has statistics in it. The key is to make it simple and not overly intellectual.

Check out these educational subject lines:

  • Download a 10-minute video on interior design
  • The ultimate guide for freelance web developers
  • Free whitepaper on SME financing

5. Match it with your preheader text

Running out of space with your subject line? Don’t fret. You can use the preheader text, or the preview text right next to your subject line, to elaborate on your offer. Many companies fail to leverage the preheader text, but those who do utilize the extra space see improvements in their email open rates.

For example:

  • What to watch after The Office. Here are our top picks for you…
  • 2-Day Flash Sale on Gadgets! We know you’ve been eyeing that laptop…
  • Download this month’s free ebook. Or choose from reader favorites…

6. Use the EMV Index

The EMV Index, or Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Index, is a way to measure emotional responses from the use of language. 

To check your subject lines using the EMV Index, you can do an A/B Test by sending a similar email with different subject lines. See which of your subject lines generates more opens, and try to identify the elements that made it work.

Here are some tried and true elements of a good subject line:

  • Pushes emotional buttons
  • Creates a lasting impression
  • Triggers viral responses

Your subject line can come in the form of a question, a freebie, or a call-to-action. It can include an emoji, a statistic, or an interesting word. Whatever you decide to include in the subject, make sure it works specifically for customer segments.  

Wrap up

It’s not a small thing to come up with an email marketing campaign, and it can get frustrating if the email isn’t at least opened by your subscribers.

Work on your subject lines. They may seem like a small part of your overall email marketing campaign, but they are actually the key to greater customer engagement. Your emails deserve to be read, so make sure that your subject lines point your subscribers in that direction. 

What we’ve listed above are just a few of the best ways to create subject lines. If you’re interested in learning more, you can also look at this guide and some more examples from Campaign Monitor.

Ash Salleh
Director of SEO at Campaign Monitor
Ash Salleh is the Director of SEO at Campaign Monitor, where he works closely with content, copy, and analytics teams to improve site-wide optimization. Prior to his time at Campaign Monitor, he also provided SEO and digital marketing expertise at Zappos and Axiata Digital.

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