Tips for Writing Effective Email Subject Lines

If you’re struggling with your open rates, you might want to take a peek at your subject lines.  A well-crafted and effective subject line is a game-changer. It's what grabs attention, sparks curiosity, and sets the tone for the email that follows – thus increasing your open rates!

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Your subject line is essentially your first impression with your audience.  It’s your opportunity to stand out among the *who knows how many* emails your audience is receiving on a daily basis.  Crafting effective subject lines is such a small but incredibly important step in your email marketing strategy. 

Go through your inbox (after you finish reading this post, of course!) and take a look at which emails and subject lines you are most interested in and most likely to open.  Why?  What makes you want to click on that email?  Did the sender use words, phrases, emojis that caught your attention?  Did the subject line include a topic that resonated with you?  What was it about that email that made you want to read more?

These are questions that I am constantly asking myself and my favorite bit of marketing research to engage in in the school pick up line!  

I’m going to give you quite a few tips here on how to write effective subject lines for your emails but if you’re still hung up, I have a list of 100 email subject lines that will lead to higher open rates that you can grab below!

100 Subject Lines with High Open Rates
Grab this FREE resource right here!

Subject Line Basics

Understand the purpose of your email

The best email subject lines start with knowing the purpose of your email. Are you sending out cold emails hoping to start a new relationship? Or are you keeping in touch with your already engaged email list, sharing good news or a new blog post? Perhaps you're a part of a sales team trying to entice your readers with a limited-time offer. 

The purpose of your email will help guide you with your subject line.  I recommend writing your email first and then deciding on your subject line and preview text.

Know your target audience

If you’ve been here for any amount of time, you’re probably tired of hearing me say this but here goes….  The best ways to get high open rates? Know who you're talking to.  

Your target audience is key to your entire marketing strategy — it shapes its identity. Understanding your email recipients helps you craft an effective subject line that will resonate with them. 

It's always a good idea to take a closer look at your audience and understand why they are there and what value you can provide to help with their pain points or get them to their desired goals.

First impressions matter

I mentioned this above, but the first thing your recipient sees is the subject line, and believe me when I say it can make or break their first impression. Use this opportunity to set the tone for the rest of your interaction. 

A good subject line is where you show that you're not just another email in their inbox; you're a real person with a genuine message.

Use best practices for creating email subject lines

Unfortunately there's no magic formula for crafting the perfect subject line that will lead to a higher open rate, but there are best practices that, when followed, can have a significant impact on your open rates. We’ll jump into those now!

Best Practices For Catchy Email Subject Lines

Using action verbs

Action verbs are a great way to kick off your subject line. Just like in the body of the email where you include a call to action, these action verbs inspire… well, action! 

A subject line with an action verb has a similar effect to your call to action and helps the reader either know exactly what to do or helps them to visualize themselves in action.  For example, here are a couple subject line examples using action verbs:

“Join our exclusive webinar on digital marketing trends.” – tells the reader exactly what to do.

“Craft compelling content with these top tips!” – helps the reader visualize or understand the action of creating exciting content.

Create a sense of urgency

There's something psychological about a ticking clock (or urgency) that gets our hearts racing and encourages readers to want to know more. 

Crafting a sense of urgency with phrases indicating limited time can provoke immediate action. But be cautious with false promises and don’t be spammy with this one! Honesty goes a long way in building trust.

Keep it short and sweet

With more and more people opening emails on mobile devices, it's crucial to keep subject lines short and sweet. Too long, and they might get cut off, which kind of defeats the purpose of crafting that perfect subject line.  Try to keep it under 50 characters!

Making it personal

Adding a personal touch to your subject lines, like using the recipient's first name, can make them feel like your email was made just for them. Again, it’s psychological, but it's a small step that can lead to higher open rates and higher engagement.

Something like, “[First Name], check out these accessories for your new camera.”

Use preview text as a second subject line

A screenshot of an email in my inbox showing the subject line and preview text
This is a perfect example from my copywriting friend, Andrea of utilizing preview text to compliment the subject line and encourage clicks!

Preview text is another great opportunity to give your readers just a bit more info encouraging them to open up the email. Your preview text should complement your subject line and give a glimpse into the content of the email.

For example, an email promoting a new blog post, the subject line could be, “Boost your SEO with these tips,” with a preview text that reads, “Our latest blog post breaks down the best ways to improve your website's SEO.”

Use numbers for clarity and specifics

Numbers provide specifics and make your subject lines clear and concise while also breaking up the text.  Here are some examples:

“10 Must-Have Tools for Every Blogger”
“Boost Your Blog Traffic by 50% With These 5 Tips”
“Join 5000+ Bloggers in Our Annual Conference”

As a side note, if you promise 10 tips – please make sure you’re giving them 10 tips!  Your readers will notice and you don’t want to break that trust.  

Avoid spam words to avoid spam filters

Your email could have the most captivating content, but if your subject line triggers spam filters, it won't even see the light of day. It’s best to avoid spam words and excessive use of punctuation marks or capital letters in your subject lines, such as using the word FREE – don’t worry we’ve all been there, but now you know!

Deliver on the promise of the subject line

Remember when we talked about first impressions? If the content of your email doesn't live up to the promise of your subject line, it’s not only disappointing for your reader but it will cause them to lose trust and potentially unsubscribe. 

Make sure that the subject line and the content of your email are in sync with each other.

Use Power Words to Evoke Emotion

Power words are strong, persuasive words that elicit an emotional response from people. By including power words in your subject lines, you can tap into those human emotions that make your audience want to open and engage with your emails. Plus, power words can help you stand out in a crowded inbox and increase open rates.

Here are some examples:

  • Curiosity: “Secret,” “Only,” “Discover,” “Reveal”
  • Urgency: “Urgent,” “Hurry,” “Last Chance,” “Now”
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO): “Don't Miss,” “Only,” “Deadline”
  • Excitement: “Win,” “New,” “Launch,” “Celebrate”

If you’re looking for a really great resource for non sleezy or salesy copy, checkout Andrey Frey with the Creative Copy Shop.  She is the queen of genuine sales copy and power words!

Different Types of Email Subject Lines and Their Use Cases

Like I mentioned before, there’s no secret formula for subject lines and email marketing in general isn't a one-size-fits-all game. Different types of emails call for different subject lines. 

Welcome emails

Welcome email subject lines are your chance to make a good first impression. This is where you get to set the tone for your email relationship. A great example might be something like, “Welcome, [First Name]! We're excited to have you.”

Re-engagement Emails

Re-engagement emails are designed to reconnect with subscribers who have become inactive over time. The purpose is to reignite their interest in your content, products, or services. 

The subject line in such emails should be carefully crafted to rekindle the recipient's interest and remind them of the value you offer. An example could be, “Missed you, [First Name]! Here's a 20% off coupon to welcome you back.” or “[First Name], we've made some updates since you've been gone”

Remember, you can also optimize your preview text to encourage open rates for audience members who haven’t been engaged.

Sales emails

Sales email subject lines need to strike a balance between creating a (genuine) sense of urgency and offering real value. For instance, “Save 50% on our best-selling product – today only!” creates urgency and presents a compelling offer.

For more info on sales emails and funnels – I have an entire 5-part done for you sales sequence in my $7/month membership dashboard.

Follow-up emails

Follow-up emails are your chance to continue a conversation. The right subject line can show your recipient that you value their time and are interested in their thoughts or business. 

Something like, “Hi [First Name], let's pick up where we left off.”

Funny subject lines

Humor, when done right, can be a super effective way to stand out in a crowded inbox. Funny subject lines can help show your brand's personality and make your recipients smile — just keep in mind that humor and sarcasm can sometimes be difficult to detect in text so use your best judgment!

Personal subject lines

Just as we personalize emails with the recipient's first name, personal subject lines address the recipient in a unique way. For instance, “[First Name], we thought you might like these new books” indicates you know their preferences.

And remember – personalizing doesn’t just mean popping their name into the email and subject line, it’s also about personalizing the content through segmentation and targeting.  This is a discussion for another time (or blog post) but keep it in mind!

Freebie or Lead Magnet Emails

Everybody loves free stuff, right? Free trial or offer emails have a high chance of being opened, especially when they just opted in to receive it! A subject line like, “Claim your free trial today, [First Name]!” is hard to resist.

If this is the case of a freebie email that a reader opted in for, don’t leave them guessing with the subject line.  Let them know their resource has arrived.  Something like, “Your free guide is HERE!”

Improve Your Email Campaigns

Crafting effective subject lines is a super important part of your email campaign, but here’s a couple more tips to really increase those open rates!

Segment Your List for Tailored Subject Lines

Once you've really identified your target audience and gathered insights about them through quizzes and polls or even just through engaging with them and doing a bit of research; you can then segment your subscribers based on their preferences, interests, behaviors, etc. 

By doing so, you can craft targeted subject lines that are personalized and appeal to each segment.  This makes your emails feel more personal and relevant to each recipient leading to higher engagement and open rates.

A/B Testing

One of the best ways to find out what works for your audience is through A/B testing. This is where you send out identical emails with  two different subject lines to a small portion of your email list and see which one performs better. 

Here are some subject line elements you might want to consider when testing:

  1. Length: Test shorter subject lines against longer ones to see which performs better.
  2. Wording: Experiment with different power words, emotional triggers, or phrases to identify the most effective language for your audience.
  3. Personalization: Test personalized subject lines, such as using the subscriber's name or location, to see if they lead to higher open rates.

Optimal time to send emails

Just as the right subject line can lead to higher open rates, so too can the right time of day. The right time to send an email might depend on your target audience's habits, and finding this sweet spot could lead to better results.

Subject line and sender name

Your sender name and your subject line are the dynamic duo of email marketing. Having a recognizable sender name (i.e. where the email is coming from) can significantly impact whether your email is opened, so ensure it not only compliments your subject line but doesn’t confuse your audience.

Keep it on brand or even use your own name if that’s what your audience would best recognize!

Additional Tips for Effective Email Subject Lines

Creating curiosity

Subject lines that create curiosity can often entice readers to open your email. “The secret to a perfect pie crust” or “Ever wondered how to grow your email list?” are examples that provoke curiosity.

But again, make sure the content of your email relates to your subject line and provides value or answers questions.  Don’t be spammy or engage in clickbait!

Sharing good news or benefits

We all love good news. Subject lines that share good news or highlight the benefits to the audience can be highly effective as well.

 “New resources have been uploaded to your dashboard!” is a great example.

Using questions

Posing a question in your subject line can engage the reader and encourage them to open the email. For instance something like, “Do you know the latest SEO trends?” will get the readers’ interested.

You probably know what I’m going to say by now… but just make sure you’re actually answering the question in your email or linking to a resource (blog post, podcast, etc.) that will answer the question.

Addressing a pain point

An effective email subject line strategy can involve addressing your recipient's pain point. For instance, “Struggling with meal planning? We have the solution” shows you understand their problem and have a solution.  

This goes hand in hand with understanding your target audience and creating those relationships with your audience.

Capitalizing on social media trends or viral content

Trending topics from social media can make very effective email subject lines. Using viral content can show your brand is up-to-date and relevant, catching the reader’s attention.

Avoid false promises

You had to know I was going to include this one, right?  Honesty is always the best policy, especially in your subject lines. 

Making false promises can damage your reputation and trust with your audience which is NOT what we’re about.

Use (genuine) scarcity

Scarcity can be a powerful motivator – but make sure it’s true and genuine.

“Only 5 seats left for our webinar” or “Last chance to grab this deal” can create a sense of urgency and increase your open rates.

Sharing testimonials or social proof

A subject line with a testimonial or social proof can make the recipient curious. For example, “See why our customers love our product” or “See how Amy used (your product) to boost her revenue by 50% in one month!” could lead to higher open rates, especially among those readers who have been curious about whatever it is you’re offering and just haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

Utilizing FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

Similar to scarcity, creating a fear of missing out can be a powerful way to improve your subject lines as well.

“Last chance: Don't miss your chance to hang with us in our exclusive blogging masterclass!” plays on this fear, creates an emotional response, and encourages that immediate action of signing up.

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The Bottom Line

The bottom line when creating engaging subject lines is to remember who your audience is.  What is it you can do to help them and what valuable content can you provide that will do just that?

Subject lines will not create and foster that relationship, consistently showing up, providing value, and keeping your audience front of mind will do that. 

My advice is to take a look at what subject lines are working (ie which ones have the highest open rates) and continue to rinse and repeat whatever it is your audience relates to.  And remember to always keep these things in mind:

  1. Personalization: Using the recipient's name or addressing their specific situation can make the email feel more relevant and engaging.
  2. Emotion: Use power words to tap into emotions like curiosity, excitement, and FOMO.  This will help to drive action.
  3. Clarity: Be sure your subject lines clearly convey the email's content and value proposition, making it easy for your audience to understand what they'll gain by opening the email. Just remember to be genuine.
  4. Keep it brief: Keep your subject lines short, sweet, and to the point.  This ensures they're easily readable and attention-grabbing.

Crafting the perfect subject line is part art and part science. The perfect mix of creativity, curiosity, personalization, and relevance can make your emails stand out in what is becoming overly crowded inboxes.

But remember, the subject line is just the beginning. It opens the door, but it's the content of your email(s) that invites the reader in and wanting to come back for more. The goal is to build a trusted and valued relationship with your audience so that when they see your name in their inbox they are excited and willing to open the email no matter the subject line!  

So, experiment with these tips, see what works best for your audience, and continue to test and evolve your approach. After all, that’s why I call it an email marketing journey!

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