How To Craft Winning Email Subject Lines for Higher Open Rates

Email subject lines create and carry the destiny of your entire email marketing campaign. They are like movie trailers whose aim is to set the tone and create the right impression among the audience when the movie is released. Your email subject line’s quality determines if someone will open your email or not, irrespective of how good your email’s inside content is. You can take the help of some professional email examples.

As we all know, packing value in a handful of words is tougher than writing an elaborate piece of content that gives numerous arguments for convincing your reader. Being email marketers, we often find ourselves struggling to create interesting subject lines as failing to do so would undermine our results heavily. Today, I will share my two cents on crafting subject lines oriented towards maximum open rate based on my broad experience as an email marketing professional.  So, let’s straight jump to the point and find some of the most profound and prominent ways to create those compelling email subject lines for higher open rates.

Creating a sense of urgency

The sense of urgency is the primary reason behind quick decision-making by your subscribers. You can take it with a pinch of salt, but the ‘Act now’ factor actually works. I am not advocating to create an irrelevant urgency just to boost your click-through rates, but you can make your readers feel that they might lose a really great deal if they do not act quickly. However, it would be best if you chose your words strategically.

Do not wander into ‘clickbait’ content as it might help you in the first few attempts but would hurt your brand’s value and credibility in the long run. Also, using FOMO-inspired tactics consistently will ultimately rob their charm. The sense of exclusivity requires you to limit such communication tone and ensure that the message lives up to the expectations set by your subject line. Thus, I feel that you should use a variety of approaches to make your subject lines crisp yet contain enough value for the reader to open your message.

One way of setting an urgent tone is using a deadline for a tangible benefit, like in the cases of promotional offers. You may also use phrases that spark curiosity like ‘the secret to X’ and ‘Here’s how you can stop X problem quickly’ to attract attention. You may also use reverse psychology here as it creates a lot more urgency as compared to using a directive tone.

Keeping the character length in check

Subject lines need to be short, period. As per a report by Litmus, 50% of all emails are opened on mobile devices, and this number is only going to increase in the future. As an email marketer, it’s your responsibility not only to understand your target audience but also the device they use to open your emails. In portrait mode, iPhones in particular display about 35-38 characters, whereas the Samsung Galaxy phones show about 33 characters.

The key is to make your subject line short so that half of the readers who will read your email on their smartphones can stand a chance to actually read the entire content you have written. The ideal subject line length deduced by many research pieces came out to be between 17-24 characters to gain the highest open rates.

In case you are going to use emojis, I would recommend going ahead with a little bit of testing. It is a great way of instilling emotion in your subject line, but at the same time, marketers are confused about whether to go ahead with it or not. There are many studies that find the use of emergence as beneficial, while many state otherwise. Now, emojis consume more characters than text but remember that these considerations are made on the basis of the device screens’ ability to display information, so you can be flexible with that. In fact, many expert email developers use pixels instead of characters to ensure proper visibility.

Eliminating the words that reduce your open rate

Just like some words are rated as ‘boosters,’ there are some words or phrases that might come under the radar of spam filters and reduce your overall click-through rates. You need to carry out thorough research and do A/B testing as well to understand your target audience. This goes without saying that avoid using words and phrases that make your subject lines sound too good for being true. Such attempts are only going to dent your chances of your message getting clicked.

Writing the call to action in your subject line

Not many email marketers do that. It’s a simple yet effective practice that contributes to a higher click-through rate for your email marketing campaign. CTAs do not occupy a lot of space and help you deliver a concise message with minimal effort. Most importantly, they would also give the readers an idea of what to expect in the email.

This also resonates with the fact that when we open an email, we tend to take action by default. This can be easily traced to our corporate culture, where replying to emails is a must. You might not completely disclose the CTA copy, but sharing a few insights would be equally helpful. Subject lines that prompt the end result, i.e., action, can act as ice breakers since it saves a lot of your recipients’ time as they dig through their inbox, which receives an average of 126 emails on a daily basis. Thus, we can assume that helping your subscribers can bring rewards to your camping as a natural byproduct. But again, it will require you to be sharp with your subject line copy and the message, too, needs to fulfill the intent of clicking through.

Including a number in your subject line

As mentioned by Coschedule, featuring numbers in your blog post headlines can skyrocket the click-through rates by 206%. Okay, don’t frown upon me after seeing the blog posts’ data in an email marketing blog. My point is if the numbers help the blogs with traffic, they will also have a profound effect on the click-through rates for your email marketing campaigns since the objective of both the exercises is similar – making people click.

Content with numbers and data depict more relevancy and hence, have a higher chance of getting the user’s attention. They show that the content they are about to consume is well-researched and would add some value rather than being completely irrelevant. This same idea works behind the popularity of infographics as they make data more perceivable.

Not able to nail your email subject lines despite several attempts? Well, having professional help on board will help you a great deal. Services such as Mailchimp email experts and Marketo certified experts can not only help you with your subject but can also elevate the overall appeal of your entire email marketing campaign.

I would also like to add that this method is quite popular in SEO, and it works equally well for email marketers. This is due to the fact that alphanumeric subject lines are based on the same principle as blog titles, and thus, you can expect a considerable improvement in your open rates with this hack.

Mentioning popular names

Well, this is not clickbait. It’s just taking a bit of leverage of someone else’s popularity. Names of famous people carry a sense of relatability and aspiration even if those personalities are no more with us. Mentioning these names in your email subject lines might boost your open rates as they would create curiosity amongst your target audience. However, do make sure that the names you use must be relevant to your brand and your email’s messaging and should not be featured just for the sake of clicks.

However, it is recommended to stay away from anything that might offend a subscriber. Instead, if you could skew the context and bring up the topic in a comic manner, it can work wonders for your open rates. You should also be careful while doing so since people might get bored or turn skeptical of you. Another thing you can try is using very common names and a bit of storytelling. This may draw attention from your recipients as they might have a friend or colleague who goes with a similar name.

Wrapping up

Subject lines are probably the most crucial element of your email marketing strategy because no matter how exceptional your email is from inside, no one will see it if they don’t open it. Feel free to experiment but always keep the best practices mentioned above in mind whenever you write subject lines. A lot depends on your subject lines, so don’t shy away from putting in the extra effort.

Crafting the subject line revolves around three main principles – relevancy, relatability, and rewards. Nailing these three will help you formulate those oh-so-tempting subject lines with ease.


Originally published on May 12th, 2021, updated on May 18th, 2021
The Blog

How To Craft Winning Email Subject Lines for Higher Open Rates

by Kevin George time to read: 6 min