Best practices for email subject lines

Among the different marketing strategies, email marketing remains one of the most classic yet the most effective ways to reach prospects, promote your brand and build relationships.

You can have the best email campaign in the world, but it’s useless if your customer never opens your emails. 47% of marketers say they test different email subject lines to optimize their email performance.

While email subject lines may seem like a small part of your message, but they’re one of the very first impressions you have on your email recipients. In fact, when you send a cold email to someone, your subject line will form the first impression about you and your business! That’s how important subject lines are.

Do you want to maximize your email opening rates? It all starts with the subject line. Read on for some tried-and-true best practices for email subject lines to help jazz up your subject lines and boost your email engagement.

Regardless of your goals, these are the best practices for writing compelling email subject lines, that get your emails opened.

1. Subjects that communicate urgency

There’s a phrase that, for many of us, is reminiscent of classic infomercials: “Act now!”.

And while we wouldn’t encourage using that exact language in your content. We do agree that communicating urgency and scarcity in an email subject line can help compel readers to click (or act) – when phrased creatively and strategically.

But because you don’t want to be known as “the brand that cried wolf,” use these subject lines sparingly. Try to limit them to when the occasion genuinely calls for immediate action.

If the subject line creates a sense of urgency, and the body of the message entices a perfect call-to-action, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) comes into play. Act now, or miss out on the deal.

2. Subjects that generate curiosity

It’s good to maintain some sense of mystery – especially if it pique’s the recipient’s natural curiosity and interest. Because they require opening the email to get more information, they can result in, well, a higher open rate.

But make sure the subject line, while enigmatic, still aligns with your brand. Too obscure, and it could end up being seen as spam.

3. Subjects that include offers

Here’s where that benefit of opening a given email comes in. At the end of the day, people love new things and experiences especially when they come free, or at least discounted.

Open with that by including it in your subject line. Generally people are much more inclined to open daily newsletters when there’s an offer of or allusion “free stuff” directly mentioned in the inbox.

    4. Subjects that are personalized

    Not many times the email subscribers are exactly the same and, that means the emails you send them shouldn’t be.

    At this point in time, marketers have never had more ways to learn about their subscribers’ preferences, jobs, or general (dis)likes. So when you send them content, on occasion, make it catered toward the individual.

    You have to know who you are sending the email to and, they have to recognize its about them or a subject interesting to them.

    Whether you are providing an opportunity, an offer, or a service make it clear in the subject line what’s in it for them.

    personalization is an effective element of best practices for email subject lines

    It’s also rather easy to personalize your emails with a mail merge tool. Mail merge tools take recipient data from a spreadsheet and merge with an email template document – either HTML, text or document file.

    Google Drive apps are highly suited for mail merge workflows – with free access to Google Sheets and Docs. Fuzen’s mail merge tool combines deeply personalized emails with automation and email scheduling. Check it out to boost the success of your email campaigns.

    5. Subjects that are social proof

    The psychology of social proof is why trends such as influencer marketing and user-generated content are so effective – we make decisions based on the behavior and recommendations of those we like and trust.

    If you can sprinkle an ounce of social proof into your email subject line it dramatically increases the chances of people opening it.

    Celebrities can help you create social proof as well. If you see someone famous using your product or service, email your customers, with a permission from them.

    Include the celebrity’s name in the subject with a quick tease about what happened.

    6. Subjects that are case studies

    People like case studies for two reasons:

    They provide proof that a technique or strategy works and often offer a step-by-step, replicable process that readers can use to achieve the same results

    So, when you create a case study that combines scientific proof with self-interest then, make it known in your email subject line

    7. Subject lines that include announcements and events

    Send your subscribers business announcements.

    If you or your team is going to be at some sort of expo or another event, let your customers know. Invite them to join you and send free or discounted tickets

    The announcement also may be about a new product line, something valuable you are doing in the community, or a strategic partnership you have established.

    Don’t “hide” the announcement behind a clickbait email subject line. Spell it out for everyone to see. You’d be surprised at how effective this straightforward approach can be at enticing email opens.

    8. Subject lines with your authority and expertise

    Let your authority shine. If you’ve accomplished something let your readers know. Also if something has terribly failed you should own that too and share it with your audience. Share with them why you failed at something, what you did wrong, then how you learned from it and what they could take away from your learning.

    The social proof that you create with your well known customers and users, also helps to build on your authority.

    9. Subject lines sharing latest News and trends

    Including the latest news and trends from your industry in an email subject line shows your prospects that you are active and relevant in the space.

    It also triggers curiosity and a human desire to “know what is going on”, so they have something to talk about next time they are standing around the water cooler.

    News subject lines take advantage of our inherent desire to be in the know. Even if you don’t follow mainstream news outlets, you should stay up-to-date on topics that interest your audience in some way.

    10. Subject lines that are follow ups

    Are you tracking the conversion rates for your shopping carts? How do you handle abandoned carts?

    If you don’t have an answer to these questions, you can use an email subject line to help drive sales and improve abandoned shopping cart rates.

    For those of you that are not tracking how many customers add items to a cart on your website but never finalize the purchase, you may be surprised to hear how common it is.

    And judging by the number of other retailers using similar methods, in email and other marketing channels, it’s something to consider (especially when coupled with a sense of urgency). 

    Use email automation tools to automate the follow up emails in your campaigns. That way you don’t have to worry about personally monitoring the engagement of your campaign emails and manually follow up. Simply set up the rules for sending follow up emails based on user’s engagement (clicks, opens) and time lapsed since the last email.


    Are you ready to become an expert email subject line writer? It’s not rocket science, but it does take a bit of practice and testing to get right. Use email automation tools to run A/B tests before you finalize the best email subject lines for your campaign.

    Make sure you A/B test your email subject lines even after following all best practices

    If you don’t know where to start, go through the best practices listed here and reflect upon which would be best suited for your email subject lines.

    One more thing to be noted: for your email subject line to be actually seen, your email should first land in the inbox. That’s why you should regularly check the deliverability of your emails and sender reputation for your domain. Because they will decide whether or not your email will land in inbox before the subject line can work. You can also follow these best practices for cold email marketing to ensure your emails are able to reach INBOX and your audience will engage with them.

    Finally, there’s no magic bullet; no one-size-fits-all approach. The sooner you realize that, the faster you will cultivate a flair for writing subject lines. Subject lines that drive opens, clicks, and conversions and achieve the results you know your business deserves.

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