Writing your next great email subject line

Writing a really good subject line can often be tricky, especially when you’ve left it until the last minute to decide it before sending out your newsletter. There are a number of factors to consider, and I’ll be covering a couple of the key ones in this post. Ultimately, your goal for a great subject line is to increase your open rate.

There’s lots of different types of subject lines you can choose – that will depend on your brand and the content you are sending, but here’s a breakdown to explain.

Asking a question

Using this in the subject line is always a good opener. The customer (hopefully) will, on impulse, open the email to fulfil the answer and get the information they require. It also serves as a reminder to act on whatever it is you want them to do.

  • e.g. “Still looking for a winter coat?
  • Have you read our latest blog post yet?

Creates intrigue/mystery

One way to think of a great subject line is using mysterious / puzzling subject lines because the idea is that the recipient will naturally be curious and want to find out what it’s all about. However, if you’re intending to generate a lot of clicks, you might not want to use it as people might feel misled once they find out the content of the email.

  • e.g. “You’ll like this one” (Obama Campaign)

Sales and offers

Everyone loves a sale so it’s a great idea to make it really clear in the subject line exactly what is on offer and how much they could save/what the deal is. Using things like SAVE $100 or 50% OFF will really motivate people to open the email and take up the opportunity.

Always write the numbers as numerals rather words because it’s easier to scan. It’s really up to you whether you choose to “Save $xx” or “Save xx%” – all it requires is some common sense. For example, if a product is only $10, and it’s half price, 50% off will sound like a better deal than Save $5.

  • e.g. “Last chance! 50% off everything ends today
  • Today only: 2 cupcakes for the price of 1
  • “SALE! Save 20%”

Tips and advice

When providing useful information, try telling the reader exactly how manyuseful tips you’re providing them. It’ll make them feel like the post is worth reading because you’ve taken the time to curate the post and there is likely to be at least one of the tips/points that is suitable for them.

  • e.g. “Top 10 tips to save space in your home
  • 5 ways to save money on your next car purchase

New things

It’s true, we humans love new information. Think about how crazy the coverage of the new iPhone 6 has been! Out of all the emails I’ve ever sent, sales and new things always get the highest opens.

Don’t overuse it, people become immune to it, but it’s really useful if you get seasonal stock or you haven’t been in touch for a while. If you’ve got a lot of new things, why not highlight a few in the email and link through to a new category on the website?

  • e.g. “New in! Spring accessories
  • New! You can now see inactive subscribers in MailPoet

Subject line length

How long should I make it? Well, as with most email content, you’ve got to keep it short and snappy. According to this blog post we only have three seconds to capture our recipient’s attention so it’s really got to stand out, especially when you’ll be competing against the rest of the inbox.

There’s no specific rule for exactly how long it should be to perform well, and in fact there are some contradictory results about whether subject line length has an improved effect, or no conclusive results.

However the biggest factor affecting subject line length is that some email clients will “clip” your subject line, cutting the end off longer ones. We’ve seen some very unfortunate cropping on subject lines producing unexpected swear words!

Luckily, there’s a handy tool called the Litmus subject line checker which allows you to preview your email in the most popular email clients so you can reassure yourself that it displays correctly.

Ideally you want to front-load your subject line i.e. put the key point at the start and keep it succinct.

Bad Example:

FROM: ABC Pet Supplies Co.

SUBJECT: The ABC Pet Supplies Company Sale is on now. Everything is reduced by 80%.

Good example:

FROM: ABC Pet Supplies Co.

SUBJECT: SALE! Save 80% on everything

Top tip

Write down three different subject line options and ask a few people which one they think sounds best! You might be surprised.