Email Subject Lines That Work

We’ve all been there before…you get an email, you read the first few words of the subject line, and you decide not to open it. While we should technically be reading all of our emails the day they come into the inbox (right?), in full transparency that’s not always going to be the case. When schedules are tight and the work day is rolling, many emails will get bookmarked for a later date. There’s a few factors that go into which emails get opened right away and which ones don’t — do you recognize the name or company of the sender? Is it personalized? Is there a sense of urgency or surprise, anything out of the norm? Because only a handful words can be fully read, you have to make them count, which brings us to the first tip:

Tip #1. Use the Right Amount of Words

Make your email subject line too long and people won’t be able to read it in its entirety; make it too short, and the message might come off dull. So the first tip is to make sure that your length is in the optimal spot. How many words is that, you ask? A 2019 study found the sweet spot to be right at 7 words, or 41 characters, and believe it or not, thats actually 10 characters less than the average subject line length. The below chart from the study shows that after sending 100,000 emails with 4-10+ word subject lines, the 7-word emails received the most clicks at 1.6k. 

However, one of our favorite digital marketing gurus, Brian Dean, who founded the infamous Backlinko, suggests going even shorter. He states that emails subject lines should not exceed 16 characters, and apparently he practices what he preaches, with his past newsletter subject lines consisting of only two words (see below).

Why so short? He says it boils down to two things. First, emails with shorter subject lines are more likely to be delivered. Secondly, he states that brevity creates a sense of mystery. Just think of the last time you got the classic “we need to talk” text. We agree, less words can often have more of an impact, so try to keep it to 7 words or less. 

Also, please look at the text that pulls in right below the subject line. This is a preview from the first sentence in the email itself. So you better make sure the first sentence of your email copy is every bit as intriguing and concise as your subject line!

Tip #2. Avoid Words That Put You in the SPAM Folder

Nobody wants to spend time creating an offer and getting an awesome email together that provides value for people, for all of it to end up in the recipient’s junk folder. This is a worse case scenario, because many times the sender isn’t even aware that their email ended up going to junk. According to Yesware, there’s a list of words that could be better to leave out of your subject line altogether, as they could flag your email as junk. 

In addition to the above trigger words, it’s best not to use exclamation points, or all caps in your subject lines, as this is also known to flag emails. While it may be hard to avoid all of the above words, it’s worth looking for a different term if you can find one, especially if your subject line contains 2-3 of the above terms.  

Tip #3. Choose the Right Capitalization Style

As you know, there are four ways to capitalize: Title Case, Sentence case, ALL UPPERCASE, and all lowercase. But, which style is the best for your email subject lines? According to one study, email experts use sentence-case capitalization 60% of the time, title-case capitalization 34%, and all lowercase email subject lines only 6%. This tells us that those who have studied the performance of email have landed on sentence case being the most effective option. The main takeaway is that all caps is used 0% of the time, so it’s safe to say don’t do this

Tip #4. Make It Personal When Possible

As Dale Carnegie puts it,

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.

While this refers mostly to spoken language, the data backs up that it might also be true through writing. In fact, one source reports that personalized promotional emails have 29% higher unique open rates and 41% more unique click-through rates. If you use your recipient’s first name in the subject line of your email, it makes them feel valued and helps increase their trust. 

Think about it, out of the many emails you receive in your inbox every day, the ones that usually catch your eye are the ones that mention your name in the subject line. These emails appear to have come from an acquaintance and they get you to feel a little more invested in them. Why do so many bartenders and servers look at your ID and start calling you by your name when you sit down for a drink…for the same reason. People like hearing their name and by using it this will have people feeling more invested in your whatever you have to offer. 

Tip #5. Ask Open-Ended Questions 

How do you get someone’s interest? Ask an intriguing question without providing the answer. That’s exactly what happens when your email’s subject line is an open-ended question; the only way to get the answer is to open the email and find out. If you really want to get people through your email then don’t answer the question from the subject right away. Put it towards the middle or even the end of the email so they will read through your email before getting the answer. 

Need help with your email content, drip campaign, or marketing automation set up? Reach out to our digital team and hear how we can help.