How to create email subject lines that boost your open rate

checking email on phone
Email marketing is a great way to reach your ideal customers—existing or potential. But, just because you send emails, that doesn’t mean your target audience is engaging with your messages in a meaningful way.

In fact, the average 2019 email open rate was only 22.1%, according to researchers at Epsilon.

Deciding whether to open an email is often a split-second decision. This means half of your target audience isn’t even reading the content of your email, demonstrating just how important it is to write compelling subject lines as part of your email marketing strategy.

Keep reading to learn how to optimize your subject lines to increase your open rate.

How to write a better email subject line

Aim for something short 

If possible, try to keep your subject lines under 35 characters or you risk losing the recipient’s interest.

Start with what’s most important

Many of your email recipients read their email on mobile devices, so some users might not even see your full subject line. Put the most attention-grabbing words at the beginning of your subject to encourage them to open your email.
According to researchers at Epsilon, the average 2019 email open rate was only 22.1%.

Consider using emojis

Though only a small percentage of marketers use emojis in their email subject lines, they can help your email stand out in a crowded inbox and help you save space. Just make sure you don’t potentially hurt readability by replacing critical words with emojis.

If adding emojis to your subject line aligns with your brand voice, do some testing to see how they affect your open rate.

Also don’t forget to also check different email clients to see how your emojis render. Emojis can display differently across platforms (or sometimes not at all).

Revisit your capitalization style 

Among marketers, many opt to use either sentence-case or title-case capitalization. Some choose to use all lower case, but the percentage is small.

Going with sentence case—where only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized—can be easier to read and perceived as more humble, clear, and friendly.

Using title case—where all-important words (e.g., except articles, conjunctions, and prepositions) are capitalized—can add an air of authority to your subject line.

If you don’t have brand voice guidelines for formatting your subject lines, doing some A/B split tests can help you get a better idea of what your audience prefers so that you can be consistent (and increase your open rates). We recommend using sentence case, as it often establishes a casual, more approachable tone for your email message.

Show value

Most of the time, we’re driven by self-interest. Use your subject line to tell customers what to expect if they open the email, especially if you’re providing items of value like videos, freebies, and promotional deals. Your email recipient will be more likely to click if it promises some sort of personal benefit.
Ever wonder about the benefits of email marketing? Not only are many people checking their email but also many check their email multiple times during the day. Learn more about the benefits of email marketing

Write catchy preview text

Although not every recipient will see your preview text since it depends on the email platform and device they’re using, your preview text is a great opportunity to catch your customers’ attention.

For example, perhaps your email subject line says, “[ Free Guide ] 2020 email marketing trends.” In this case, your preview text could be, “Our experts share their top 10 tips for using emails to increase conversions and grow leads.

Your subject line might capture readers’ attention with the offer of something free, and the preview text might motivate them to open the email because it summarizes the email’s messaging (and description of its value).

Analyze what works

Use segmentation and A/B testing to determine which subject lines work best for your audience. What works well for your recipients may be different from what other companies find works for their customers.

Examples of the best email subject lines

Free offers

Everyone likes a deal. In your email content, make sure you stay away from language that is too pushy. Instead, focus on making your offer easy to understand and showing its value.

free offer email example

Calls to action

Hey! Use action-oriented verbs to encourage your email message recipient to take a specific action.

call to action examples

Urgency and importance

FOMO is real. You want recipients to open your email right away, before it gets pushed down in their inbox. Word your email subject line so that it’s clear why they should read your message before they “miss out.”

urgency examples

Curiosity

Psssst ... Regardless of your email’s content, consider how you can generate curiosity as you write its subject line. People click on what sparks their curiosity, even if it sounds impossible. Try using a surprising statistic or making an unexpected claim that implores people to want to know the truth behind it.

curiosity examples

Recent news

It’s likely that your email recipients are aware of what’s going on in the world around them. You can build a connection with them and position your company as knowledgeable and current by bringing local news into your subject line.

recent news email

Set yourself up for email marketing success

An effective email marketing strategy is more than a list of emails and a generic message. A plan that gets results involves gathering data and tracking email performance so that you can write good email subject lines.

Most customers who give a company their email address are interested in what they have to offer. But, just because you have someone’s email address that doesn’t mean you should start sending them messages. Always comply with spam laws and follow other best practices for effective email marketing.

What to do when your email open rate starts falling

If your open rates drop or you notice a spike in unsubscribes, it might be time to take a deeper dive into your email marketing strategy.

Consider working with experienced marketing experts to figure out what your audience wants and how often they want to be communicated with.
Ready to create a successful email marketing campaign? Start here
You might also like ...
Tatum

About the author | Tatum Hindman

Tatum is the president of TBH Creative and is responsible for building long-term client relationships. She enjoys the strategy behind web design and collaborating with clients to define and execute online marketing goals. She likes to blog about hot topics in web design and digital marketing, as well as share tips for strengthening your online presence.

View more posts by Tatum

Receive articles in your inbox