CATEGORY: email-marketing

Increase open rates with subject lines that stand out from the crowd

Increase open rates with subject lines that stand out from the crowd

According to studies 35% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone and 69% of email recipients report email as Spam based solely on the subject line. So this really highlights how important the subject line is in engaging your subscribers. The quest for gaining their interest in your mail, over and above the many others that are all sitting in their inbox, is a real challenge for email marketers. So here is our best practice advice on how to craft high performing subject lines to get you those all-important opens.

  1. Keep your subject lines short and sweet – try to get your message across in 50 characters or less. A typical desktop inbox displays about 60 characters of an email’s subject line, while mobile devices show just 25-30 characters. If your audience is primarily reading your emails on smartphones, place the offer or call to action at the beginning of the subject line where it’s more likely to be seen.

  2. Don’t be too salesy – being overtly salesy is a sure fire way to end up marked as spam. Avoid loud punctuation like all caps and multiple exclamation marks as well as overly promotional language like “buy now” or “free”.

  3. Use questions – questions are a great way to pique the interest of your subscriber and inspire them to go looking for the answer within your mail. They are a great way to focus your reader’s attention and gain that all important click.

  4. Use a preview or teaser text – draw people in with a preview rather than giving away the punchline straight away. Use something that with hook your reader and spark their interest.

  5. Use numbers and lists - People love lists because they allow us to make sense of big, complicated concepts through a series of smaller parts, just like this article.  Use a number and reference to a list in your subject line as a way to let your readers know your content is well organized and easily digestible.

  6. Include a deadline – there are no shortage of distractions standing between you and your reader, sometimes a deadline is just what you need to become a priority. Don’t be afraid of short deadlines as the urgency they create can also have a positive effect on your clicks.

  7. Use comedy or word play – another great way to stand out is by using comedy, a play on words or other creative use of language. Try a pun and see if this increases engagement with your audience, of course you can only do this if this fits with the overall tone of your business.

And last but not least: Don’t forget about your preview text – elaborate on your subject line and support it with more information. Don’t waste the space by having “read online” or similar taking up this all-important real-estate.

We asked a couple of our friends for some of their favourite subject lines of this year;

Jenna Tiffany, Let’s talk strategy:

My favourite subject line so far this year has been from Greenpeace

The subject line is: 'A little girl and her Rang-tan.' 

Sender name: Dame Emma Thompson

“The reason for choosing this subject line is because it creates intrigue, the combination of the subject line, the sender name (Dame Emma Thompson) and the super subject text which included personalisation 'Jenna, my name is Emma Thompson, you may know from films...' made me click through. After clicking through the content was very gripping highlighting the Palm Oil petition that Green Peace is championing. This was a multichannel campaign encouraging me to share the message on social media with links throughout directly to Facebook and Twitter. I then watched the video on Twitter which was heartbreaking and signed the petition, along with 20,000 people. 

I did all of that just from reading a subject line. This demonstrates the power a subject line has in driving action.” 

Tim Watson, Zettasphere:

My favourite subject line so far this year has been from Just Giving.

The subject line is: ‘Would you love to see Adam Coleman celebrated?”

“Adam Coleman is a close contact of mine. I sponsored Adam via JustGiving this year.

The campaign was all about nominating people for an award.

Three reasons it stood out for me

  • Rather than a dull subject line like “Award nominations are open” they got personal. I immediately spotted the name of a dear friend; the relevance made it jump out.

  • The subject line is loaded with emotion.

  • Use of a question that you just have to nod a quiet yes to – and then open the mail”


Valentin Carlogea – e-shot™ customer services manager

“I do enjoy simple and short subject lines with an emoji in there to complement and highlight the “hero” topic.

Emoji’s are great for themed/specific topics like Christmas, product launches or events etc.” 

Jamie McCandlish– e-shot™ account manager

“My favourite was a GDPR related email that said "Please don’t re-opt in". I liked it as it was different from all the other emails at the time that were asking for your consent. It stood out as different and made me want to open the email to see what it was about. More importantly, it underlined the message that you don't need explicit content to be compliant with GDPR.”

 Whether it is the use of emoji’s, personalisation or comedy, there are many ways to stand out in a crowded inbox. But it’s not easy and you need to test what strategy works best for your audience. Why not chat your ideas through with our account managers who are always on hand to help and give advice based on their wealth of experience of working with other companies just like yours.

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