Business man pointing to an email icon on glass

How To Write the Perfect Email Subject Line

Emails have become as much a part of everyday communication as phone calls and meeting face-to-face. Our inboxes are often overflowing with emails ranging from important work memos to company newsletters and the dreaded spam that manages to slip through the filter. 

In 2019, 293.6 billion emails were sent and received each day,  which means if you’re sending out emails, you’re definitely not the only one landing in people’s inboxes. 

With all the overflowing inboxes out there, how can you make sure your emails aren’t lost in the noise? The answer is all in the subject line. 

Take a moment to think about how you use your inbox. If you’ve got multiple emails in there waiting to be read and answered, how do you decide on a priority list? With 63% of people classing email as their preferred business communication method, everyone will have their own preference to approach emails. 

Automation systems have transformed the way businesses and marketing departments send out mass emails. Low-cost email marketing systems make it even easier to reach more people without the manpower usually required for such a large-scale communication rollout. 

Having a bespoke email system in place, however, is of little use if your emails aren’t being opened and read. The humble subject line may seem like an afterthought when putting together an email. Still, whether it’s an important work email or a subscriber newsletter, it’s the key to ensuring your email goes straight to the top of the priority list. 

So how can you write the perfect email subject line? We’ve put together these pointers to help you craft a subject line that’s sure to catch the recipient’s attention. 

Write It Out First

Despite how important it is, it’s easy to forget to write a subject line at all when sending out emails. By writing it first, you’re ensuring that you don’t risk sending out an email with no subject line that’s even more likely to get lost in people’s inboxes. 

Once you know what your email is going to include, tick off the subject line straight away. Don’t wait until you’ve finished putting the email together when you’re likely to be fatigued and losing concentration on the subject matter. Go in with a fresh pair of eyes and curate your subject line to get the best possible open and response rate. 

Close up photo of a man holding mobile phone with an empty inbox
Photo by Solen Feyissa from Pexels

Target Your Audience  

We all know how vital targeting and understanding your audience is in digital marketing and communication, and the same goes for your email subject line. Think about what you know about who’s going to be opening the email. Are these readers likely to be at their desks facing email fatigue? Or perhaps they’re more likely to be out and about, casting glances at their inbox throughout the day? Whichever category your audience falls into should dictate how you craft your subject line. 

Perhaps it needs to be short and snappy, or maybe they would benefit from having more detail in the subject line. It’s important to remember that just like any marketing tactic. It’s not a case of one size fits all. Explore different options and monitor your open rate percentages to give you a good idea of what your target audience is more likely to respond to. 

Keep It Brief

It’s no surprise that so many companies are turning to email marketing. A study shows that for every $1 you spend, you can expect a return of approximately $42. With so many companies turning to marketing emails as a way of connecting with their audience, consumers have a lot of emails to get through.

The last thing anyone wants therefore is to receive an email where the subject line is almost as long as the email itself. The purpose of the subject line is to give the recipient a brief idea of what the email includes, not to have all of the information that’s repeated in the main body of the message. 

Whilst you can add detail to the subject line, you don’t need to include every point or piece of information that you want to convey. It will look messy and overwhelming and is more likely to be ignored. Instead, think of your subject line as a sales tagline for the email itself. What will make someone want to open it? 

Illustration graphic of a laptop and mobile phone with letters flying out on top of a world background image
Illustration by Solen Feyissa from Pexels

Use Your Keywords 

Digital marketers know how important keywords are when it comes to curating a solid search presence and should approach their emails in the same way they do onsite content. Think about what keywords and phrases you want to stand out in the subject line and make sure they’re included. 

Users want their emails to be easy to access. Inbox filters mean that the keywords in the subject line will help to bring up your email in search results. Choose your keywords based on the email content and what people are likely to search for when trying to source it. This concept isn’t so much about how you want to rank in their search results but more about how you are more likely to. What terms are people likely to use to search for your content in their inbox? 

Emails are a great way of talking directly to loyal customers and can be the ideal tool for helping to increase sales, but to see the benefits you need to ensure your emails are searchable. It can be tempting to create a subject line that sounds amazing, maybe a joke or a rhyme, but in reality, this is far less likely to make it through inbox search filters. Sticking to basics in this instance is likely best. 

Put Key Info at the Top

With 61.9% of emails opened on a mobile device, subject lines need to be adjusted accordingly. Mobile apps and web browsers often display only a short section of the very start of the subject line, cutting the rest off.

If people are accessing their emails via mobile, you need to make sure that any key information appears at the very start of the subject line. Don’t waste characters and space waffling on with greetings. Get straight to the point.  If you’re promoting an upcoming discount sale for instance, get this information in at the start.

“50% off sale starts next week” is much more likely to catch the attention than “The heatwave is here to stay! Take a look at our summer range with special upcoming discounts.”

Similarly, putting the key information at the top is more likely to catch the recipient’s eye. If they have multiple emails to sift through or are briefly glancing at an email notification, you need to make sure that you get to the point. Whatever key information you want to convey in the subject line should take priority. Your goal is to confirm that priority at first glance.

Illustration graphic of a laptop, mobile phone, and emails
Illustration by Muhammad Ribkhan from Pixabay

Keep It Focused 

Short subject lines such as “Have you got a minute?” might seem like an excellent way to pique your recipient’s interest but, in reality, are likely to end up having the opposite effect. If your recipient is busy or facing an inbox that’s bursting with unread emails, a vague subject line that could relate to all manner of topics is likely to fly completely under the radar. Ensuring that your email subject is focused allows the recipient to know straight away what the email is about, allowing them to prioritize it against other outstanding messages. 

Personalize It

Emails that include a personalized subject line experienced a 29.6% increase in open rate, a percentage that you can’t afford to not make use of. Personalizing your subject lines is a great way to talk directly to your customers or whoever the intended recipient is. 

Consumers are more likely to feel known and acknowledged if they receive personalized content, which can help drive conversions and sales. The simple act of adding the recipient’s name to the subject line, no matter what kind of email it is that you’re sending, allows the recipient to feel acknowledged. 

Consider Adding a Deadline

Adding a deadline to an email subject line doesn’t have to be as severe as it sounds. On the contrary, it can be a handy tool to prompt open rates, replies, and conversions. For instance, if you’re sending a work memo that needs a swift response, put a deadline in the subject line along the lines of “Feedback required by COP today.” 

Similarly, if you’re sending out email marketing communications, a great way to encourage recipients to take note of your email is to add a time limit to its contents, e.g., “2 days left to register” or “sale ends tomorrow.” 

The fear that they may leave it too late or forget to open the email in time if they don’t do it straight away is likely to encourage recipients to put your email at the top of their priority list. 

Illustration of a letter in an envelop
Illustration by talha khalil from Pixabay

Are you wondering about what not to do?

Never Use All Capitals 

One of the most common mistakes in email marketing is putting the subject line into capitals. Digital marketers may think that this is a great way to catch the recipient’s attention, but in reality, nobody wants to feel like they’re being shouted at!

Not only can emails subject lines written in uppercase letters sometimes come across as rude and offensive, but they also run the risk of being marked as spam. The last thing any marketer wants is to find out their emails have been landing in the spam folder. 

Approach Special Characters with Care

Special characters such as emojis and exclamation marks can be a great way of making your emails more personal, friendly, and approachable. Around 92% of internet users also use emojis and for many, they’re commonplace in texts, emails, and social media posts.

Emojis allow you to add more character to your content, using specific seasonal characters at certain times of the year, emotion characters to link up to your email theme or relevant item emojis. Using emojis in your subject line can be beneficial to your marketing too, with 56% of brands who use emojis in their subject lines experiencing a higher open rate

Adding special characters to your subject line however, needs to be approached with care. Too many emojis can make the subject line impossible to read, which is highly likely to put people off from opening up your email. Emojis can also look unprofessional, so it’s important to decide whether using them is the right fit for your brand and the brand persona that you’re looking to promote. 

Too many emojis can also risk triggering spam filters, and the last thing you want is for your email to end up in the dreaded spam filter, severely hampering your chances of being opened and read. 

Conclusion

The tips we’ve highlighted here should help you craft the perfect email subject line resulting in conversions and replies. Your subject line is the first point of contact with your audience and recipient, so they need to act as a reflection of your brand and the message you are hoping to convey. 

The most important thing to remember is how crucial it is to focus on your email subject line. Often forgotten about in place of the main body content, your chosen subject lines could well be the deciding factor on the success of your email campaign.

Featured image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Lucy Nixon is a digital marketing consultant with almost a decade of experience in helping brands of all shapes and sizes to master their digital marketing strategies.

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