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How to write email subject lines that get opened

How many emails do you receive each day? According to statistics, your inbox likely fills up with around 100 new messages daily. Now compare that to how many emails you actually open and read. We’re guessing there’s a big difference. So, how can you break through a sea of emails, reach your customers and get them to open your messages? The answer lies in your subject lines.

Writing subject lines is a combination of art and science. You need a little bit of creativity and the right strategy. Finding the right blend in your subject lines raises the like likelihood your emails enter your customers’ main inboxes and can improve your open rates.

Subject Line Best Practices

Keep It Short

Try to limit your subject lines to a maximum of nine words or 60 characters. If you can get the gist of your email across in less, even better. While some of your customers may be reading emails on a desktop, the majority are using mobile devices to access their email. Long subject lines simply don’t fit across small screens. Drop filler words to keep your subject lines direct and to the point.

Visionworks: You have benefits. Use them!
Short, sweet and straightforward. Visionworks really wants to remind receivers to take advantage of their benefits and finally schedule an appointment.

Duolingo: You made Duo sad 😢
Duo, Duolingo’s mascot, gets a little bit glum when language-learning lessons get missed. This subject line serves as a reminder to log back in with an emotional twist.

Avoid Spam Words

Spam folders are the last place that you want your emails to go. Unfortunately, subject lines
with words like “free” or “deal” sometimes get emails sent to promotional folders, where they often remain unseen. While you can use these words in subject lines, you need to strike a balance between being sales oriented and descriptive. Sharing the offer without going overboard is the best way to handle these situations.

Old Navy: This deal is 🍌 🍌 🍌: 50% off all outerwear & $8 plush tees + HOT DEAL! $25 boyfriend flannels
Old Navy should have cut this one short. After the emojis, the rest of the subject line goes a bit bananas. It tries to pack in way too many offers and trigger words.

Buffalo Bills: Bills win, you win with 15% off your next order!
Talk about a win-win. This subject line works well because it lets recipients know exactly when they can score some new Bills gear at a discount—without being too pushy.

Create a Sense of Urgency

FOMO, the fear of missing out, is a powerful incentive. In email marketing, it can be used to your advantage. People are more likely to take an action when they know there is a limited amount of time left to capitalize on your deal. But they have to know that time is running out. Using language that creates a sense of urgency gives readers a greater reason to click on your email.

Ipsy: Final Notice to peek into your November Bag
This reminder prompts monthly makeup subscribers to check their upcoming bag before it’s too late and take advantage of last-minute discounted additions.

Doctor on Demand: Why wait to feel worse? See a doctor now.
No one likes being ill or having to make a trip to the doctor. Doctor on Demand hints at this while suggesting to users that they can feel better sooner by scheduling an online appointment.

Be Unique

Subject lines that stand out or connect with readers in some way are much more likely to get opened. To set your emails apart, they’ll need to feel original. Fortunately, there are several tactics you can use. Personalizing your emails with customer names, adding in emojis and playing off puns all can help catch your readers’ eyes. Anything that you can do to make your subject lines interesting while staying true to your brand puts you at an advantage.

Etsy: Summer, your taste is 👌
Speaking directly to the customer, Etsy compliments their past purchase choices and sets up the reader to see a personalized list of new must-have items.

Domino’s: Open your ❤️ to Hand Tossed pizza
Pizza lovers are sure to appreciate this subject line. Domino’s delivers a subtle yet effective message to try out not just any pizza, but their own hand-tossed pies.

Pose Questions

People love answering questions or finding the answers to questions. They key into our curiosity and focus our attention. Naturally, that makes questions a strong subject line strategy. Pairing an open-ended or close-ended question with personalization adds another layer of intrigue, which means a greater chance of user engagement.

Petco: Is Apollo missing out on free food?
There’s that FOMO again. Directed at a pet owner but personalized with the pet’s name, Petco asks a question that suggests that there’s a deal worth clicking on inside.

Nextdoor: 🎃Got Halloween plans, Summer?
Good question, Nextdoor. This subject line gets the reader thinking and curious about why Nextdoor wants to know. Clicking is the only way to find out.