17 Email Subject Line Best Practices to Follow

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BY  RADHIKA BASUTHAKUR If you’re a regular sender of emails, you know that your subject line is crucial. The right subject line will...

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If you’re a regular sender of emails, you know that your subject line is crucial.
The right subject line will get more of your emails opened and read.
More emails read will lead to more conversions for you. An uninteresting subject line will leave your email unopened — or worse, send it straight to the trash — and what good is that to you?

The best subject lines are short and descriptive enough for your reader to WANT to open the email and see what it says. Don’t try too hard to stand out in the inbox; instead, work on simplicity. That's what gets emails opened.
Need some more help writing the perfect subject line for your emails? Here are 17 of the best tips on crafting a good subject line for email marketing.

1. Keep It Short

The length of your subject lines is a very important factor. Not only are shorter subject lines easier to read, they’re also less at risk of being cut off midway by the email provider.
A regular inbox usually shows only about 60 characters of the subject but if you're on a moble, it's even shorter with only 25-30 characters visible. 
Best practice? Keep your subject lines limited to 45 — 50 characters in length. Just get straight to the point. 
booktopia
This subject line is way too long and gets cut off in my inbox. Not good. 

2. Put Important Information First

When writing your subject line, be sure to place your most important and compelling bits of information at the beginning of the subject line.
Most languages are read left to right (English is obviously no exception), so when you put the juicy bits at the beginning of your subject line, you’re grabbing your reader’s attention right away.
Also, if your subject line does get cut off (especially on mobile), your subscribers will at least see the most important information first.
The subject line above is not only short — it puts the most important information first: Traffic. 

3. Avoid These Words ...

You probably already know this, but when you use certain words in a subject line, your email is doomed to end up in the spam box.
Words email providers hate:
  • Free
  • Credit
  • Cash
  • Offer
  • Act now
  • Limited time
Additionally, a MailChimp study of over 200 million emails also found that seemingly innocuous words such as Help, Reminder and Percent Off also negatively affected open rates. HubSpot has an excellent list of email spam trigger words that I recommend you check out. Interesting stuff!
The following are some emails from my spam folder that use the trigger words in their subject lines.
spam email subject lines

4. ... and Other Spammy Tactics

Email providers hate certain words, but that’s not all that will earn your emails a one-way ticket to the spam box. To save your emails from dying a spammy death, some things you should probably avoid doing are:
  • USING ALL CAPS
  • Overdoing the exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Using @#!**^$!@ expletives
  • g3tt1n9 2 Cr8ive with numbers and characters
Just do the right thing and be ethical about your email marketing practices and you won't have any problems. 

5. Make It Straightforward

Don’t try to be cute — leave the quirk behind and forget about the tease.
Make your subject lines as straightforward as they can get. When your reader receives an email, they should immediately know what to expect from it. Straightforward and to-the-point subject lines get more opens.
living social
The above email from LivingSocial is a great example of a straightforward subject line. I know exactly what to expect when I open this email.

6. Include a Call to Action

Action-oriented subject lines almost always work well. Your subject line should be written in the active voice in order to get your reader's attention. By including action words in your subject line, you’re telling the reader what you want them to do when they read the email.
Examples:
  • Watch Beyoncé in concert
  • Download affiliate marketing whitepaper
  • Shop the '90s trend
rebecca tracey
This email from Rebecca Tracey has a great call to action, inviting her subscribers to get a product for a discounted price. 

7. Ask Questions

Continuing on from the call-to-action tip, readers also respond well to questions in subject lines. Think about what your audience needs or is interested in. A timely, relevant question will often get more opens. If your email content is answering an important question your audience has, consider using the question as your subject line.
freelancer email
This subject line gets my interest by asking a question about a topic I'm likely to be interested in.
amazon email
This subject line is also a great example of asking a question to get a job done. If I want to share my experience of the book with others, I will open the email and give out those stars. Job done for Amazon.

8. Identify Yourself

Don’t forget about the From line. This is just as important as your subject line. Again, keep it simple and use it to identify who you are to the reader.
Whatever name you use, make sure it’s one the reader can recognize immediately. Keep this consistent and try not to change it too often.
unknown sender
The above email is clearly spam, but what makes it worse is they don't even try to identify themselves. Why would I open an email that says "unknown sender," especially one that is asking me for a donation?

9. Be Urgent

An email subject line that clearly identifies the urgency of action is often a winner, too. Many email marketers like to add the word "Now" to their subject line to convey this urgency. Example: “Get your dream body. Download our 31-day programnow.”
Others will add a time/day factor. For example, this email about a webinar:
webinar
just shop

10. Localize

Most of us have a lot of data about our audience, including their location. Instead of personalizing emails with first names, how about using their locations instead? For example, “New Store Opening in Cleveland” is great because it's relevant when you send the offer to your readers in and near Cleveland.
On the other hand, “New Store Opening” is much too generic and doesn’t really pique any interest.

11. Be Clear About Value

What value are you bringing to your subscribers via your email?
You must make this very clear through your subject line, as this will convince your readers to open the email. Your subject line should immediately make it obvious to your subscribers how they will benefit from your email.
For example, a subject line that says "Increase your traffic by 30%" is way more valuable than "How to increase traffic."
For example, the emails below are from Affilorama and both subject lines immediately highlight how I am going to benefit by reading this email. One tells me about a workshop to learn how to make better profits while the other is going to teach me how to grow my social audience. From the subject of these emails, I definitely want to know what the content of these emails are.
affilorama email

12. Don't Make False Promises

Never, ever, ever try to trick your subscribers.
Don't make a promise in your subject line that has nothing to do with the content of your email. This is not only spammy, but you will lose your subscribers' trust.
Keep it simple and straightforward and don't attempt to get your readers to open an email that doesn't deliver on the promise. Keep it up and you'll almost assuredly end up in the dreaded spam folder.

13. Add Preview Text

The preview text is the line of text that appears in your inbox, alongside your subject line. 
It's worth spending some time composing preview text that complements your subject line, as it give your subscribers a sneak peek at the content of your email. A well-thought-out, strategically crafted line of preview text can have a huge effect on your open rates.
dropbox
For example, this email from Dropbox uses the subject line to tell me that Dropbox has new features and the preview text reinforces the message by telling me how I can unlock these new features. I immediately want to find out more.

14. Leave Out the Filler Words

Don't bother with using words like "hello" or "thank you" in your subject line. These simply take up space in prime real estate.
Use your subject line to to convey your message as shortly and succinctly as possible. Save the greetings and other filler words for the body of your email.

15. Use Numbers

Numbers in email subject lines work just as well as they do for blog posts, so use them.
People love a numbered list or a number that tells them something is going to be easy (e.g. "4-step process" or "5-minute video").
mish rob
The use of "3" in the above subject line tells me it's a short, simple process to keep my inbox organized. I'm interested and definitely want to see how this is possible.

16. Keep It Timely & Relevant

If your subject line addresses something that has been in the news or references a recent event or even something that has gone viral, you are likely to generate more interest. A subject line that is more relevant or timely will make your audience open the email to see what you have to say.
Examples:
“See what Grumpy Cat can teach you about business”
Snow day killing business? Take your store online”

People love a good Grumpy Cat meme, so you’re piquing interest with the reference. In the second example, you make a topical and timely reference to snow days and how they affect businesses. You then use it to sell your eCommerce business product. Business owners are worried and will want to open your email to see whether you really have a solution for them.

17. Keep Testing

The best way to determine if your subject line is a good one? Testing. Test a few different variations to see which one performs better. Constant testing will improve your open rates and make you a better email marketer.
For example, you could send the same email with two different subject lines to two groups of subscribers and see which one gets better results. 
So you’ve followed all the best practices and have the perfect subject line. Does this guarantee 100% of your emails will be opened? Absolutely not. However, it does guarantee that MORE of your emails will get opened.
Email marketing is subjective and at the end of the day, it depends on the actual person receiving your email. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. By following these best practices, you can please most of them, most of the time. If 85% of your email list is opening and reading your emails, I’d say you are pretty successful.
What do you think is the number-one practice to follow for email subject lines? What have you had success with? Do share  I’d love to know what has worked for you and what hasn’t.
P.S. If you want to learn more about email and newsletter strategies, be sure to check out our free lessons on email marketing

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