Email Marketing: Crafting Subject Lines That Grow Your Open Rates

by Sean Ross

3 min read

Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to promote your products or services. Despite the rise of social media marketing and internet ads, many businesses still rely on email lists to spread the word. The problem is that everyone gets inundated with emails constantly – so you need to find a way to stand out. The best way to stand out as an email marketer is to write awesome subject lines.

The Importance of Open Rates

Unless the reader has an email preview pane (and actually pays attention to it), your subject line is your last, best chance to convince them to open your email. In that sense, the subject line means more to an email than a blog article title means to the body content. If you spend two hours writing a perfect sales email, but nobody opens it, then you have effectively wasted your time. In fact, many experts say to focus on the open rate before focusing on writing a good body email.

Best Practices for Writing Killer Email Subject Lines

If you can sell the email through the subject line, you have a chance to sell your product or service in the email. Without the first step, your readers won’t ever get to your real pitch. Here are some of the best practices from experts in the business:

  • Keep it simple and succinct.
  • Imply some time sensitivity to make your recipient fear missing out (such as “urgent” or “weekend only”).
  • Make your subject line appeal to your audience’s curiosity (i.e. “5 bizarre facts about X”).
  • Use humour (tactfully).
  • Hint at realistic deals or discounts (“10% off of X”).
  • Suggest you can solve the reader’s pain points (“stop wasting time on X”).

Don’t Forget About the From Field

Most email recipients consider the from field more important than the subject line in determining whether they open an email. According to research from SmartInsights, 60 to 68% of email recipients say that the from field most compels them to open an email; only 26 to 35% name the subject line as most important. It may seem most intuitive to make your from field very professional, such as the name of your business. However, many email marketing gurus suggest that personal-sounding from fields perform best, because the recipient feels like a real person sent the email and not a faceless company.

Never Include These In Your Email Subject Lines:

Unfortunately, there are plenty of ways to write a bad subject line. Email marketers and product sellers can come across as boring, forgettable, vague, pretentious, too eager, not believable, or repetitive. If you are a beginner at this, you might significantly improve your open rates by simply avoiding the land mines around subject line construction. Here is a short list of practices to avoid:

  • Saying “Call Me!” or other urgent, anxiety-inducing subject lines.
  • Lying or exaggerating about your product or its benefits.
  • Too many exclamation points.
  • Writing each subject line in ALL CAPS.
  • Spam filter-triggering words, such as “Free,” “Cure,” and “Credit.”

Problems With Open Rate Tracking

Even though there is a lot of advanced tracking software out there, email open rates can be very tricky to measure properly.Open rates track when your email loads a small tracking pixel. Since most emails these days don’t display images by default, the pixel doesn’t get loaded until your reader clicks the “Display Images” option. Unfortunately for email marketers, this is standard practice across all email services – not just the big fish, such as MailChimp. Writing subject lines is one of those nuanced practices that can be considered an art and a science. Part of your open rate success hinges on your own personal style and the quirks of your audience. Some depends on your ability to learn from others in the industry. The main idea is to keep working at it.

References & Resources

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