Branding & design | 11/06/2018

Seven simple steps for perfecting your subject line

Posted by Lawrence Greenlee

We’ve all heard the saying, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. Well, unlike a book, your email list will judge an email by the bookcover’s equivalent, the subject line. In fact, 47% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on their subject line. For every marketing email you create, you need to establish a clear, intriguing and eye-catching subject line to stand out from the unopened crowd.  With this in mind, here are seven simple steps to perfecting your subject line:

Ask a question

Using a question as your subject line can really help to draw your subscribers in. The nature of posing a direct question sparks the reader’s curiosity and compels them to want to find out the answer (inside the email). For example, you might try the following “Why isn’t your home selling?” or “Are you making these common PPC mistakes?”. New Look’s email, below, is the perfect example:


Keep it short and sweet

What use is a subject line if the subscriber can’t read it? By using fewer than 40 characters you can ensure your subject line doesn’t get cut short. With opens now taking place on mobile, it‘s important to keep your subject line short and sweet so the receipts get the full ‘teaser’ and can quickly digest what you’re trying to say. Check out this quick snippet from Zalando:

Create a sense of urgency

Once your email has hit the inbox it will have to start competing with a mass of other emails; because does anyone really have the time to keep their inbox clear? Creating a sense of urgency within your subject line compels the reader to read the email there and then, rather than leaving it to get lost in the crowd and, even worse, go unread. Miss Selfridge has perfected the art of urgency:

Get personal

Studies show that email subject lines that are personalised to include a name, boost open rates by 26% on average across all industries. Everyone loves to feel special so finding a way to personalise the subject line and make your subscribers feel like they’re getting exclusive treatment can go a long way towards this. However, avoid looking like that creepy neighbour that crosses the boundaries. Instead, take the time to reflect on the best ways to make personalisation work within your emails.

Avoid misleading your subscribers

Don’t try to get your email opened by misleading your subscribers – this double-edged sword will both annoy your list and cause you to lose their trust. In the long run, this will result in a lower open rate and a higher unsubscribe rate. Here’s what not to do:

* This subject was misleading as there was an additional fee of £150 to fly to Paris or Rome beforehand.

Spread the word about offers and promotions

Who doesn’t love a freebie or offer, especially if it’s an exclusive? Your email list are only human and they’ll respond well to deals and discounts.. If you have a certain promotion running or you’re selling something at a discounted rate that you think your subscribers would be interested in, pop it  in your subject line. Using an offer within your subject line is a great way to convince your list to open the email and engage. This subject line gets straight to the point:

Get your A/B test on

Although these six steps are a good start to perfecting your subject lines, nothing beats A/B testing. A/B testing means comparing two different versions of something to see which one performs better; for email, it’s all about figuring out what’s going to get you results. What works better for your audience… questions or statements? Offers or promotions? Long or short subject lines? The possibilities are endless…