Email Subject Lines: Do You Know What You're Saying?

TOPICSEmail Marketing


Email subject lines are often the opening proposal to a recipient or prospective customer. Aside from the reputation of the sender, the subject line is a key determining factor in whether or not an email is opened.

Today, I will discuss some handy hints on how to draw your audience in – time after time.

My first suggestion is to keep it short, but not too short. Your subject should be simple, but it should also avoid short-hand that is prevalent in text messaging today.

On the other hand, I highly recommend using symbols, like the equal sign, to shorten up a message.

Remember that the purpose of the subject is to succinctly encapsulate the topic of the email. An ideal length of a subject line is 50 characters, including spaces. Any line over 100 characters will most likely be truncated by email software. I included an example of an overly long subject line that was truncated by Microsoft Outlook.

Your email may contain many great offers and many interesting points. But it’s often not feasible to include all the details in your subject line.

It should go without saying, but the subject line should relate directly to the topics covered in the email. It may be tempting to use a punchy subject line that does not relate to the topic in the email, but the reader will end up feeling duped and this practice will quickly erode goodwill in the marketplace.

Try to find the point of interest that is most relevant to your readership. What will compel your readers to feel that the email is written exclusively for them?

This is yet another juncture where the art and science of email marketing collide.

It is imperative to employ some degree of creativity, especially with B-C audiences. There is often a lot of leeway to rope your readers in.

It’s essential to know your audience. In some circles, humor is a great way to connect with readers. In other circles, humor may be seen as tacky and gimmicky.

Other readers are driven by bargains and discount offers, and others may be stimulated by articles and information.

In a similar vein, personalization does wonders. If you have the capability to develop subject lines that address the reader by name or demographic group, do it! Personalization, when done with intent and forethought, lends an air of importance and urgency to an email.

There are no hard and fast rules to crafting relevant email subject lines. This typically comes with experimentation and experience.

The science comes in with statistics and analysis – which subject line performed better in the A/B split test?

You may be familiar with the four C’s of diamonds – color, cut, clarity, and carat.

I would like to introduce you to the four C’s of email marketing. I hope that these help you assess the value of an email subject line.

First is current. As with your email message, you want to convey the most current and up-to-date news. In the same spirit, don’t be afraid to tie in themes and ideas from current events – either within or outside of your industry. The most obvious items of information pertaining to this “current” maxim are offers and new product introductions.

Secondly, I would like to highlight “concise.” In a world of Twitter and millisecond attention spans, brief and simple reins. I would venture to say that the first five words will convince a recipient to either open the email or doom it into the deleted folder. With that mindset, place your most important subject content in front and center.

The third factor is “clear.” The subject line should provide an accurate overview of the contents inside the email. When you are sending to a mass readership, avoid jargon and esoteric abbreviations.

Finally, you cannot ignore the curiosity factor. An intriguing line that piques the interest of the reader is a critical factor in boosting open rates. Pose an interesting question or use a clever play on words. Given the right audience, humor can grab attention as well.