9 Subject Line Tips to Crush Email Open Rates

Email isn’t dead. In fact, the number of email accounts is expected to grow more than 22% by 2021.

And with over 3 million legitimate emails sent every hour (according to Internet Live Stats), it’s more important than ever to find ways to cut through the noise. Because 35% of email recipients open based on the subject line alone (according to Convince & Convert), the subject line is a great place to start.

To that end, the Audience Development team at Industry Dive has compiled lessons learned from sending thousands of emails into nine tips to optimize your subject line and entice an open.

Disclaimer: As with all email marketing advice, keep in mind that not all tips are created equal and that it truly depends on the type of email you’re sending (newsletter, welcome series, cold marketing outreach, transactional, etc.). When in doubt, test!

1. Keep it short… Sometimes

We often see blog posts claiming a range of 40-70 characters is best for subject line length, but the truth is, the optimal length differs depending on the style of email. When we analyzed the subject lines used in our daily email newsletters, we found that sometimes more is better. Our subject lines with over 70 characters performed the same or above the rate of our subject lines with 65 characters or less. So instead of plastering a character limit warning to your cubicle wall, focus on marking every character count (more tips on how to do that, below). For example, if you are sending a daily/weekly newsletter and your reader expects the email, don’t waste space by including ‘Your Weekly Newsletter’ in the subject line. Think about what makes this week’s issue special? What will your reader get from the newsletter that they won’t get elsewhere? Tease this.

2. Personalize for your readers

There are different ways to personalize/customize your email experience for users. Most email platforms allow you to pull the person’s name (if you have it) into the subject line, which can be a great eye-catcher. HubSpot found that emails that include the first name of the recipient in their subject line had a higher click-through rate than those that don’t. Don’t know your prospect’s first name or have fishy looking data like ‘Noneyourbusiness’? Don’t panic. You can still add a personal element to your marketing emails by using vocabulary with an emphasis on the reader like “you” or “your.” Check out: 13 Surprising Email Personalization Statistics [Infographic]

3. Use emojis to spice it up

We’ve all seen emails that go too far with smiles, winks, and random vegetable emojis. But if you are deliberate about when and how you use a symbol in the subject line, you can stick out in a good way. In fact, 56% of brands using subject lines with symbols had a higher unique open rate, according to a report by Experian. And emojis? Brands are steadily incorporating them into marketing messages to attract consumers’ attention and convey more meaning and emotion than words alone. Mobile Marketer reported that email messages that use emoji in the subject lines are opened 66% more than those without.

Some of our favorites:

The last one is a humblebrag 🙂

4. Use stats and numbers

While some deliverability experts warn that using numbers like “10% Off!” or “Save $10” can land you in the spam folder, using numbers to call out an interesting statistic or fact that lies within your email text can help get your reader interested to learn more (according to Chamaileon). We found that using numbers to show the impact of a news headline like “18M would lose coverage first year after ACA repeal” or “Just two payroll errors can cause 49% of employees to start job hunting” resulted in an open rate 2-4% higher than average. Finally, all marketers know the power of listicles… You’re reading one right now. Calling out the X ways/reasons/tips from the inbox gives the reader a sneak peek at the quantity and even quality of your content.

5. Utilize the preview text

Preview text, sometimes called preheader text, is that string of text you can see next to or beneath the subject line in your inbox view. In a joint ‘State of Email’ survey between Litmus and Fluent, 24% of respondents said they look at the preview text first when deciding to open an email. Don’t waste this valuable real estate! Add clarity to the subject line, explain why you’re reaching out, and tease what lies within the body of the email.

One of our favorite MVPs of preview text is The Daily Carnage:

Want to keep the preview text short? Check out Litmus’ Little-Known Preview Text Hack to prevent that other email text like ‘View in Web Browser’ from getting into that spot.

6. Customize the from name

43% of email recipients click the Spam button based on the email “from” name or email address (from Convince and Convert). So while you may be cute, clever, or emotive in the subject line, think about pairing the From name so people know who you are and can trust the message. Beyond that, think about the visual effect the custom from name has: If the From name is ‘Bob from [Company]’, don’t waste space in the subject line repeating your company name!

7. Call out brands/names/institutions

This is one of our most tried and true tips across all of our marketing efforts. Without being deceptive, getting a big brand name in the first few words of your subject line can improve the open rate. We’ve seen this across newsletters covering Amazon, webinars analyzing Starbuck’s marketing success, and any email update on Facebook. Calling out a success story to potential clients? Put it front and center: “How we help [brand name] increase their sales by X%” (Bonus points for using a brand name and a stat!)

8. Use positive action words

You want your recipient to actually open your email, right? And from there, hopefully, take an action. So why even put a negative connotation into their head? Try and use words that encourage action and stray away from words like “don’t” …basically avoid using the word “not”.

9. Don’t mislead

This may be the most important tip of all. While the other 8 tips are some tricks we’ve learned along the way, the ultimate advice is: don’t be misleading. Opens are good, but if you dupe a user into clicking on your subject line, only to be disappointed about what is in inside, you will have turned them away forever. No creative pun is worth a lost prospect.

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