Email Subject Line Best Practices

When you go through your emails everyday, how do you decide what to open and what can wait? Well, when it comes to commercial email messages that we all get, a relevant and compelling subject line and a trusted sender (or from address) contribute to how likely the email would be open in a big way – especially when a user is viewing the email on a device or email client that doesn’t show a preview of the email. In this article we’ll explore things to keep in mind for crafting strong email subject lines.

Let’s get Personal!

Seeing a touch of personalization like your name in the subject line is a simple but effective technique to build a relationship between sender and receiver. While it may not be appropriate for all industries and/or situations, a well-placed first name in the subject line can dramatically improve open rates. Keep in mind, stick to first names only. Even if you know the subscriber’s last name, it’s generally considered creepy and an invasion of privacy if you include both first and last names. And lest you think that using last name is a good idea, keep in mind that by using last names, you might end up having to determine the gender of the recipient with a “Mr.” or “Ms/Mrs.” and that can get you into more trouble than it’s worth!

Less is more! Important words first!

Most people today, view their emails on a variety of mobile devices of varying screen sizes, like tablets and smartphones with email clients that may not display a longer subject line. To make sure that your emails are more likely to be open, consider keeping subject lines short, punchy and to the point. While different email clients and different devices cut off subject lines at different number of characters, a good rule of thumb for character length is between 35 to 50 characters. Structure your subject lines so that the important words are prioritized first.

For example:

“Jack! Our Summer sale ends today!” is better than “Today is the end of our Summer Sale Jack!”

Seize the Power of Now

The longer an email goes un-opened, the more likely it will be deleted or just never opened at all. So how do you get people to open your email as soon as possible? In addition to the best practice tips above, creating a sense of urgency also makes a huge difference! Whether you choose to be specific about a time or not, as long as the subject line is relevant to the recipient, and the contents within the email is consistent with his or her expectation, a sense of urgency, can be a powerful way to affect user reaction to your email.

Avoid common spam words like the plague and don’t be afraid to test, test, test!

What’s the point in spending time crafting the perfect email when they end up getting flagged as spam and never reach the eyes of the user in the first place? While the factors that contribute to how an email gets marked (or not) as spam are numerous and varied, when it comes to email subject lines (and your email’s content), avoiding common spam words and phrases is very important. There are plenty of places on the internet where you can find lists of common spam words so I won’t cover them here, but the important thing to remember is that you need to get creative in your subject line copy to get attention and avoid being relegated to the spam folders of your audience!

Marketers are often told test and learn to see which tactics work best. This advice is never more appropriate than for testing email subject lines! Setting up A/B tests are easy for most modern email platforms and while running A/B tests across a busy and high frequency email marketing program will take more time and effort, the payoffs are often well worth the extra push! To execute A/B tests, it’s important to remember the following:

  1. Be specific about what you’re testing, what you want to learn. For example, does personalization work better for my audience? Or does including emojis in my subject lines result in more opens?
  2. Establish the rules for testing. Some common rules include: What percentage of your list do you want to test? How long will your A/B test run for? What time should you run your test? Over the course of multiple A/B tests, it’s important to keep consistent on testing rules so that you can minimize variability that could distort your results.
  3. Run the A/B tests over a period of time. Running one test gives you one data point. You want many data points so don’t be afraid to run A/B tests over the course of many email campaigns. The more data points you have, the better quality your data is likely to be and the more confident you could be with the analysis and insights you glean from them!

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, we hope that this has given you some useful information to consider when you craft your next email!