10 Tips to Optimize Email Subject Lines


If you’ve ever launched an email marketing campaign, you know the challenge of crafting subject lines, and how difficult it can be to increase your open rates. With open rates having such a direct impact on the success of your campaign, ensure that you are optimizing every email subject line.

We found several email marketing experts to share some of their best subject line tips.

1. Think about how your market will interact with your emails

Linda Pophal, Strategic Communications, @StratCommun
One of the key missteps I see companies, clients and students make when it comes to email marketing is not paying enough attention to the subject line. The most creative and clever email content in the world can never achieve results if prospects don't first open your email! They'll never see the brilliant prose you created if your email subject line does not compel them to take that first step toward a purchase decision--a click to open your email.

To help connect effectively with prospects through email marketing, marketers need to think about how their market will be interacting with their email based on where they are, and what they're likely to be doing when they see your message. If they're in a B2B environment, they're thinking business and likely juggling a myriad of different tasks. They're probably most attentive to internal messages from their managers, their colleagues and their customers. In a B2C environment, you're competing with social messages from friends and acquaintances.

Think about how an email is received in terms of the way you handle your own email interactions. In order for your email to earn a click it needs to be compelling both in terms of who it came from and what the implied or, better yet, the explicit, benefit to them may be. It's critical that email marketers put themselves inside the heads of their target audience and really think carefully about how to deliver a benefit that's likely to be better than what all of their other emails have to offer!

2. Analyze the effectiveness of your email subject lines

Amber Whiteside, Main Path Marketing, @AmberNWhiteside
When it comes to email pitching, it is all about the subject line. When I’m pitching an article for coverage, I include the brand name and representative in the subject line. This way, the editor knows that I’m reaching out on behalf of a reputable company or CEO and will think opening the email is more worth their time. Editors are flooded with emails and leaving a generic subject line is the quickest way to get ignored. I’d recommend using a plugin to track opens of emails, as well, so that you can analyze the effectiveness of your email subject lines. Pitching really comes down to trial and error and it takes a bit to figure out where the sweet spot is. Taking that extra time to research your subject line will help tremendously in your pitching efforts.

Of course, the pitch itself in the body of the email needs to be worth the open too. Stray away from misleading email subject lines since this will just irritate the recipient.

3. Offer something without the intention of making a sale

Andrew Choco, Directive Consulting, @FourChoco
It depends on the type of email you're sending, but when you sent out cold prospecting emails, let them know right away what you’re doing. Tricking someone into opening your emails with a cheeky subject line may improve your open rates, but that probably won't lead to a higher number of clicks. Because of this, I have my subject line: “Hi (First Name), coming in ice-cold with a follow-up to Garrett's (our CEOs) emails.” It's a creative, catchy opening line that references previous emails we've sent, but also let's them know right away that they haven't heard from me specifically before. We then offer a free high-level audit of their current marketing campaigns. Offering something without the intention of making a sale works really well, especially because once they agree to our free audit, and see the level of work we provide, they're already interested!

4. Grab your recipient’s attention

Aqib Nazir, AqibNazir.com, @NazirAqib
No matter what's inside the email, I always make sure that the subject line I select is catchy enough to grab recipient's attention in the first place. For example, when I am pitching to a client who I would need to hear back from, my subject line would be something like “What do you think?”. Short, meaningful and catchy email subject lines are a great way to increase the open rate for your email marketing campaigns.

5. Save your recipient time

Jason Parks, The Media Captain, @TheMediaCaptain
It's pretty simple. When I compose an email, in the title, I always format it in the following manner: “Hi Sam | Quick Question About Email Pitches”

By putting the name in the title, it adds personalization. By saying, Quick Question it is somewhat intriguing and the person knows it won't take much time to read. Including the subject at the end of the title shows the person what you are looking to talk about, which if you do your research, should be relevant to him or her.

6. Create a template you can personalize

William Seavey, Auhor, @Greenest1
Create a template that appears to be an original email with blank spaces for you to personalize the email with the recipient’s name, email address and subject line. It's tedious, but in the case of query letters to editors, for example, they certainly don't want to feel like you are querying everyone else.

7. Pose a question

Linda Passante, The Halo Group, @UnlikelyCEO
We may be told not to judge a book by it’s cover, but we most definitely judge an email by its subject line. The subject line is the first thing to grab our attention, so it’s crucial for it to leave the reader wanting more. One great trick is to pose a question to your audience. This allows for your email to become an engaging conversation rather than a boring message. At The Halo Group, a branding and marketing communications agency based in the heart of Manhattan, we experiment with creative email subject lines and, through A/B testing, in order to ultimately decide which subject line performs best.

8. Shorter email subject lines get opened at a higher rate

Clint Evans, StandOut Authority, @Consultant
Write a clear, compelling subject line that tells what your email is about. Craft so it's in the best interest of the recipient to open your email. Shorter email subject lines tend to perform better because they stand out. Multiple research studies show shorter subject lines get opened at a higher rate, because friends and family write short subject lines. People's brains scan for shorter email subject lines. Finally, six lines or less is a fantastic guideline for the body of your email. Keeping your emails short is especially important when pitching a blogger or journalist because they're busy. If they see a wall of text, they won't read it.

9. Experiment with interesting subject lines

Michelle Hutchison, Finder, @MichHutchinson
Unusual subject lines get read. The subject will either pull the receiver in, or have them pressing the delete button before they even see the email. Take your most interesting, quotable line and put it in the subject. You want something that intrigues and leaves the person wanting more. Questions are effective too. Leave your audience thinking.

10. Use humorous email subject lines

Gene Caballero, GreenPal, @YourGreenPal
When trying to get someone to open your email, nothing stands out more than something funny in the subject line. What the subject line does is get them to open your email and that is the hardest part. If you can convert them on the subject line, you have won.