what is unbounce
CATEGORY
DID YOU KNOW WE HAVE A PODCAST?

Become a Better Marketer. Anytime, Anywhere.

Listen and learn on the go with Unbounce’s Call to Action marketing podcast. Tune in and get inspired in the car, while you cook, or at the gym.

5 Email Subject Line Strategies That Will Increase Your Open Rates

Email Subject Lines That Convert
The first step is getting someone to open your email (Image source)

Email subject lines are the gatekeepers of your email campaigns. When you’ve put hours of effort into getting your segmentation just right and even more into nailing your awesome email copy, you want to make sure your emails actually get read!

Subject lines are the first thing your recipients see in their inboxes. The subject line is given pride of place and many argue that you should spend almost twice as much time reviewing your subject line compared with reviewing the body of your email. That’s a big call… but nailing your subject line really does pays off.

This post, inspired by a previous and popular Unbounce infographic post, How to Write the Perfect Email Subject Line, will give you five tips you can use to write email subject lines that get your recipients opening and, ultimately, converting!

Subject line cheat sheet

Write a winning subject line every time

Download our FREE Cheat Sheet to learn how to identify bad subject lines... and how to fix them.
By entering your email you'll receive weekly Unbounce Blog updates and other resources to help you become a marketing genius.

1. Be specific

There are generally two types of emails businesses send to their customers: notifications and direct updates (newsletters).

It’s important to be clear about each campaign you’re working on as, just like writing any other copy, a lot of psychology is at play when it comes to the subject line. Whenever you’re working on a subject line, you need to be absolutely clear about your goal.

When it comes to notifications (transactional emails) the best approach to subject lines is usually to be specific and let customers know exactly what they’re about to open.

This might sound counter-productive but by letting the recipient know why you’re sending the email and what to expect is the best way to get their attention. The best way to get customers to open your emails is to get to the point. This doesn’t mean you need to reveal everything but, assuming your email is actually targeting a relevant segment, being upfront and honest will get opens.

Take this example from LinkedIn:

linkedin

They let you know exactly what the email is about, reveal a little information to entice you and then leave you with a sense there is more to learn.

Another example comes from Perfect Audience with their conversion notifications:

Perfect Audience Email Subject Line

Although this subject doesn’t have the longevity of LinkedIn’s, it is effective because it is upfront, gets you excited and leaves the details of the conversion path to the body of the email. Once you’re reading the email, Perfect Audience can then direct your attention as required.

When you’re not sending transactional or notification emails, you’re going to be sending newsletters or one-off campaigns, generally not triggered by any particular event. In this case the trick with subject lines is generally to be original and to pique curiosity.

Raising curiosity is no mean feat but a general rule of thumb is to ask questions.

Take this example from Kiva:

kiva email subject line

A part of their Mother’s Day campaign the subject line uses a single question to get your in head. After reading this subject line you might wonder: How good am I at what? An awesome example of how asking a question can get customers into the body of your email.

Another great email comes from Optimizely with this personalised sales follow-up:

optimizely email subject line

…and a final example comes from Crazy Egg, who combines the two tips above. They are straight to the point in asking for feedback but use a question to make the ask sound both fast and friendly. A great subject line.

crazy egg email subject line

2. Localize, personalize and target

Basic personalization is very common these days. Starting your subject line with ‘Hey Chris, why do…’ is pretty standard, and perhaps a little ‘same old’.

This doesn’t mean you should give up on personalization! Personalization comes in many forms. Using customer attributes and actions to tailor the email you’re sending and your subject lines is one of the most powerful things you can do.

EasyJet include the name of your destination in the subject line, based on your booking:

easyjet email subject line

LinkedIn use people in your network and customers that have requested a connection to power their campaigns.

linkedin-invitation email subject line

Another great example is this campaign from Memrise, you use the exact details of your last course / your most complete course in their subject lines:

memrise email subject line

When personalising your subject line, here are a few things you can A/B test :

  • First and last name: it might be common but it’s always worth a try!
  • Alter the details in the subject line based on the recipient’s location: summer vs. winter and holidays in different parts of the world (Father’s Day isn’t the same date in every country) are two examples.
  • Gender: using men vs. women in the subject line of a clothing store’s newsletter or highlighting specific product names for each group are some basic examples.
  • Use details of the actions the customer has taken: what has the customer been doing on your website? What are their favourite products or what features are they yet to use? The examples above all use this tip.

3. Build momentum (i.e., don’t email out of nowhere)

Using auto-responders in order to email customers in series is an extremely powerful aspect of lifecycle email marketing. Series allow you to ensure your recipients know exactly who you are and give you the chance to build momentum, increasing your open rates dramatically.

Take Kareem Mayer, who blogs about his experience with a welcome series for his product SocialWOD. It’s evident that as his emails build he uses the power of the series combined with informative subject lines to build momentum.

kareem email stats

GetResponse take this one further and actually include the ‘position’ the recipient is at in the series. This is really useful as it clearly identifies the email and, assuming the customer has had a positive experience with earlier emails in the series, adds to the power of the subject line, increasing opens.

getresponse email subject line

Using series campaigns and flagging this in the subject line is a logical way to increase your email conversions. Most businesses send less emails than they could for fear of annoying customers. Spend time ensuring your emails are helpful and you won’t have this problem, allowing you to send emails in series that really convert.

4. Test, Test, Test

You will commonly read that shorter subject lines increase opens.

This is just one example of a quote thrown around as fact but, the truth is, you can never be sure this will hold true for your own audience. Mailchimp recently published a whole bunch of statistics on subject line length that reveal the truth: there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to subject line length. It’s completely relative to your target audience so you need to draw your own conclusions!

If you want to really nail your subject line then you should start testing. Dan Norris at Inform.ly recently shared a little trick with his readers: when sending out blog updates he A/B tests his subject lines in order to determine which title is best.

Here are some results from a recent campaign:

a-b email subject line split test
Click for full-size image

This is a great example of the power of testing when it comes to finding out what subject lines work with your audience. Short, long, with funny characters, CAPS, first-letter capitalization, etc. are all things you should experiment with.

Creating A/B tests is easy — when was the last time you A/B tested one of your subject lines?

5. It’s not just about the subject line

These days email clients are getting pretty sexy, and this means you actually have more than just the subject line to work with.

This article from MarketingSherpa shares how important it is to consider factors outside subject line length such as word choice and order. So, with this in mind, here’s the standard format of an email as your recipients will see it in Gmail:

how your email recipients will see it in gmail
Click for full-size image

…and here’s a similar example from Mailbox:

Mailbox Mobile Format Example - Email Subject Line
Click for full-size image

This format is fairly standard across desktop email clients, online clients (like Outlook and Gmail) and even mobile clients such as Mailbox.

As you can see, you should not only spend time optimizing the subject line itself but also the from field and the short preview.

Here are three things you should try:

  1. Put the name of your company in the ‘from’ field: Rather than ‘Chris Hexton’, you could use ‘Chris from Vero’. Mentioning the name of your company can be good if your brand is recognizable and is always a great way of building consistency and trust. It keeps your customers from guessing. Lots of companies will email with ‘[Vero]’ or similar in the subject line, but this is a waste of precious space! Maximize your from address.
  2. Move the position of ‘Open in your browser’: Lots of email marketing templates have the ‘View in your browser’ link at the top of the body. This means that it is generally the text that shows up in the ‘short preview’ section of mail clients. Bear this in mind and consider moving the link to the bottom or slightly further down the campaign (where it might actually be noticed).
  3. Use an H1 tag that has meaning: Never waste ‘headings’ in the body of your email. Make sure you include a H1 tag or bold text at the top of your email content that is relevant and will give a good idea of the body of the campaign. Use the ‘short preview’ to your advantage and, if you’re clever, you can even play the subject line of the ‘short preview’ to craft some clever content.

Over to You

So, what you think about these five tips? Do you agree or disagree with any of them? Let me know in the comments!

About Chris Hexton
Chris Hexton is a co-founder of Vero, email remarketing software that helps businesses send and optimize lifecycle emails. He loves helping businesses improve their email marketing and, in his down time, reading and playing guitar. You can get in touch with him via @chexton or check out getvero.com.
» More blog posts by
  • Hey Chris,
    Very Accurate Post I have a question to ask you that which email id you prefer to use when we need to start a campaign or for asking the information for enquirers whether to use our corporate email ids or personal ones?

    • Hey Drake, do you mean to ask which email address we use to send emails FROM when we send out our emails? We do indeed use our corporate email addresses, i.e. @getvero.com – if that makes sense? Sorry if I misunderstood!

  • I’ve always used the ‘preview’ part of the email as a sort of a continuation of the subject line.
    Given how few characters are visible (especially on mobile phone devices) from the subject line nowadays, things have changed dramatically in this respect.

    The most intriguing part of the subject line could otherwise be lost if it is not in the first few words.

    Cheers,
    Steve ✉ Master eMailSmith ✉ Lorenzo
    Chief Editor, eMail Tips Daily Newsletter

    • Hey Steve,

      Tried to visit your site from my iPhone and your pop up offer keeps blocking my view, I can’t read your posts and can’t find a way of closing the box. I thought it contextually relevant since part of this post is about ensuring people on phones can consume your content the right way. Figured you might want to know. Thanks!

      • Thanks a lot for the feedback, Noel!

        We are currently playing with a number of plugins there (testing) so it couldn’t have come at a better time, you know…
        The one you’ve noticed is a popup plugin from WPMU and I thought it was professionally developed and thoroughly tested, but it is MY bad for not testing it in mobile view myself first… :(

        I’ll try to find some options to make that window maybe smaller or else try to find a better suited plugin for mobile devices…

        Thanks again!
        Cheers,
        Steve ✉ Master eMailSmith ✉ Lorenzo
        Chief Editor, eMail Tips Daily Newsletter

        • No worries! Was planning on checking it out when I got online anyway, but wanted to mention. :)

    • Really good point Steve and great little back-and-forth about the popup :).

      • Since SEO is all about manipulating mainly i agree that sometimes White Hat SEO is more of a subtle cousin of Black Hat counterpart. I agree with the article. But with the advent of content marketing it is the white hat folks who write genuine quality content who will win and not the manipulators.

  • Great post Chris, Emails are like headlines in newspapers. To get someone to read your email is like getting someone to read your article. We all scan headlines (subject lines) and decide where to spend our precious attention. Fulfilling the promise of the subject line is the next critical piece, else unsubscribe rates will become the issue. Thanks for sharing.

    • Spot on Rick. The subject line just gets recipients into the email and interested. There is no guarantee that will result in an open or click and, as you say, may lead to an unsubscribe if you don’t provide value. Valuable content is the *most* important thing.

  • Hi Chris,

    I never thought about moving the position of “Open in your browser.” I’ll try out this technique the next time I send an email. Thanks for the tip!

    • Would love to hear if it changes your results. Always A/B test if you can :)!

      • Hi Chris,

        The animal shelter I volunteer for uses Constant Contact, and I don’t think I can move the “Open in your browser” verbiage. I use AWeber for Savvy-Writer.com. I’ll have to see if I can move the “Open in your browser.”

        • Paul Scannell

          The article was helpful, but the replies were even better – Feed back. Pretty much creative writing is needed in the subject line to get it opened. I myself have to the issue as not in marketing but staff & students attention to open the email. I usually need to have the email require an open trail to verify that the email was opened and read. If it was closed without reading it, I have to make an in person visit to inform them. Much easier just to have the email read.
          Paul

  • Great post Chris!

    Totally agree with all 5 points. Especially no.5, it’s not all about the headlines, you can have the best headlines in the world but if what you’re writing in the email is just a BS then you’re definitely not going to make the reader take any action.

    • Yep – we’ve all seen this too many times. Glad you liked the article, really appreciate the kind words :).

  • So “Dear Sir/Madam, best wishes of the day to you” isn’t good? LOL ;-)

  • Kelly

    Thanks Chris very informative post! I like the visual examples of how emails appear in two popular format and about removing ‘view in your browser’ from the top.

    I also noticed emails are getting more text based and toning down on the images so they look like less ad like and more personal. What are your thoughts on this trend?

  • Shuki mann

    Perfect!!

  • Good stuff – it took me a long time to figure those points out.

    • Glad I could summarise them for you guys here! Do you have any other points you’ve figured out over time?

  • Email subject line is always important to increase email open rates. Don’t use more technical word, just write subject line with simple words. Test it before send email campaigns. All are valid points. Good!

  • Perfect!!

  • i like it……goodddddd

  • Email subject line is always important to increase email open rates. Don’t use more technical word, just write subject line with simple words. Test it before send email campaigns. All are valid points. Good!

  • Erika

    Great article and very informative. I always use “call to action” words in my headers to ensure a response, I.e. (INFORMATION: Update available on xxx software) or (ACTION REQUIRED: Don’t miss out on the opportunity to…, ) this normally gets people to read the email and respond to an RSVP or fill in a form. Will definitely use the tips about preview line to make sure I get more attention. Thank you

  • I’m guilty of spending a lot of time designing my emails and then spending 30 seconds thinking of a subject line. After reading this article I will try out some of the suggestions to see if there is any improvement.

  • Great article. Can’t agree with #4 more. Testing everything is SO important — especially subject lines. I used to work in video games and one of our highest-performing subject lines was simply a sad face emoticon :-(

  • Great tips bro ! You are very accurate at the point ! Your article is 100% correct bro,Thanks for sharing this information with us :)

  • Great post Chris. I think testing, testing, and testing some more is pivotal to a successful email marketing campaign. I typically test my email delivery cycle… testing from every 3-4 days, and also once per week.

  • Agree with your last point Chris – the “from” and “preview sections” have an impact but aren’t focused on as much. This is something we’re testing more now now, thanks for highlighting it.

  • Very informative post and will surely work on this in future. Currently I have zero knowledge in Email Marketing. So I am enriching my Knowledge and Your post helped me alot.

  • Well it is increasingly important that social media strategies are supported by solid data that tracks outreach, engagement, and return on investments.

  • good information.Thanks

  • I am studding internet marketing in these days and i am very happy to find this site because Email marketing is a part of it, Thank you for these nice tips.

  • Awesome Information mate I am going to try it out,!!

  • Really liked your post. We will be testing out email marketing to business owners… would like to touch base when you get a chance and see if you could help us out. Thanks.

    • Glad you liked the post. More than happy to chat any time – Skype or my phone is best. I see you signed up to Vero so feel free to get in touch with the details in my welcome email :).

  • Renee

    Great info! Thanks!

  • Great article Chris on email subject lines ,,,Awesome detailed report…Than you…

  • Hi, lovely post and am going to be working on testing as you suggested. We are new, and am doing a weekly newsletter, and i do keep subject lines short, but our open rates are going down. :(
    I absolutely do not mean to spam, but here is what we’ve sent so far – http://blog.swym.it/swym-newsletters/

    I’ll try and move the “view in browser” down, but this is frustrating :-) Will keep trying tho! So many informative articles out here :)
    Thanks!
    Rads

  • Hi Chris,

    A helpful article – thank you.

    How would you go about creating a subject line for email campaigns that announce new web app updates motivated by user feedback?

    Thank you

    • Good question Claire!

      What have you used in the past? We see good rates just using “Product Update: Awesome XYZ” and being descriptive. We do try and segment who we send to though. Generally abandoned trials and current customers are a good start.

      Keen to hear what you’ve done in the past :).

      • In the past, when we introduced the mobile optimized site, I made the subject line: ”timeBlend goes mobile!”. The body was written with a witty, fun tone. Making something quite banal into entertaining reading. Were not a B2B company, so we won’t bore readers with nuts and bolts that don’t make the experience better for them. At the end of the day, with the endless changes we’ve made to our web app – when looking at the front end – they just make the user experience better in the way of search, aesthetics and navigation. I feel ”Product update…”etc will not apply to our audience. I also am focused on showing in the heading, how we are responsive to feedback and the new changes benefit the user. Ie.: ”We listened to your feedback and xyz…”‘

        • That’s a tricky one Claire. It depends on the situation.

          One thought I have is that if the content is not something you feel the ENTIRE audience will love then perhaps segment down into just the people who requested the features or gave feedback recently?

          Segmentation is always a win as it gives you a little more leeway when it comes to creativity.

  • nice and well done.
    useful info.

  • no. 1 is awesome .

  • Can you provide the link to the MarketingSherpa article mentioned in point 5? I’d love to read it.

  • Great post out there (Y).. btw which theme are you using?

  • Chris, This is a great article. We are just starting to use email direct marketing as an essential tool and have had some hit or miss results to date. I think you have opened our eyes to some good ideas. Thank you. Joe Sr.

  • Yo Chris,

    Tip #5 is a powerful one man. Once I learned about that, my email open rates shot up real fast.

    When I’m writing emails now, I often go back to my email inbox to reference the subject lines that got my attention the most, and then model them for use in my own newsletters and email promos.

  • Very Fruitful information

  • Hello Chris

    Thanks for sharing good information ..

  • com, which is part of the Disney company has a varied selection of printable projects
    for Father’s Day. Father’s day is exactly as much as popular as mother’s day.

    First, for each online store you visit, sign up for their newsletter or to be on their mailing list.

  • Hello Chris
    Thanks for sharing good information

  • Extraordinary post Chris, Emails are similar to features in daily papers. To get somebody to peruse your email is similar to getting somebody to peruse your article. We all sweep features (titles) and choose where to spend our valuable consideration. Satisfying the guarantee of the headline is the following basic piece, else unsubscribe rates will turn into the issue. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing.

  • Hello there Chris,

    An accommodating article – much obliged.

    How might you go about making a headline for email battles that report new web application upgrades persuaded by client input?

    Much thanks to you

  • Great tips Chris! You are right about the personalization of the subject line. If subject line is personalized then there are less chances that it will be thrown into spam folder.

  • Very Fruitful information , Thanks for Sharing .

  • Thanks a lot for sharing! I’m using software called GetResponse and believe me after reading your article I feel much more confident about email marketing strategies.

  • selamat pagi gan,,terimakasih untuk informasinya semoga bermanfaat

  • Thanks a lot for sharing!

  • Extraordinary post Chris, Emails are similar to features in daily papers.

  • terimakasih untuk informasinya,salam sukses.

  • thanks untuk informasinya semoga bermanfaat

  • semoga bermanfaat informasinya

  • thanks untuk informasinya salam sukses

  • Selamat sore semangat terus,

  • thankss for your sharing guys

  • Email subject line is always important to increase email open rates. Don’t use more technical word, just write subject line with simple words. Test it before send email campaigns. All are valid points. Good!

  • Thanks a lot for sharing! I’m using software called GetResponse and believe me after reading your article I feel much more confident about email marketing strategies.

  • Very Fruitful information , Thanks for Sharing .

  • Great info! Will be using this for next strategies. Thanks. I eeded some ideas to doo my first project.

  • thanks a lot for sharing :)

  • thanks,

  • good evening

  • Hey great discussion i believe that is really a problem solve section for me. This clear outs all the doubts regarding E-mail subject line technique and it will definitely helps me to capture fine leads..Thank you.

  • xxx

    Valuable info. Lucky me I found your site by accident, and I am shocked why this
    accident didn’t took place in advance! I bookmarked it.

  • Either way, these techniques need to be able to adapt to changing circumstances as may
    be required. However, overall, reviews of the Kindle Fire have been positive.
    re sure to find something to tickle your taste buds.

  • Nice article,
    I am owing Bijal ‘ s Cook Book.

    This will really help us to write catchy email.

    Please write few tips to catch more audiance to our app : https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ambaitsystem.bcookbook

    Facebook page : https://m.facebook.com/bijalcookbook

  • nice blog…

  • Your humoristic style is awesome, keep it up!WWW.J2FASTMOTORSPORTS.com
    auto http://www.j2fastmotorsports.com/

  • Hi there to every body, it’s my first pay a quick visit of this webpage; this website includes
    awesome and genuinely fine data designed for visitors.

  • Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you are a great
    author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back down the road.
    I want to encourage you continue your great job, have a nice day!

  • If youu wish for to improve your familiarity only keep visiting this website and be updated
    with the moost recentt information posted here.

  • Exactly what I was looking for… I’m yet to build a list but this will help me a lot. Thanks!

  • I read this full post but third tip grabs my whole attention. It is really important to have flow of connection

  • thanks of sharing..

  • good blog..

  • It’s amazing to go to see this web page and reading the views of all colleagues
    concerning this post, while I am also eager of getting know-how.

  • Thanks for showing this valuable info. My email campaign is going rough but it will improve with this info

  • wooow,,, great information.. and help my problem. Thanks

  • Valuable information. Fortunate me I found your site by accident, and I’m stunned why this
    coincidence did not happened in advance! I bookmarked it.

  • Wonderful, what a website it is! This web site provides valuable data to us,
    keep it up.

  • Ich bin eine ganze Weile im Internet gesurft.
    Ich denke mal so ca. vier Stunden und ich habe in diesem Zeitraum keinen so informativen Post gefunden, wie deiner.Werde öfter hier vorbeischauen

  • Hey, re click-bank – are there any ideas about improving sales on a non-niche website? I have a document sharing webpage and as such it’s very to match products to the visitor. Many thanks

  • I really like the way you posted about improving email open trick.

  • Thanks for mentioning these strategies. These are really great.

  • Awesome tips shared I guess, Will surely check them out.

  • I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to learn extra of your helpful info. Thank you for the post. I will definitely comeback.

  • I have just started email marketing and I will surely try one or two of your tips.

  • I just want to know if these work for eCommerce as well.

  • It is really exciting to read these subject line.

  • Thanks for showing these tips. I will use them in my next project.

  • Well I am lost in email marketing and my conversion rates are very low. I will be trying this guide, hope it helps

  • Terimakasih untuk info yang telah di sajikan

  • I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to learn extra of your helpful info. Thank you for the post. I will definitely comeback

  • 新会员注册即送8-88随机彩金,通过 http://www.youle89.com 完成注册绑定资料自助申请彩金,系统自动到账。咨询QQ 940888366

  • 新会员注册即送8-88随机彩金,通过 http://www.youle89.com 完成注册绑定资料自助申请彩金,系统自动到账。咨询QQ 940888366 !!!!

  • I mean, I would love to read articles from this blog for the purpose of exchanging knowledge. Check out my blog: http://congtysamngoclinh.com/

  • Its a very nice post. The content of the post is very usefull. I am Daily vistior of this website. Website Designing company in delhi I hope we get gud content in future. Thanks

  • I love all your Complete Guides, they are really information stuffed , I always wonder how you created them

  • Nice write up, thanks

  • Thanks for sharing nice post email marketing is so much useful nowadays.

  • I have just started email marketing and I will surely try one or three of your tips.

  • Will definitely be using these tips when I start my new campaigns!

  • We use e-mail newsletters in our activities, and it’s a great marketing tool indeed, especially for converting users to active members. The second strategy, Localize, personalize and target is a key to running a successful e-mail campaign.

  • thanks for the information is very helpful at all.
    Related Articles awaited no less useful anyway…

  • Related Articles awaited no less useful anyway…

  • What I’m waiting saw in this blog, thank you offline and I will again visit your blog:

    http://namngoccautoaduong.com/

  • Sadly due to Canadian Spam Laws it difficult to send anyone an e-mail without permission.

  • dapatkan Promo ahir tahun menarik dari Showroom Honda Semarang

  • I like to enjoy this blog, thank you for sharing

  • I will visit this blog in the near future, thanks great article

  • Post gives me more experience

  • nice post my friend.

  • Neel Rajakumar K

    Hello Chris

    Please can you help to reply for the Editor’s mail
    Saying
    Sorry to bother you still I have few doubts in filling application