Email Marketing : 16 Tricks for Writing a Subject Line to Convert

Coming up with a subject line that works is not always an easy task.

However, there are some basic rules any marketer worthy of their name should respect whatever the cost.

Here’s a list of a few tips to put into practice in your emails in order to increase your open rate and, thus, your conversions.


1. Take your time

When creating a marketing email, people often come up with the subject line last once all the content has been drafted. This is a big mistake.

In fact, once all the content has been drafted, people tend to think the biggest part of the work is finished with only a few details left. And they’re usually in a hurry to get the email sent.

The subject line is then relegated to simply a “minor detail” when it’s probably the most important part of the entire email! It’s precisely what will get it opened or not; it’s the basis for any conversion and all your profitability.

So, begin by coming up with your email subject line before the content, to be sure it doesn’t get rushed. Take your time to make it good.


2. Come up with many, many subject lines

Don’t stop with just one idea! Think about putting twenty-some subject lines down on paper or even more and try out a few things completely out of the ordinary to develop your imagination.

You’ll be surprised at how capable you are of inventing original and attractive subject lines.

Also try to use synonyms and turn your sentences around to help get some variation.

Choose the one you think is most suitable and ask your colleagues for their opinions in order to make the right choice.


3. Not too long, not too short

There is no ideal length for an e-marketing subject line. However, a subject line that’s too long won’t grab your recipients’ attention as it probably won’t be fully displayed.

Overall, people prefer subject lines with 6 to 10 words and a maximum of about fifty characters.

By imposing this length on yourself, you’ll be forced to condense the essential bits of information into just a few words. This will be absolutely positive for your subject lines!


4. Put important words at the beginning

The keywords in your subject line must be within the first 3 or 4 terms.

Since nearly 50% of all emails are opened on mobile devices nowadays, you need to adapt to this medium and display type.

With webmail on smartphones, there’s only room for a few characters in the subject line – about half as many!

That’s why the essentials must be positioned in the beginning so your entire audience can get the main information. And you’ll maximize the chances of getting your email opened!


5. Personalization

If there’s one thing that has a 100% sure positive impact, that would be personalization. That’s as long as it’s done well!

Use the data you have in your contact database (their given name, surname, title…) and add them to the subject line.

A personalized subject line will immediately grab people’s attention, especially when the recipient’s given name is present.

Personalization is no secret nowadays, but you can use it to suit your needs! Given names/surnames are not the only elements that can be used to personalize a subject line. Location, age, buying habits… Anything can personalize an email!

It’s up to you to have a high-quality, exhaustive database.


6. Call out to them with a question

A good subject line is a subject line that calls out to your recipient and gets their attention. What better to grab your reader’s attention than directly addressing them?

Asking them a question in the subject line can be a good way to get a reaction to your email.

But, be careful not to seem improper: don’t ask anything that’s too personal or too direct. Let your recipient think you’ve got the solution to a problem they might have, for example.


7. Be explicit…

Your subject line should explicitly highlight the benefit of opening it. Don’t be evasive with subject lines like “5th February Newsletter” or “Find Out About New Developments”.

Clearly indicate what you’re trying to sell in your subject line without beating around the bushes. And, above all, be honest about the content! Don’t try to deceive your readers with content that has nothing to do with the promise made in the subject line.


8. … yet intriguing

However, being explicit doesn’t mean a little teasing is prohibited! Be audacious; don’t let them know everything right away.

There’s a big difference between being vague and being mysterious. Being vague involves evasiveness which doesn’t really evoke anything in particular while being mysterious is intriguing.


9. Create a sense of urgency

It’s a classic tip in marketing. Creating a sense of urgency in your target increases the likelihood they’ll click on your offer.

Don’t think twice about telling your recipients that the clock is ticking down in your email subject line and that your offer is short-lived meaning only the quickest will be able to take advantage of it.

This idea also goes along with the need to create a sense of privilege in the recipient. You should give them the impression they’ll be better off than others, they’ll get a good deal and will receive a good benefit.


10. Avoid spam words

Spam words are terms to avoid using in your emails because they just might be considered spam otherwise.

These words are difficult to categorize. In general, avoid any terms that imply something is free, reduced, terms that are overly used in marketing or too sales-like and never talk about medication or illegal products…

We’ve actually published an infographic summarizing as much as possible a list of spam words to avoid, sorted by categories.

Please note that using spam words is not absolutely crippling yet they do have an impact on your spam score. This score is based on your entire email (wording, layout, size, etc.).

Webmail programmes and ISPs all have different rules on whether or not an email is considered spam. And since these rules are always changing, it’s impossible to accurately list them to be able to get around them.


11. Work on form: readable yet plausible

In order to encourage your recipients to open your emails, you sometimes need to look as though you’re a friend. And this has to do with form.

Without going into the RE: technique, come up with a subject line without any caps or punctuation as if you’re a friend or colleague quickly sending an email.

For example: “this is a good deal” or “the discovery of the day”

It’s very easy and may seem a little too pro at first, but this tip really works. Add a little humour and it’ll go over all by itself!


12. Avoid being too salesy

Of course the aim of your email is to sell. But, don’t attack your recipients straightaway by showering them with marketing and promo terms.

You should gently lead them to your content and begin by demonstrating how they can benefit from what you’re offering.

Otherwise you risk using spam words and deteriorating your deliverability!


13. Create numbered lists

Numbered lists work extremely well on the web. “The top 10 reasons for…”, “25 tips for improving…”, etc.

These lists work because they’re easy to read. If you have a blog, think about writing articles of this kind and putting the titles of these articles in your newsletter subject line.

This will certainly make your open rate climb!


14. Say thank you

We’re completely veering from the rules above on this one. But, saying “Thanks for everything!” or another phrase of thanks in the subject line gets amazing open rates.

However, don’t say “thanks” for no reason. It needs to be linked to a certain period of the year or an action taken by your recipients.

In short, you can show that you’re not just there to make money off your contacts’ backs, but that you’re thinking about them and are sincere!


15. Use symbols

Symbols and emojis are still hardly used these days. Yet, they’re a way to add something that’s immediately recognized by your recipients as a way to distinguish from the huge flow of emails received each day.

So, use symbols related to your business or the content of your email to stand out!

But, be careful not to use them excessively or symbols that are too… kitsch. That could penalize you!


16. Create A/B tests

A/B tests help test two different versions of an email or subject line. This is an extremely practical technique that allows you to determine which of your ideas is the best, especially when hesitating between two.

The two versions are sent to representative sections of your end recipient base and the results are compared to decide which is best.

Using an e-marketing solution like Mailify allows you to very easily do these types of tests and it’s an excellent way to constantly improve your email marketing strategy!


In conclusion, I encourage you to always test different subject lines and never fear originality. It’s of utmost importance nowadays as SPAM is everywhere. Break loose, be audacious, be funny, call out to your audience and tell yourself you can always do better!

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