3 Keys to Writing an Email Subject Line that gets Your Email Opened

3 Keys to Writing an Email Subject Line that gets Your Email Opened

By In Email Marketing On August 21, 2017


Did you know that as many as a third of all readers of emails make the decision to open an email based solely on the email subject line?

This begs an important question: what kind of email subject line gets your emails opened?

Email marketing remains one of the most effective tools for modern marketing. But it only works if people actually read what you’re sending out. You only have one chance to get people to read your words. And that chance is your email subject line.

email subject line like any headline

Marketers around the world invest enormous amounts of time and effort into crafting headlines that get their emails opened. In fact, books and even training courses are dedicated to the subject. The good news is that writing an email subject line that gets your messages opened isn’t alchemy.

The top three keys to great email subject lines:

Choose your Headline Type

There are many types of headlines, and knowing which one will work best for your goals will help you get it right from the outset. Here are our top eight headline types, and what they mean for your marketing:

  1. Direct: This is one of the best forms of headlines. Tell your reader exactly what to expect. For example “Join us for tonight’s FREE webinar on content marketing.”
  2. Indirect: Slightly more subtle, this headline type piques the reader’s curiosity. It’s important not to dupe readers with hints of potential value that just isn’t delivered in the email or article. (We’ve all been annoyed by those irritating link bait headlines that promise satisfaction and deliver nothing but irritating clicks and millions of ads.) For instance, you might send an email with the subject line, “Do you want to get 80x more leads?” – who wouldn’t want to click on that?
  3. Question: This is similar to the indirect  subject type we described in point two. This question should relate specifically to your industry, your target market’s needs, or the products or services you sell. Make sure you answer the question comprehensively, though, or you risk damaging your marketing by looking like a fraud.
  4. Reason Why: Tied closely to the “question” headline type, the reason why answers the question. For instance, “Why Pilates is the Ideal Workout for Your Back Ache.”
  5. How To: Subject lines that include the words “how to” increase open rates by an average of 8%. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places self-actualisation at the top of that list. We actualise our true selves by becoming better in some way. Learning how to do something is a great way to achieve that.
  6. News: Breaking news gets attention. If you offer a product or service that’s newsworthy, or if breaking developments in your industry are relevant to your readers, tell them up front. They’ll want to know.
  7. Command: It sounds dictatorial, but think of the “command” subject line as being a strong call-to-action. With the infinite array of options and choices presented to us every moment of every day, most of us suffer from decision fatigue. We’re exhausted from trying to decide what to do. It can be a relief to be told what to do for once – especially when the command is to do something that serves your own interests. For example: “Get Your FREE Whitepaper on Lower Carbon Emissions Here”
  8. List: The nice thing about lists is that they come with built-in parameters. You know what to expect. List headlines such as “Top Three Causes of Cancer Exposed” improve open rates by up to ten percent. And when you get to the third one, you know you’re done. You can get on with your day.

According to the Advanced Marketing Institute:

List, “how to”, and question headlines typically see the strongest results for click-throughs.

Get the Length of your Email Subject Line Right

most email subject line read on mobile devices

The correct number of words – and characters – can make all the difference to whether or not your audience reads your headline … or the content that follows it.

Subject lines with 30 or fewer characters have an above average open rate.
[Source: Adestra]

Bear in mind that most emails nowadays are opened on mobile devices. In fact, Marketing Land reported in 2015 that “according to the latest US Consumer Device Preference Report from MovableInk, mobile email opens surged to an all-time high in Q4. The report says that 66 percent of all email in the US is now opened/read on smartphones or tablets and 34 percent is viewed on a desktop.”

So keep it short – and make it effective.

Select the Best Words

CoSchedule defines four different types of words that work together to create effective headlines. These are:

  • Common
  • Uncommon
  • Emotional, and
  • Power

They’ve gone so far as to publish lists of the most effective words in each category, which can be downloaded free on their site (read on for the link). The amazing CoSchedule headline analyzer helps you identify whether you have the right mix of words in your headline, and includes some guidance for improving it.

Tools for Crafting the Perfect Email Subject Line

Creating a good email subject line isn't a dark art

Like I said at the beginning, even though headlines are so important, it doesn’t take six years at Hogwarts and a thorough versing in the Dark Arts to get them right. Using these three tips will start you in the right direction. To make tings even easier for you, there are two fantastic tools we use all the time at Mind Map Marketing to make sure the headlines we write for you are headlines that work.

  • CoSchedule’s Headline Analyser gives you an interactive display with coloured graphs showing where your headline needs improvement. The analysis is quick and the results load fast. Best of all, the page starts with a percentage score to help you understand just how much work is needed. It’s particularly satisfying to watch that number climb as your practise and improve your writing skills.
  • The Advanced Marketing Institute divides headlines into three categories: intellectual, empathic, and spiritual. Based on research done by Dr Hakim Chisti in the late ’60s and early ’70s, headlines are scored according to the emotional impact they’re likely to evoke in the audience reading them. This site has a lot of fascinating background material, too, so definitely have a look.

Jennifer Lee said headline writing is an art form. And in a way, it is. Certainly, it’s the most important part of any communication – from billboards to emails and everything in between. Fortunately for all of us, we now have the tools to learn this art, and to get it right.

Need help with your headlines? Contact us and let’s chat or learn more about Email Marketing here.


Sources and Suggested Reading


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