The Best Email Subject Line: Get Emails Opened with These Tricks

  • A simple, well-thought email subject line can make the whole difference when you’re trying to reach someone through the web.
  • Writing an email to someone is one of the best methods of communication: It’s always easy to find someone’s email address, and the email subject line is the same for everyone — no matter how small or big your organization is.
  • This post is on how to write and email and subject line that uses the best email marketing campaign, while keeping it simple and always sounding human.

Many of you installed out of curiosity: you wanted the double-checks in your Gmail too, so you’d know if your emails were being read. Others found because they’ve already been working with their emails for a while, and saw the productivity boost email tracking can bring.

But no matter why you’ve installed MailTrack on your machines, there is one thing we all agree with: we all want our emails to be opened.

There are other concerns, as important as if our messages are opened or not, that should always be in our minds: How to write an email, what comes inside our messages, at what time you send them…

But in this article, I’d like to focus on where it all begins. It’s the decisive moment. It’s where your messages and all the messages are at when your recipient open their inbox and have a few minutes to read something — and probably ignore everything else.

The Email Subject Line is the Same for Everyone

It’s hard to think of another communication medium as democratic as the email.

Think about it. No matter who you are, or the marketing budget of your organization, your email subject line will compete with the subject lines of everyone else on equal grounds. They all are there: in your readers’ inbox.

Who is going to catch your recipients’ attention?

Here is where the gap between you and other organizations can be wider: information. Companies with an email marketing team have more resources and experienced professions than most email senders.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t apply the strategies that have been consolidated in the field. Besides, the Internet has democratized tools to help test and measure the different cases of email campaigns, depending on your purpose, recipient or database.

Here at we’re email experts. We’d like to share some of those strategies on email subject lines with you. Check if they work in your case and let us know your opinion!

1. Plan First: What is Your Objective?

It’s kind of pointless doing anything else before checking why you’re writing an email anyway, right?

Even before you begin writing, before you research, before you brainstorm… It’s always good to know what objectives you’re trying to reach with your email campaign.

Try to answer these questions as briefly as you can:

  • Can an email help you reach your goal? For the right job, you want to make sure you have the right tools.
  • Is email the best and only communication channel to be used? Do not overlook other channels: they can be more effective than the one you’re considering.
  • Who are you trying to reach? This is completely essential, and will impact tremendously what you’ll write on your subject line.
  • When do you need to have your task finished? So you’re able to estimate how much time you have for planning, producing and completing all the necessary steps.

2. Think of Your Email Subject Line as a Headline

The subject line is a unique possibility to transmit your email’s content to your readers in a few words, and at the same time try to make them interested in it.

At this point, your challenge is really close to what a journalist is looking for when writing the title for an article. One of the techniques that might be very useful to you is to apply the 4 U’s formula when writing an email subject line.

You’ll find lots of resources on how to apply the 4 U’s formula, but I’d recommend you start with this article by Christina Walker

on Writtent.

3. Think how the Email Subject Line Matches the Sender’s Label

Open your email app and notice what email subject lines really look like for your readers: They are indeed several, tens of lines.

These lines are composed with the information on the sender and the email subject line that should be in harmony in your recipients inbox. Do those pieces of information contradict themselves? Are they unnecessarily redundant?

In the space for your sender information, you should:

  • Value people over brands: Readers will recognize there is a real human behind that message. Only use brand names if your brand is strong, or if you really want to detach the message from any person in your organizations.
  • Check if it doesn’t conflict with your email subject line: At MailTrack, we commonly sign our emails mixing our personal names with our brand. In these cases, it’s usually unnecessary (or even counter-productive) to repeat our company’s name in the subject line.
  • Need to look professional? Look professional: It should be needless to say: but sign your email in accordance to the behaviour your reader is expecting from you. If you need to look serious, for example, there is no room for jokes or bad taste here.

An overall consensus shared by the email marketing industry too is that subject lines shouldn’t be long. That rule should only be an exception when writing a little more will add value to the readers to the point it will engage them to your message or brand. In this case, the best thing is to test — I’ll talk about it at point 7.

4. When writing an email, balance Between Recognition and Surprise

To write a successful subject line is to be able to call someone’s attention. At the same time, though, you want to make sure your readers will relate positively to your message and to you (or your brand), and that they won’t feel frustrated when discovering that what’s inside your email.

How to write it? It’s tricky, but it can be done. What you want to do is give something unique (or unusual) to your recipient, while still being attached to them through what they already know.

Let’s go back to journalism, and see how this works with the very creative guys and girls at Buzzfeed.

If you’re thinking “one can’t always add all these elements”, you’re completely right. But you have to pay attention when that opportunity is available. Usually it will be the case where you can only add a little of surprise and a little of recognition. However, when it comes the time to use the perfect balance between them, explore it.

5. Value Some Words, Avoid Others

There are actually two problems of abusing some words when writing your email and subject line: 1) Your reader might not be interested in you, and 2) The email filters might send you to the spam box.

This means that some words which could really sound catchy (like “free” or “cash”) have been so abused by the email marketing industry that spam filters might block you from your recipient’s inbox.

Beyond automatic triggers, there is also the fact that we all got tired of those messages… So even if you make your recipient’s inbox, your reader might ignore you because you’re “another of those trash mails”.

On the other hand, there are some words and expressions that might help you get closer to your objective. MailChimp, which is a great email marketing tool for massive email, is constantly publishing updates on how to write an email and your subject lines.

6. When Writing an Email, Contrast and Proofread

Two heads are better than one, or so says the popular knowledge. While this is not always true, when working with any type of communication, you should look for qualified opinions on your work.

If you work in a team, it means sharing with your colleagues, but also having someone with experience in the subject to give their opinion too.

And please, don’t forget to use your spell checker! If you know someone who is a proofreader, or with some experience in writing, you might want to ask them to give you a hand too.

7. Test Different Strategies with

This is probably one of the most overlooked tips. For this reason, it’s a great way to stand out of the crowd too.

If you have the double-checks from in your email, you can try different subject line strategies, and measure which are the most effective. Have your an Excel sheet ready, and write down the ones with best email open rates.

As well as counting which emails have more opens, you can try to assess your readers impression on your emails by asking them directly or running a survey (if you have enough recipients).

Be careful not to jump into conclusions before having enough data on each strategy. Later, don’t doubt getting rid of the subject lines that are less effective.

Are We Missing Your Rule of Thumb?

What is your advice when preparing and testing subject lines? Anything that we forgot and should be added here? Let us know!