Email subject lines are crucial. Why? Because people do judge newsletters by their subjects. And here’s the bombshell: 30% of email recipients decide whether to open an email simply based on its subject line. And 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. However, this blog is not about writing email subjects. Instead, I’ll focus on convincing, hands-on tips that will help you reach the point where your subscribers can’t help but open your newsletters.

Keep it short.

To quote Mark Twain, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Brevity is the key. A subject line should contain the most important information about your offer in just 25-50 words! Taking Mark Twain’s word for it, brevity in writing is a challenge. So the key here is to be expressive and to the point.

Avoid Phrases and don’t come on too strong.

“Sizzling Summer Sales” or “Winter Clearance Sales” are to the point and short enough. So what could possibly go wrong? They don’t have the element of surprise. So your subscriber has less incentive to open. And they are rather common, so you lose your brand’s scent. And in return — trust and recognizability of your subscribers. On the other hand, watch out for a subject like: “Hey, I’d like to sell you something”  — I can guarantee it will land in the spam folder. The same will happen if you use ALL CAPS. So key takeaways are: don’t overuse words that may trigger spam. Stay focused, and be original. It will not only boost your open rate but also increase deliverability.

Make them feel extraordinary, but be careful about emojis.

The attitude of exclusivity is a powerful thing. By offering an exclusive benefit or giveaway, people get the sense of belonging. Belonging helps build loyalty, and in turn helps conversion. The right phrasing can embed the sense of exclusivity and show your subscribers that they are special to you. Using a custom field can help you achieve this effect. A targeted message can achieve a 54% response rate, according to Localytics. An emoji can help you enhance this effect, but be careful – a smiley, thumbs up, or heart don’t belong in some industry branches. Besides, think about your buyer persona – what would he or she think of the emoticon you’ve got in mind?

Create a sense of urgency.

Subject lines that embed the sense of compulsion and exclusivity can deliver an open rate 22% higher than regular notification emails. Pretty impressive. But how to apply it in casual email marketing practice? Think of using a deadline and action verbs in your subject lines. Your subject line can make a perfect call to action if you use language that inspires people to click. An action verb can help people visualize themselves acting on your offer.

Don’t forget the preheader or help text.

This is where you get to bring out more details regarding your offer. While a preheader isn’t technically part of your subject line, it does appear next to it — and it certainly deserves your attention. It provides recipients with a peek at the content inside your email, which email clients like the iPhone Mail app, Gmail, and Outlook will display alongside the subject line. In this post, we wrote about why a preheader is usually neglected. But it is important in the inbox. Point:



A preheader is like a subtitle – it guides, explains, helps the reader understand, and encourages. When you don’t set it up yourself, the email client automatically pulls text from the body of your email. This can look messy depending on your email content, and it’s also a wasted opportunity to engage your audience. Again, keep it brief: 100-150 characters is optimum.

The From field is your online identification.

Yes, we can’t talk enough about the from fields. And deliverability. A from field helps you legitimize the contact with your audience.  And legitimization is a real challenge, as nearly one-third of marketers reported blacklisting and spam reports as their biggest challenge. As mentioned before, 30% of recipients decide whether to open a newsletter based on the preview. And your from field is an integral part of it. So a few takeaways for the long-term perspective are: be recognizable, appear trustworthy, and use a from field. Although these may not bring immediate results, they intensify trust and relationships over time.

Don’t forget A/B testing.

Although these tips are a great place to start, what works for some companies may not work as well for others. It’s all about figuring out what works best for your specific audience. That’s where A/B testing comes in. While it can be tempting to use your intuition to predict what subject line language will make people click on your emails, you should be A/B testing your subject lines constantly and tweaking wording according to your results. GetResponse allows you to conduct effective split tests, even when you’re a free trial user. Bear that in mind when making changes to your email subjects or from fields.

Wrapping up

Now you know where to start when pondering the best subject line for your upcoming newsletter. Keep in mind that 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line (Convince & Convert). I hope this post will be your guideline or best-practice checklist. While we’re at it, share your thoughts – we’d like to know what worked for you? And how did it help you engage your audience?