Write Exciting Email Subject Lines That Get Opens

An email’s subject line is your first impression. It’s the biggest factor in determining whether someone opens your email. (You or your business’ name is the second factor if you’ve built credibility with them.)

So, imagine if you saw in your inbox, “Read our Update,” how would you feel seeing that? 

Annoyed that it made you put extra thought into it? It’s cryptic and boring. 

Maybe neutral and you skip over it? There’s nothing compelling me to care about the update.

Whichever, I’m sure your answer reflects that the subject line is confusing, uninteresting, and unclear.

Now what if the subject line read, “Our New [Thing] Will Save you Hours”. Depending on your audience, it might just get everybody excited. 

The Headline Formula

According to Co-Schedule, there are a few things that help make a successful subject line:

  • Title Capitalization Format (my addition: CAPITALIZATION variations)
  • Short + Sweet – 3-5 Words/20 characters
  • Emojis! (my addition – characters: [ ] # *)
  • Numbers

 Take a moment, open your email and note the first 3 subject lines that catch your eye.  I’ll wait. 

 Now, think about what your eyes were drawn to first.

Did you see emojis? Numbers? Variation in Title Capitalization? Special Characters?

Emojis always catch my eye and I’m surprised how little they’re used in subject lines. 

There are rumors in the online world that emojis trigger spam filters, but that’s poppycock! (since there is no emoji for that we’ll go with this one💩 . Some of my best-performing emails have emojis in the subject lines. And when I check my own email, emojis in the subject line shows up just as frequently in my primary tab as in my promotion tab. They grab my attention  👀 . 

Test it!

Even Co-schedule’s Subject Line Tester tool recommends emojis. This is my secret to creating fantastic subject lines. Type in a sample subject line and it gives you a “score”, then tells you exactly what to do to improve. 

I suggest testing 5-10 subject lines, then adjust and use the one that scores highest.

Time spent on subject lines is just as productive as the email content itself. After all, if a customer doesn’t get past the subject line, the content of your email is a moot point.

Types of Subject Lines

  • How-tos: “How to make 10k”
  • Questions: Ask open-ended questions to pique their curiosity
  • A deadline: Create scarcity. If people think there’s urgency, they’ll prioritize your email because of the time limit. FOMO is real 
  • Open-ended teasers: Great hooks draw people in every time because they give a preview without giving away the punchline. Craft it so customers  must open for the answer or see the rest of the punchline
  • Clear commands: Tell recipients exactly what you want them to do. “Join us”, “Don’t miss out”, “Get your Tickets”, “Buy Today”, “Read the List”, etc.
  • Share values: Be of service and share value in your subject line. “Create Your Holiday Gift List”
  • Make an announcement: “The Winners are…” “Today Only…” “We are launching”
  • Be unique: What’s your business known for? Mention that in the subject
  • Tell a Joke: People love to laugh and if you can make them chuckle, you’ll get their attention and likely an open. Puns, jokes and wordplay are all fun. Yes, even Dad jokes
  • Unexpected or intriguing: Surprise and delight. Use unexpected stats or data, things people aren’t used to hearing
  • Video – Download – Replay: Subject lines with the word “Video” have a higher open rate. Do you create videos? Send a replay link “Watch the Video Replay – 48 Hours Only!”

Use The Preheader

I think of a preheader as a subject line enhancer. What’s a preheader?

Preheaders are the descriptions you see in your inbox next to the bolded subject line (or below it on your phone).

It can be a continuation of the subject line, or it can act as a title subhead

A well-crafted preheader is one more chance to convince readers to open your email.

Look at the preheaders on emails in your inbox and take note of the ones that make you more interested in opening.

I caution that if you don’t specifically create a preheader, the first few lines of your email will populate automatically, which usually isn’t ideal – and sometimes it will pull the email code, which is unflattering.

Most email marketing platforms have a place for you to add a preheader. This is what it looks like in Constant Contact


Subject lines are your first impression – make a good one!

Marketing Resources:

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