Posted by Bethany Handy ● August 5, 2016

Crafting the Perfect Email Subject Line

In today’s crowded inboxes, the subject line often makes the difference between emails that get opened and those that don’t.

Because recipients usually see it before the content of the email, the subject line must be engaging as well as give recipients a taste of what the email is about.

While crafting the perfect subject line for your emails takes a bit of time, it’s an investment that can improve your email open rates exponentially, as well as make your email campaign more effective and more engaging all round.


Important Considerations Before Creating a Subject Line   

Matching subject lines to your email content is one approach to creating good subject lines, but it’s not the best. A more effective strategy is to take into account a few key considerations which have a direct impact on the form, content, and message of both your email content and subject line. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who is the recipient and what is he or she interested in?
  2. What is the current relationship between the sender and the recipient?
  3. When will the email be sent?   
  4. How can the recipient’s attention be drawn to the email?
  5. What would be an ideal response from the recipient?

How to Craft Perfect Subject Lines

Once you have answers to the questions above, you can move on to the following subject line tips, all of which are informed by MailChimp research.

  • Personalize your subject lines with the recipient’s name or location (city or neighborhood). This improves open rates. A great example of personalization comes from Rent the Runway, a company who rents designer clothing for special events: "Happy Birthday Emily - Surprise Inside!"

  • Keep your subject lines shorter than 50 characters. A wonderful example of brevity comes from Barrack Obama’s last support campaign: “Hey”. A “Hey” from Barrack Obama is of course more compelling than one from a brand, but it’s a great example of how short, casual greetings can sometimes work as subject lines.

  • Use different subject lines for different campaigns. Research suggests that using the same type of headlines over and over again becomes less effective over time.

  • Make your subject lines more compelling with words such as Alert, Breaking, Don’t Miss, News, or Update. A great example comes from the organization Grass Roots: “Take Two Minutes to Change the World!”

  • Add tasty and intriguing words to your subject lines when possible, such as Exclusive, Special, or Video.

  • Make a promise that your recipients can’t refuse with words such as Gift, Discount, Review, Download, Latest, or New.

  • Be direct. A great example of a direct subject line comes from JetBlue Airlines: “You’re missing out on points” - it capitalizes on the modern fear of missing out on things, in this case, travel points.

Finally, you want to use A/B testing to experiment with different subject lines until you find the right formats for your audience. A/B testing also helps you gauge reactions from different segments of your audience, who may respond differently to subject lines based on their needs and interests.