Subject Line

Subject Line: 5 Tips for Making It Absolutely Irresistible

Boost your email open rates with these five sure-fire ways to make your email subject lines irresistible.

Enticing your audience to engage with your marketing content is a common struggle, especially when it comes to email marketing. After all, an email is only as good as its subject line. With fewer than five seconds to convince a recipient to open an email instead of delete it, you need to give your email’s subject line an edge.

The goal of the subject line is to get someone to open your email. No more, no less – if your email doesn’t get opened, it’s impossible to click on anything inside the email. To boost your email open rates, here are five sure-fire ways to make your email subject lines absolutely irresistible.

1. Cleverness vs. Clarity

Many times, marketing and brand recognition is about standing out, being memorable and coming up with something catchy. However, the subject line of an email isn’t the time to practice this. Email recipients want to know what they can expect when they click on the message. They don’t want unwanted surprises, aren’t seeking entertainment and don’t want their time wasted. Therefore, they look to the subject line to determine if the message is worthwhile.

A 2011 case study conducted by AWeber Communications found that a clear subject line gets 541% more clicks than one that’s clever. That’s right. Just by ensuring that the recipient clearly understands the contents of the email, you can get more than 5 times the number of prospective customers to open it. Think about how this would translate into business results for your company.

The reason for this huge increase in open rates? People don’t want to try to figure out what you’re talking about. You simply cannot leave room for ambiguity. Remember, the goal is to tell, not sell.

The following are some examples of clever and clear email subject lines:


  • It’s finally here!
  • Great gifts for your site
  • ABC Associates’ Always Awesome Amber Adams


  • 10 new fonts for your marketing campaigns
  • 15% of social media reviews will be fake by 2014 [Gartner Study]
  • 3 ideas to improve email results from a panel of experts

Clear subject lines give email recipients a good idea about what the message contains.

2. Words to Always Omit

The only thing that’s worse than having your message sent to the “Trash” folder by a recipient is to not even have it make the inbox. There are a handful of words that will send your email directly into a SPAM folder. These words include:

  • Percent off
  • Reminder
  • Help
  • Buy
  • Clearance
  • Earn $
  • Make $
  • Earn
  • From home
  • Biz
  • Cash
  • Claim
  • Collect
  • Income
  • Get out of
  • Increase your
  • Prescriptions
  • Free
  • Millions
  • Urgent
  • Dear

3. Length Guidelines

While it’s important to make your subject line clear, it’s also helpful to keep them short. Aim for 50 characters or less. Making the subject line longer runs the risk of having the end get cut off, especially if a recipient is using a mobile device to check email.

4. Create a Sense of Urgency

Another effective technique for increasing your email open rates is to create a sense of urgency. You need to make the recipients feel they absolutely must open your email this very second. Entice them. Excite them. Thrill them.

Examples of this type of email subject line are as follows:

  • Buy One Shirt and We’ll Give You Two More – Today Only
  • Double Your Savings – If You Purchase by Midnight Tonight
  • 3 Tips for Doubling Your Holiday Sales – If You Start Now

5. Make It Personal

We are all battling information overload. One the fastest ways we filter out marketing messages is by discarding communications that feel generic and canned. Personalizing your subject line is an effective method for increasing your open rates, and it can be as simple as using the word “you.”

If you are distributing your email to a specific audience segment, organization, or group of buyers, try naming them in your subject line—something along the lines of, “Email Marketers – Learn How to Double Your Open Rates.”
This clearly confirms in the recipient’s mind (someone who is a self-identifying email marketer) that he or she is the right person for your email and is qualified to gain value from it.

The Bottom Line

One of the best rules of thumb to use when sending emails as part of a
digital marketing strategy is to put yourself in the shoes of your
recipients. Consider which types of subject lines would turn you away,
and avoid using them. Make it your goal to engage your recipients with
clear subject lines that communicate that the valuable information they
seek is a mere click away.

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