14 Email Subject Line Best Practices for your Small Business


14 Email Subject Line Best Practices



The pace of innovation and the number of resources available to marketers today is nothing short of incredible. An astounding 1,876 companies across 43 different marketing categories, including SEO, social, video marketing, sales enablement and mobile analytics.

However, one category continues to perform well year after year: email marketing. The reason is clear: For ten years in a row, email generates the highest ROI for marketers. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI and gives marketers the broadest reach of all the channels available to them. Despite the plethora of tools available to marketers, email marketing is simply the best bet for business growth.

A successful email marketing campaign needs an eye-catching, succinct and relevant subject line to grab the attention of recipients and encourage them to open the email to learn more. Professional email subject lines are often descriptive and personal, rather than generic and lackluster, which do little in compelling subscribers to open the email.

Ensure your email marketing campaigns get off to an astounding start in 2019 by implimenting the following 14 email subject line best practices.

Make It Personalized

Rather than using generic terms such as “customer” or “client” in a subject line, opt for a more personalized approach that states the name of the recipient.

As MailChimp advises, personalize subject lines with each recipient’s name or location. Personalization is particularly effective when used in conjunction with targeted emails, such as birthdays deals and is proven to increase open rates.

A personalized suject line will also help you increase conversions.

Most marketers are laser focused on driving conversions. Regardless of whether they do so in the form of leads, sales, memberships, or a metric unique to your business strategy, the ultimate goal for marketers is to turn potential customers into paying customers.

And when it comes to conversions, there isn’t a more powerful channel than email.

In fact, the average click-through rate of an email campaign is around 3% (of total recipients), whereas the average click-through rate from a tweet is around 0.5%.

This means you are 6x more likely to get someone to click through to your website via email than you are from Twitter. As discussed earlier, your email subscribers have told you they want to hear from you and this isn’t typically the case with social.

4.24% of visitors from email marketing buy something as compared to 2.49% of visitors from search engines and 0.59% from social media, according to a survey conducted by Monetate.

What’s more, email is highly measurable. Campaign Monitor customers have real-time access to metrics like opens, clicks, bounces, forwards, social shares, and more.

Campaign Monitor - Email Marketing Metrics

Additionally, those who integrate their email marketing into a CRM like Salesforce can see firsthand how their email marketing impacts business opportunities and deals.

As a marketer focused on nurturing leads and driving conversions—as most marketers are—email marketing trumps all other communication channels for business.

Include Social Media Handles in the Subject Line

Another effective way to personalize professional email subject lines is to include the recipient’s social media handle, which helps the email stand out from the hordes of other emails that land in subscribers’ inboxes every day.

Twitter regularly sends emails with the recipient’s Twitter handle in the subject line, recognizing the positive affect it has on open rates.


Be Descriptive Rather than Boring and Bland

Another email subject line best practice is to be descriptive and interesting rather than bland and boring. Lines like “Sizzling summer deals you can’t miss out on”, would be more persuasive and striking than the likes of “Best deals for the summer”.

Many consumers subscribe to brand’s email lists in order to stay ahead of new promotions, products and services offered by the company. However, sometimes it can get overwelming. The best way to avoid that is to ensure your subject line in eye-catching and promotes an interest in 3 seconds or less. Your subject line may be the only that will convince your subscriber to open the email.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Make your subject lines too lengthy and they won’t have the same punchy impact as shorter, more concise professional email subject lines. That said, avoid making the subject line too vague and short. A general rule of thumb is to make a subject line between 30 – 50 characters.

Avoid Misleading Recipients

You want your recipients to be engaged with the email subject line, so they feel compelled to open the email. However, you don’t want to deliberately mislead subscribers, as using false promises can lead to recipients unsubscribing from your list. Or, worse still, making a complaint.

Use Localization

Like personalization, localization tailors an email so its relevant to a subscriber’s location. As Add This notes: “One way to improve your email open rates and target a specific audience is with localization.”

Test the Best Keywords for Subject Line

One of the most effective email subject line practices is to test keywords and phrases to see which garner the most response from your audience.



Create a Sense of Urgency

Email subject lines are most effective when they create a sense of urgency. For example, “Don’t Miss Out on Our Christmas Promotion,” compels a customer to open an email during the seasonal period before it’s too late.

Create a Sense of Curiosity

As well as creating a sense of urgency, create a sense of curiosity that will coerce your recipients into wanting to learn more about the content of the email. That said, avoid making the subject line too ambiguous that is barely complies with your brand and products or services.

As Hub Spot warns: “Make sure the subject line, while enigmatic, still aligns with your brand. Too obscure, and it could end up being seen as spam.”

Ditch the Spam Words

Certain words that are considered spammy can decrease open rates and should be avoided at all costs. For example, email subject lines that start with “Introducing,” “Investment” or “Junk”, can be seen as spammy and discourage a recipient to open the email.



Write Subject Lines in Title Case

YesWare analyzed 115 million email subject lines and found that those in title case, where the first letter of every word is capitalized, were the most effective in increase open rates and replies.

Make Email Subject Lines Relevant and Timely

Another email subject line best practice is to ensure the subject lines are timely and relevant. For example, if your business is involved in a high-profile event or campaign, inform recipients about your involvement in this relevant and timely event in the subject line of the email.

Use Emotional Words

CoSchedule advises using three or more emotional words in a subject line to help improve open rates. Emotional words are words that act as triggers to get recipients to open an email to learn more about its content and to take action on the email. Words such as “brand new” and “breaking”, can be considered emotional words that help convince subscribers into opening an email.

Use Emojis Sparingly

Emojis can add color, vibrancy and pizazz into subject lines. According to Experian, 56% of brands that use emojis in subject lines see an increase in open rates.


However, while adding the likes of smiley faces, thumbs up and other relevant emojis to subject lines can prove an effective way to increase brand awareness and encourage subscribers to open an email, going overboard with emojis can be seen as spammy, immature and unprofessional.

Why Should You Care About Email Marketing?

Remember MySpace? What?

The once-hot site was the largest social networking site in the world between 2005 and 2008, and in June 2006 surpassed Google as the most visited website in the United States. Yet where is MySpace now? All those users eventually moved on to other social networks, and the site is now the 1,500th most popular website in the United States.

Imagine investing significant amounts of time and money to build an audience on a platform only to find it a ghost town just a year or two later. The impact on your ability to reach and engage potential customers would be catastrophic.

On the other hand, email has a long history of stability. The first promotional email campaign was sent in 1978 to a total of 400 people and email has been growing consistently since.

Interestingly, the email space itself has evolved from a time where you needed a developer to build an email to today, where tools like Campaign Monitor empower the modern marketer to create and send beautiful branded emails with ease. This shift has put the power of business email into the hands of more people.

Building your email list, unlike building a social media following, is a stable long-term investment that will pay off for many years to come.

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