How to Write Subject Lines That Will Boost Your Open Rates


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Email was a vast improvement over snail mail, but this new communication tool has created its own form of communications clutter – and we’ve got the crowded inboxes to prove it. If you have dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of unread emails in your inbox, you know how important it is to stand out from the crowd in the information inundation age. And the easiest way to do that is by writing a subject line that will convince your recipient to open your email, so it doesn’t get trashed before your audience as a chance to read it.

In this post, we’ll give you some tips on writing email subject lines that will convince your current and prospective customers to open your emails – and some guidelines you can use to craft and personalize your own email subject lines so that you can boost your open rate, capture readership, and convert leads online.

Want to learn more about current media marketing trends? Check out our post on Twitter!

Remember, over 105 billion emails are sent every day, and a vast percentage are never opened. Stay out of the spam trap with these easy guidelines:

Be Concise

This one’s pretty straightforward, right? When you only have a second or two to capture attention before your readers click away, you want to be as brief and to-the-point as possible. Prospective and current clients will appreciate a minimalist approach, because it shows that you’re respectful of their time. Short, descriptive subject lines fare much better than cheesy, salesy lures. This is especially important with notification and transactional emails, when you want to make sure that your audience can process crucial points in your message rather than dismissing your email as a general appeal or mass promotion. The target audience for these emails are already aware of you and already willing to give you their business, which means that a salesly approach will be a waste of time and effort – not to mention precious subject-line space. Most of these emails contain updates or notifications connected with a user’s social media activity, order status, or purchase history, so a specific and concise approach is the best way to avoid confusion and ensure that users will open and read your updates.

Make ‘Em Laugh

Humor can be a great way to grab attention, and it also helps you establish a rapport with your audience, breaking through the dry anonymity of most direct marketing emails. If you already have a relationship with your target audience, a joke can help you sustain that connection and establish a sense of personality and goodwill with your readers. Jokes can also be incredibly memorable – people still retain vivid recollections of a Got Milk? Commercial that aired nearly twenty years ago – and a well-crafted joke can ensure that your email messaging is just as impactful.

Looking for more media marketing tips? Check out our post about channel strategy!

Go for Shock Value

This option comes with some caveats – after all, offending people can get you a lot of attention, but it might not be the kind of attention you want. Your marketing plan probably doesn’t have “flood of angry Facebook comments” or “nationwide boycott” as a signal objective – and in the age of viral media, a single poorly-chosen phrase can result in a massive backlash. However, if you are very confident in your sense of your audience’s tastes and perceptions, this gamble might pay off. You can also get a lot of mileage out of subject lines that are surprising or incongruous rather than crass or potentially insulting, so consider a surrealist touch.

Single-Word Subject Lines

Cher, Bono, Prince, Madonna – what do they have in common? Ultra-minimalist email subject lines can stand out simply because their format is so atypical, meaning that it will probably look radically different from the emails that surround it. This strategy works best with emails whose sender is already recognized by the reader, for example, emails to people who have already become customers or repeat customers. In order to make this work, you need to open your email with text that can serve as a kind of subheader in common email client displays – for example, in the preview text that appears in Gmail’s default display. This strategy also works much better if you can use a domain name and email account that’s the same as your brand name – for example,

Numbers and Lists

You’ve run across plenty of online quizzes, listicles, and slideshows, right? “Top 10 Game of Thrones Fan Theories.” “Five Foods You Thought Were Good for You.” “8 Celebrities Hollywood Won’t Hire Anymore.” Well, if you’ve ever spent an idle ten minutes scrolling through “Twelve Tips for a Bodacious Summer Bod,” you know it’s called “clickbait” for a reason: readers will take the bait and click through! If you want people to click through to your email content, you can use similar techniques to motivate the same response. Numbers and lists are extremely effective ways to cue interest – they’re easy for our brains to process and they create curiosity, in addition to promising a quick and engaging read – always a plus for a busy email target.

Looking for more marketing tips? Check out our post on social media trends!

Are you interested in learning more about email formats and other digital marketing strategies? Square 1 Group is a boutique web development team based in Los Angeles, California. Our design and digital marketing expertise makes us an ideal fit for real estate agencies looking to expand their business online. We provide all our clients with individualized support and maintenance, online marketing services, and content creation, and we are passionate about delivering premium quality at an affordable price.

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