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6 Easy Subject Line Hacks to Boost Your Email Open Rates Right Now

6 Easy Subject Line Hacks to Boost Your Email Open Rates Right Now Blog Feature

Ramona Sukhraj

Associate Director of Content, Strategized Initiatives That Increased IMPACT’s Website Traffic From ~45K to ~400K

April 27th, 2015 min read

shutterstock_137982932-compressorHave you ever seen the show Shark Tank?

Aspiring entrepreneurs and inventors only have minutes to convince three tycoons to invest in their brand. If one takes the bait, the business gets funded, but if not, the owners are shunned and banned from the premises forever! -- Ok no, but they do walk away empty-handed and pretty bummed.

Email subject lines are a lot like these pitch meetings; you only have a short amount of time to convince someone to “invest” in your email with their click, and if you don’t use the right bait, you risk being shunned (a.k.a. deleted, or worse, marked as spam.)

Research by Convince & Convert shows that 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. To help avoid the spam folder and get your sharks to take the bait and open your messages, here are six easy subject line hacks that your team can implement right now.

1.Skip the Formality

In the sea of email spam, messages from friends or loved ones always seem to rise to the surface and catch your eye. They’re friendly, inviting, and almost always, informal.

One big mistake that many email marketers make when writing their subject lines is being frustratingly formal. Whether its through their greeting or ‘Capitalizing The First Letter of Every Word’ as if it were a title, this formality can come off as cold and robotic to the recipient and can be a one-way ticket straight to their trash can. (What a waste of your air miles.)

Even if your company is B2B, at the end of the day, you’re working with a human being and they want to know that they are working with one as well.

They want to know that they are not just another number on your list of customers or clients and being overly formal can only encourage this impression.

What Can You Do? Keeping your subject line casual, friendly, and helpful will help humanize your brand and make your recipient want to open your email. To better illustrate this idea, take a look at these two examples:

Version A: “Everything You Missed This Week From Our Blog”

Version B: “You missed so much this week!”

While Version A is clear about the value inside, its formal tone, use of capitalization, and overt mention of the company’s blog comes off as impersonal, self-promotional, and may even seem auto-generated.

Version B, on the other hand, reads casually, as if it’s coming from a good friend. Instead of just trying to promote the blog flatout, it grabs your attention by sounding like a caring conversation, in turn urging your reader to click open.  

2. Be One-on-One

Like your subject line, your sender can drastically affect the way your email is perceived by its reader. People don’t want to receive emails from groups of nameless strangers, they want to communicate with one person by name and be able to reach out to that person if they have any questions or comments.

What Can You Do? Instead of sending your email from your company as a whole, send it from an individual member of your team and then make your subject lines reflect this.

Try making “I” or “me” statements over “we” or “our. For example, rather than making your subject line, “Our team can’t wait to work with you”, say “I can’t wait to work with you!” or expanding our earlier example, “You missed so much this week! Let me catch you up.”

3. Personalize it

Human beings are wired to react to their name. Capitalize on this neurological phenomena by personalizing your subject line with your recipient’s first name, like in these examples from my inbox:


What Can You Do? Personalizing your subject line with your recipient’s first name gives the impression that you are speaking directly to them, if not, only to them. It immediately catches their attention and according to Aberdeen, it improves click-through rates by 14%, so give it a try in an A/B test.

You can also consider personalizing your subject line using information such as their location, job title, or even birthday.

4. Keep it Short

Nobody likes a rambler -- especially one that carries on before the conversation has even begun. Think of your subject line as the precursor to the conversation that will be taking place within your email.

With today’s short attention spans, you want to say everything you need to in a subject line of 50 characters or less to maximize open rates. In fact, according to MailerMailer, emails with only 28-39 characters in their subject line tend to have the highest click rates, so keep it concise.

Not only do longer subject lines risk losing your reader’s attention, they also risk getting cut off, which can easily deter impatient or new contacts.

It’s also important to keep in mind that 40% of emails are opened on a mobile device first and the average mobile screen can only display the first 4-7 words of a subject line.

By extending your subject line beyond this limit, you are more likely to alienate and lose out on opens from your mobile browsing audience.

5. Remove “Red Flag” Words

Certain high friction or as I like to call them, “Red Flag” words, can scare off people by implying work, obligation, or loss. They include, but are not limited to words like:

  • Buy
  • Order
  • Sale
  • Save
  • Deal
  • Free

While these may not seem like bad things, they are dramatically overused by marketers and unfortunately scam artists alike.

By removing them and finding more creative, unexpected ways to convey value and pique interest, you will not only avoid the spam filter, but capture your reader’s interest by standing out from the crowd.

6. Create Curiosity

Frequently, the end-all, be-all of email subject line success is creating interest and curiosity.

In order to capitalize on the psychological benefits of fulfilling curiosity you need to achieve the delicate balance of offering just enough information to catch people’s interest, but withholding enough so they are driven to open the email and find out the punch line. (Easier said than done, I know.)

What Can You Do? Try optimizing your subject line copy for curiosity by asking a question, playing devil’s advocate on a trending topic, or using words like:

  • Exclusive
  • Limited-Time Only
  • Secrets
  • Rare
  • Unusual

These methods cause introspection and raise questions about the unknown, and the only way to find answers is by opening the email. If you can achieve this, half of your email marketing battle has been won.

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