The subject line is one of the most significant ingredients of a successful email marketing message. It determines whether the email gets opened or is destined for the reject bin. The email marketing subject line also directs recipients’ attention to specific content when they do open the email.

Here are best practices for email marketing subject lines.

Know Your Goal.

Each and every email that you send has a specific goal. Know what that is and make sure your subject line reflects it by directing the recipient to pay attention to whatever you want to highlight. By that I mean if your goal is to get a reader to click though to a blog post then make it the sole purpose, likewise if the objective is to get the reader to click a link then that is the goal. Don’t confuse the subscriber one goal per email.

Keep subject lines short

Yes, once again size does matter. Research conducted by Mail Chimp in over 200 million emails suggests that the subject line needs to be less than 50 characters that include spaces. That is not much so make sure you put the most important words first – as they are the most visible. Long email subject lines will be cut off and you will lose the impact of the message.

Tell the truth

“You have just won $5000” – Have I really? I don’t think so!

When subscribers think that they have been tricked into opening an email they may dislike it, classify you as spam and head for the unsubscribe link. Make sure your email marketing subject line reflects what is in the body of the email.

Who are you again?

Although this is not technically the subject line it does relate to the subject line and getting your email opened. When you receive an email the first thing you do is look at the subject line, if the subject line grabs your attention then you look across to see who it is from. The recipient will be looking at the “from” field to see if it is from a trusted source.

Keep your “from” field consistent –don’t change it for every email. Let the recipient get used to emails from you and more importantly classifying you as a trustworthy source through great content.

Don’t be boring

The subscribers of your email marketing campaign maybe C-Level executives, business owners or stay at home moms, but everyone needs a bit of humour now and again. When you get hundreds of emails a day it helps break up the monotony and might even bring a smile to the face of your recipient.

Use humour where appropriate and don’t overuse it as the subscriber may than see you as a bit of a joker.

Be Compelling

Email subject lines should convey something important, timely or beneficial. The email subject should make the subscriber feel like they will miss out if they don’t open the email right now.

Go Big or Go in the Bin

Your email is competing with hundreds of others. It MUST intrigue the reader to open it. Think about headlines in magazines or advertisements. They are designed to get you to buy and open the magazines. One of the top direct copywriters, Frank Kern said that he studied back issues of Cosmopolitan to get ideas for email marketing subject lines and content titles. What is stopping you doing the same?

Avoid the bin

Most email providers have automatic filters in progress that scan through emails that are sent for particular words. If these words are found then your email can be sent straight to the spam folder and not to the inbox.

Some words that can attract unwanted attention are; Free, Buy, remove, Win, or subject lines that consist of all capitals.

Another tactic that you can implement that will help get your emails opened and is an effective email marketing tip is to ask your recipient to add you to their safe list.


The subject line is one of the most important factors on getting your email opened and read so you need to take the time to test which subject lines get the best response.

Most email marketing software comes with analytics that allows you to conduct split testing. This is where you send 2 or more emails with slightly different headlines to a percentage of your email marketing list. Measure how many of each get opened and the one which got opened the most you can then use as your primary subject line.

Although the email marketing subject line is a mere 50 characters long it can make a huge difference in the success or failure of your campaign. Take your time to construct compelling copy that gets read, try it out on your friends and family or ask your social media community which they think is better. As your ability to create email marketing subject lines that scream to opened increases, so will the likelihood of you hitting your email goals, winning and growing your business.