Decoding Email Subject Lines That Get Results

Decoding Email Subject Lines That Get Results.

If you are wondering why your open rates seem low, or why they ebb and flow, or maybe even why they stay stagnant, well, that is largely due to your subject lines. We find that in most companies, email creation is a reactive thing – just need to get the email out the door mentality. Most companies tend to write subject lines on the spot – YIKES – without any real planning or thought. 

Here’s the thing – compelling subject lines give recipients a reason to check out the content. They are also the first micro-conversion needed to reach your goal – if we don’t get the open, we cannot get the click. That probably means they will not get your landing page. Every single element in your email marketing strategy matters, which is why subject lines need to be well thought out, panned, and tested often. 

We know from business to business subject line formulas change, but there are also some things that remain constant. So what are they?


1. Incorporate keyword research. 

One of the most important email subject line best practices is doing your keyword research or syncing up with your web team to get insights on keywords. If you want to get better open rates, you can’t afford to use any random phrases in your email subject line. 

When using keyword research for subject lines, it’s best to sort the keyword based on value. The higher valued keyword means it can potentially bring more traffic to your website at a lower competition.

Decoding Email Subject Lines That Get Results


2. Be MORE personal! 

Email personalization has grown from just saying the customer’s name in the email subject line (even though that is a really good one). With advancements in technology, we can marry up subject lines with segmentation. The result is a subject line that is dynamically populated for the segment. Cool, huh?

Decoding Email Subject Lines That Get Results

Looking for more ways to personalize your email? Check out our article: 5 Ways to Easily Personalize Your Emails where we focus on this topic!

3. Keep it short and simple. 

Long email subject lines communicate to your recipients that the email itself will not be short and simple, which is the reason why most people never seem to open their emails. If you can keep your subject line to 5 words, that is ideal. 

Sometimes we have to go longer, and maybe there is a reason for it but make sure that you front-load the key attention grabber towards the front of the subject line so that at a scan, the reader will see what is important.

4. Use emojis carefully. 

Emojis can be an advantage but not always, depending on how you use them. Emojis have been known to reduce open rates in an email – shocking, right? However, if done right, they can improve open rates. 

So, how do you go about using emojis in an email? It depends on your company’s overall message, company type, how you use the emoji, and the type of message you want to pass across at that particular moment. If your email’s content is talking about something fun, then you could use an emoji to enhance that message. I also find that really important announcements or action items are a good time to throw in a clock (time is ticking) or a megaphone.

5. Use numbers and stats important to your audience. 

What has been tested time and time again, and WON, is using numbers such as stats in your subject lines. People love stats because it enables them to understand your email’s content better. You should add numbers and stats in your subject lines to catch your reader’s attention when applicable. However, don’t lie with statistics. Doing this could cost you the trust between you and your recipients. You should add real numbers that provide relevant information for the recipient.

6. Deliver on your promise.

If your subject line promises something, please deliver. Period. Once a recipient dislikes your company for whatever reason, they’ll probably never request to get your products or services at all or if they are a customer, you will lose them. Instead, they’ll go to your competition to acquire the same services. Even worse they may tell people about it or leave a bad review. 

So, if you promised your customers some incentive in your subject line, the best thing you could do is deliver on the promise. Doing this creates a better relationship where the recipient trusts your company to deliver the next time they do business with you. And will likely open your emails going forward.

Struggling to compose the perfect email? Read: 5 Email Mistakes To Avoid In Your Marketing Campaign for some expert advice. 

7. For the open assist – add engaging preview text. 

While preview text is not part of your subject line, on mobile it goes hand-in hand which is why preview text really should be well thought through. Preview text provides your recipients with a peek at the content contained inside of the email which is important because it can be that assist needed to open.

Feature a glimpse of what users will be getting in the preview. When you don’t set the preview text, the email service provider automatically pulls a preview text from your email, which can sometimes be messy (and confusing). However, you could use this opportunity to create an engaging preview text that pulls your audience’s attention, prompting them to open the email.

Take a look at this example from! We’re getting a perfect glimpse into an email. It’s engaging, straight to the point, and offers a compelling promise. Chances are, I’m opening this one. 


Doing email subject line tests will help you get a better idea of which subject lines work best for which audience. Using this strategy will help you develop different subject lines to cover different types of email sends (i.e. promotional vs educational). Maybe scarcity formulas, FOMO, or maybe urgency work best at certain times for certain instances. 

Testing out subject lines is key in bringing your opens to the next level, as well as letting you know what actually works, when. If you want to learn more about testing and statistical significance, you can check out this article where I go more in depth into this all-important topic. 

Decoding Email Subject Lines That Get Results

If you remember anything, remember this – Your email subject line should be short, concise, personal, and most of all, it should not over-promise or mislead your customers. It should hook your reader, pick their interest, and give them a reason to explore your message further. And remember, you won’t ever actually know what works until you test.

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