Create Killer Subject Lines for More Opened Emails

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / PaulPaladin

If you’ve turned to email marketing and list building for your business, you might dread seeing the open rates. While it’s hard to understand why every customer doesn’t immediately open the email from you – especially when it contains such beneficial information – sometimes it’s not you, it’s them.

For most people there are simply too many emails to get to in the course of the day. That’s why the subject line is incredibly important. Most people base their decision to open an email on two things: the name of the sender and the subject line.

What an Email Recipient First Sees

Since most people decide to click or not to clock based on the sender name and the subject line, here are a few things you should keep in mind:

Provide worthwhile content. If you develop a reputation (in the opener’s mind) of sending junk, he or she will stop opening your emails. If you’re lucky (in this case) s/he’ll throw your email in the trash. If you aren’t, you’ll be reported as spam, making future chances of delivery difficult.

Use subject lines that induce action. It’s essential for your emails to have a strong subject line and interior call-to-action (which won’t be seen unless it’s opened, thus the importance of a strong subject line). The copy merely supports these two things so the bulk of your time should be spent developing these pieces.

Avoid certain words. Your audience can’t open an email it never sees. If you use certain common spam words, you’ll be thrown right into the spam folder never to be heard from again.

Who it’s from matters. People are more apt to open emails from humans instead of noreply@company. If you don’t want one member of your staff inundated with responses or inquiries, either create a fun, friendly mailbox name like fixmyproblem@company or use the staff member’s name and set up rules to assign emails to folders.

How to Craft a Strong Subject Line

There are a number of ways to catch someone’s eye. Some are more straightforward than others and the success of any of them largely depends on your audience’s preferences. The best way to figure out what works is to test it with your audience. In the meantime, start working on ways to improve your subject lines:  

Be Blunt

Cutesy and funny don’t work with every audience. Sometimes what they want is a clear description of what they’ll find inside the email like this suggestion below:

Re: April Newsletter: diabetes symptoms and new testing  

Use Familiarity

Using a friendly approach, and casual words, gets opens as does establishing a relationship in the email. However, trickery only works once or twice. Don’t make misleading people part of your everyday communications.

Re: Best news you’ll get all day

Personalize It

Names have been used in personalizing things since mail merges in the 90s but now many email services allow you to personalize on a much more detailed scale, like inserting a recent purchase.

Tim, how’s the new Lexus?

When you send an email you’re competing with a lot of others for attention. If you don’t have a concise, yet strong, subject line or if you don’t have a good reputation in the mind of the recipient, your email will be tossed in the trash. Take the time and craft an effective, interesting message that stands out and you’ll see your email open rate improve.

Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and Event Manager Blog.

She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.