How to Write an Email Subject Line that Grabs the Attention

If you’re like most professionals, you probably write stacks of emails everyday but hardly think about the subject line. It’s an afterthought that you add just before you hit send. Yeah?

If so, you’re making a crucial error. The subject line often decides if an email is opened and how the recipient responds.

It’s no use writing a great marketing email if people don’t actually get as far as reading it before deleting it, but there’s limited space to attract their attention. Today we’re looking at some of the ways in which you can write compelling subject lines that make your audience want to click to read your email.

Make it personal

It’s harder to ignore emails that are addressed to you personally, even when you realise it’s just a marketing tactic!

We’d highly recommend putting the first name tag from Mailchimp – *|FNAME|* – into your subject headings every now and then. Don’t go overboard obviously, but personalising two-thirds of the emails you send is a solid strategy.

Use a number

For some reason people just love a subject line (or any kind of heading for that matter), that contains a number. Possibly because it just gives them some certainty regarding the benefit of what they are about to read.

“6 Tips”, “5 Essentials” “10 Things to Love About…” — whatever the exact reasons behind it, most people can’t help but find this type of subject line very appealing.

Use an emoji

When your marketing email is one of many competing for attention in someone’s inbox, making it stand out visually could make all the difference.

A well-chosen emoji not only adds an element of fun to your subject line, but it draws the eye to your email and makes it more likely that your email will get noticed.

Research suggests that using an emoji in your subject line can increase email open rates in the UK by 5%.

Ask a question

You can mix your ‘number’ subject lines up with another type of winning heading: the question.

For example: “Abby, does your dog jump up on people?”

Asking a question gives people pause for thought and is another proven way to get them to open the email.

Use “exciting” phrases

People are more likely to read emails that sound like they are going to be exciting. How do you make an email sound exciting? You use interesting & exciting words and phrases.

Some to try are:

  • “high octane”
  • “cutting edge”
  • “essential secrets”
  • “powerful tips”
  • “a simple trick” — this one isn’t particularly punchy, but it’s nonetheless effective

Put these simple phrases into your subject line and you get something that’s hard to resist:

  • ‘8 high octane strategies for doubling your eBay sales’
  • ‘4 cutting edge secrets to attracting a partner’
  • ‘Essential strategies for winning back your Ex’
  • ‘Eight powerful tips to double your German vocabulary’

The good news is you don’t even need to come up with all these high voltage words yourself. There’s an excellent thesaurus-style book called “Words that Sell”, which is a very handy companion guide for all copywriting, especially catchy subject lines.

The time factor

Everyone worries about not having enough time and this is a great concept to play on in your email subject line.

These are subject lines that appeal because they either help to give people more time: “Double your conversion rates in just 2 hours”; or make people worry that they are running out of time: “Only 11 hours left to get the ultimate dog package”; both are very successful.

Limited quantity

We’ve all received emails that we’ve mentally filed away under “I’ll deal with that later” – and then never got round to it before the email has slipped onto the next page, out of sight and out of mind.

Another way to encourage people to open your email is therefore to instil a sense of urgency into your subject line, so that they want to open your email there and then.

Signing off

Finally, as a reminder: you should never do any of these things in your subject line:

Use spammy words like “FREE” or “OPEN THIS NOW”. If you manage to make it past a spam filter (and that’s a big if), you will be perceived as sending junk content.

Write in all capital letters. Using A FEW words here and there in capital letters can be effective for emphasis. But you should NEVER write the entire subject line in ALL CAPS.

Over-sell in the subject line. The objective of a subject line is to have them open your email, NOT make the sale. The subject line is a hook – it grabs a reader’s attention just enough for them to open the email. Do your selling inside the email.

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Aimee Hughes

Aimee Hughes

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