Email, Marketing, Marketing Classes

How to master the art of email subject lines

Find out the proven formula for increasing your click-through rates in this class on mastering subject lines with special guest Kate Emiley.

What’s the difference between a well-written email that gets opened and read, and one that gets trashed without a moment’s deliberation? The answer lies in the subject line–a carefully constructed, skillful subject line will tingle the reader’s curiosity; a throwaway, boring one will land you straight in the trash.

We invited special guest Kate Emiley to train us in mastering the art of email subject lines. In this class, she shared her proven formula for increasing open rates, along with best practices for subject lines and preview text, plus 10 tips for more clicks on your emails.

35% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line, which is a huge number. Whether they know who you are, whether they’re expecting your email, or not, it’s often the subject line that is going to determine whether they click open on your email, or just leave it in their inbox to collect dust and never be read.

Subject lines are like a headline for an article–they’re your one chance to hook your subscriber to get them to open your email.

Best practices for subject lines

Here are some tips to keep in mind whilst writing subject lines.

  • Have a few options. That way you can shortlist the best one. Try writing down about 5 to 10, and make sure that there’s something in each subject line that will capture the reader’s attention in a busy inbox.
  • Keep them short. The perfect length is six words, but the maximum is 60 characters, so make sure that you’re using ‘power words’.
  • Use power words. These work well to create emotion within the reader. Here are a few of Kate’s favorite power words/phrases.
  • Create FOMO. Creating FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), or a sense of urgency, in the reader with your subject lines will increase the chances that they will read the rest of the email.
  • Think of your subject line as a hook, as opposed to a summary. Businesses tend to use their subject lines as a summary of what’s included in an email. Unfortunately, this is not going to get the attention that it deserves.

Master the art of email marketing with our tools and tips.

Now that you’ve got the basics of writing a subject line, you might be wondering how you can maximize clicks on your subject lines. Here are 10 tips for more clicks.

10 tips for more clicks

1. Add emojis (that are relevant) to cut through

56% of brands using an emoji in their subject lines had a higher open rate, which is huge. An emoji may be the perfect trigger to help boost your open rates. Use emojis that are relevant to your niche, product, or business. Here are some examples.

2. Use negative words like no, stop, avoid, without

Most subject lines don’t include negative words; they focus majorly on positive words. However, negative words are going to stand out more in a crowded inbox. Here are some examples.

3. Add numbers to indicate value (5 tips to do XYZ)

When you have a number in your subject line, it shows your subscriber that your email is full of value. People tend to prefer listicles and other numbered content. Adhering to this tip determines the way that your email newsletter will be written as well. Check out these examples.

4. Ask questions or use quotes to draw your subscriber in

Adding punctuation, whether it be quotation marks, question marks, or even exclamation marks, is a good way to get subscribers to engage with your email. But remember to only include one exclamation mark, because otherwise, you can trigger the spam filter.

The best part about this tip is that you’re drawing in your ideal client by asking a question that they might have asked themselves many times before.

Here are some examples.

5. Personalize with first name or calling out a group in your list

When you’re collecting email addresses, you should be collecting the first name of your subscribers. Last names don’t matter, and people may feel like it’s an invasion of privacy, leading to them being less likely to join your list. This means you can add that personalization to your subject line.

When someone has your name in their subject line, you are much more drawn to those emails in your inbox, because not many of them have it. Here are some examples.

You could also single out a specific group in your list, as the last example does with “all manifesting generators”. This allows you to specifically target your emails to any group, be it homeowners or dog lovers, professionals, or singles.

The best part about this tip is you can then segment your list based on who opened a particular email, which means you can send more relevant content in the future.

6. Random or bizarre words to build curiosity

This can be something that makes readers think “what is this going to be about?” which will lead them to think they need to open your email and find out.

7. Keep things simple

You can have your subject line be just a word or two long, or maybe you could add some emojis.

The last example, “Sunday”, is for breakfast and coffee. So if you’re running a restaurant or a cafe, this type of subject line might be a great one for you. By keeping it simple, you’re making it really short, and if you add an emoji, it’s going to have a cut-through effect again. So you’re doubling up and creating intrigue.

8. Leverage “shock factor” to build intrigue

With this, you’re making it seem like something dramatic is happening in your business, whether it be that you’re closing, or you have a controversial opinion about something, or that the readers are going to miss out on something.

9. Use a case study to prove your product/service

You can use testimonials from your ideal clients, or from customers who have bought your products or visited your store, in your subject line. These types of subject lines see a high open rate, especially if you use something that is relevant, like a real statistic or real result that one of your clients have seen.

10. Make a promise of an outcome

Your subscribers have joined your list because they want to see some sort of transformation, so offer some sort of solution to a problem. Even if you’re a restaurant or a cafe, customers are trying to solve the problem of being hungry. So you should promise an outcome.

Subject line formula

This is Kate’s secret formula to creating the perfect subject line.

number or power words + adjective + keyword + promise

Here are some examples that show the subject line formula in action.

If you’re wanting to level up your email newsletters, this is a great place to start. If you start crafting newsletter subject lines that are created using this formula, you will start to see higher open rates straightaway.

Preview text

The preview text is a supporting piece of text to your subject line. It is 40 to 130 characters long. It shares additional information and can increase your open rate. Keep in mind that it’s not just a summary, and it doesn’t mean you can just copy and paste what your subject line was. 

Best practices for preview text

Here are some things to keep in mind whilst writing your preview text.

  • Include a call to action (read, click, open, view)
  • Don’t repeat the subject line; instead add details or build curiosity
  • Follow on from the subject line in an effortless way
  • Don’t just summarize what’s in the email

Here are some examples of what good preview text should look like.

If you’d like to hear more from Kate, you can snag her tips on Instagram, or watch her training videos on YouTube. For bonus content, Kate has shared a special download for one year of binge-worthy email newsletter ideas.

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