email marketing subject lineWe have a love/hate relationship with our email inbox. A friend once told me that he dreaded taking vacations because of the amount of email that would pile up while he was away. And don’t get me started on the practice of checking in to the office while on vacation.

Employees send about 37 work related emails per day, but receive 78, according to a report by the Radicati Group. Even if you spend only a minute per email, that’s still nearly two hours of every workday spent on email correspondence.

Yet, email marketing remains one of the most productive means of generating leads and selling products online. The goal for email marketers is for our message to stand out from all the other email that flood our customers’ inboxes.

To break through this noise, you must develop a compelling email subject line that inspires your audience to click on and read your email. Here are a few guidelines to ensure your subject lines entice your readers to click.

Address Your Readers’ Concerns

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and write your subject lines to address their needs. What is interesting about your product and service from their perspective? The key to generating clickthroughs is answering questions that your prospects care about.


Consider including your readers’ first name in your email subject line. Adding a name in the subject line significantly increases clickthrough rates.

Use Active Language

Use action words to inspire your readers to click. This requires more than simply checking a thesaurus. You want action verbs that inspire your audience to immediately click on your email by instilling urgency and excitement when reading your subject lines.

For example, in an email inviting people to a hockey legend dinner, the email subject line should read, “Dine with Blackhawks legend Patrick Kane on Saturday”, rather than a more generic (and less actionable) “Local Chicago sports Legend Meal”. The former email spells out a dinner that will happen on Saturday, and uses “Dine” to help readers envision themselves at a dinner table.

Be Explicit

Clearly spell out what the email contains. You want the reader to understand exactly what they will get when they open your email. For example, the subject line “[Free Collection] 101 Companies Rocking Social Media” tells my reader exactly what they will get by downloading our collection. Similarly, if you are running a special 20% off special, allude to that specific number in the first third of your subject line.

Be Clear

Clarity trumps persuasion when writing online copy. A clear, easily understandable subject line is vital for generating email clickthroughs. Occasionally, when marketers try too hard to be clever, they end up just confusing the reader. You want your emails to grab attention, but not at the expense of clearly conveying the email’s content.

Be Brief

Email subject lines will get cut off if they’re too long, particularly on mobile devices. We recommend using subject lines with fewer than 50 characters to make sure readers who scan their emails will read the entire subject line.

Be Consistent

Your email subject line is a promise to your reader about what you will deliver in your message. Make sure that you make good on that commitment. Do not promise a 50% off coupon in your subject line unless that coupon is prominently displayed in your email. Similarly, don’t advertise 50% off if that discount only applies to a small segment of your products. A “bait and switch” email engenders too much distrust to be worthwhile. If people think they have been cheated by your subject line, they will stop opening your emails, which leads to lower open, clickthrough, and conversion rates, as well as higher unsubscribes. No good.

Avoid SPAM Triggers

Email spammers rely heavily on certain words to boost their open rates. Because of these dark hat practices, email providers employ special spam filters to keep out any emails containing certain words. Email marketers should be careful about using words like “Cash,” “Quote,” and “Save” to make sure a spam trap doesn’t inadvertently catch them.

Consumers remain committed to their email inbox and prefer email marketing over any other channel. For companies that use email marketing, their email list is their most engaged audience, since these are the people who have opted in to your sales or lead generation lists and agreed to let you market to them. Make the most of this relationship, beginning with your email subject line.