The Best Email Subject Lines

The Best Email Subject Lines

inbound-for-email-marketing As I scan my email inbox, I definitely prioritize what gets opened first, and what can wait until later. Those emails from people or companies I don’t recognize or am not expecting correspondence from definitely get ignored. That is a pretty steady rule for myself and probably for most busy consumers, but I do pause when scanning recipients and subject lines if there is one that is compelling, clever or otherwise captures my interest. Basically, the best email subject lines are the ones that are going to cause me to open an email I might otherwise ignore.

Your email subject line is arguably the most important part of your entire email. After your message has weaved its way past spam filters, the only thing standing in the way of delivering your awesome message to your prospect are the first words your recipient reads.

Here are some best practices for writing email subject lines that will increase your open rates.

B2B Email Marketing Best Practices Personalize Your Subject Line

Try adding the first or last name of your recipient. When people see that the sender knows their name, they may be thinking that they should be receiving the communication for some reason. Personalization just makes the whole experience better for the recipient.

Keep it Short

Not only will your subject get cut off after about 60 or 70 characters, people will also not read that much content. Select only the words that are most important to include. Note that if your audience is highly targeted, you might be able to get away with slightly longer subject lines. For the most part, though, keep them short and sweet.

Value State Your Value Proposition

If you are doing email marketing, you’re probably selling something or in some way asking someone to do something. Assuming that you have some sort of benefit for your prospect already, make sure it is stated in the subject line.

Our basic human instinct is to maximize pleasure and avoid pain. If people can see in the subject line what they might gain by opening the email, they are more likely to do so.

What Not to Include in Your Subject Line

It’s difficult to know exactly what will cause your target market to respond favorably, but there are certainly words that can cause a negative response from people (and spam filters). HubSpot has a pretty comprehensive list of terms that might trigger a recipient’s spam filters.

In general, avoid using words like:

  • Guaranteed
  • Free
  • No Gimmick
  • Final Offer
  • No Obligation
  • Amazing Opportunity
  • Make Money
  • Limited Time Only
  • Important Open Immediately

It doesn’t help legitimate retailers of some of these related products and services that they are some of the most heavily spammed categories in online marketing. Although you should think carefully about what words to use so your recipients will open your message, you may not have to worry about it much more from spam filters. Research in the area of spam detection for email suggests that using methods to detect both text and image-based content when looking for spam messages is far more effective than looking for either on its own.

The best email subject lines for marketing are the ones that give recipients the truth about what is contained in the email message. State your value proposition clearly, and be genuine, clever and creative. Also, watch your open rates and other metrics closely. Adjust accordingly until you reach your goals.


Which email subject lines have you found success with? Join in the conversation by commenting below.


Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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