How to Increase Email Open Rates by Using Catchy Subject Lines -- 20 Tips

This content provides tips for crafting effective email subject lines, including using certain words, personalization, and timing.

By Dana Kilroy ・2 min read
Email Marketing
ShortStack Tips & Tricks
Social Media

Whether or not people ultimately open your emails, they will see your subject lines. It's what they see there that may determine whether or not they click "open. "In fact, 33 percent of people decide whether to open an email based on the subject line alone.That's why before hitting "send" on a marketing email, you must take a moment to craft subject lines that catch people's attention. Anyone who receives your email should be able to read your subject line and believe that by opening it they're going to get something out of it. Here are 20 things to think about, and try, the next time you're crafting email subject lines:

  1. The top-performing word used in email subject lines is "Thank you."
  2. Subject lines with multiple topics separated by pipes have the second highest open rate. For example: Thank you for entering |10% off Site-wide.
  3. Email autoresponders with subject lines that confirm entry to a contest or giveaway have a 46.9%** open rate.
  4. Subject lines with three words have a 25% higher open rate than seven-word subject lines. Since 40 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices, make sure people can read the entire line from their phone or tablet.
  5. A/B test the sender. You can test open rates that compare what happens when the sender is your company name vs. the name of someone at your company. For example, "James Belosic" vs. "ShortStack."
  6. Personalize the subject line. If you're sending a birthday or other holiday-related offer, using the recipient's name in the subject line is attention grabbing. For example, "Happy Birthday, Jenny! We have a gift for you."
  7. Send at the right time. According to SendGrid, Tuesday at 4 p.m. is the best time to send email, but as soon as everyone gets wind of that, the best time will change so to figure out the best times for your lists, you have to test.
  8. Use action words.
  9. If you're promoting a new product or service, use NEW as the first word of your subject line. For example: "NEW: Our most requested feature is live!"
  10. Make the message feel exclusive.
  11. Add a sense of urgency using words like "soon," and "tomorrow" which have 25% higher open rates than "now" or "today."
  12. If you're offering a discount on your product "10% off" in your subject line is more likely to increase open rates than "50% off" is (go figure!).
  13. Ask a question.
  14. Include a call to action.
  15. Never use all caps (and try to avoid exclamation points!).
  16. Avoid special characters.
  17. If you're targeting by location, use location in the subject line.
  18. Always A/B test subject lines.
  19. Avoid words like "Journal," "Whitepaper" "Forecast" and "Training," because subject lines with these words tend to have low open rates. Other poor performers include "Subscription," "Early bird," "Industry" and "Report."
  20. Avoid using links and hashtags in your subject lines; open rates with either of these drop to 10.5%.

And we'll conclude with a reminder: Never bait and switch. The content of your email should deliver what you promise in the subject line. If it doesn't, get ready to see your unsubscribe rate skyrocket. Ready to put these tips to the test in your next contest or giveaway? You can even use ShortStack's new email autoresponders to connect with everyone who enters.

Sources: Adestra, SendGrid, HubSpot. ** Based on ShortStack's original research.

About the author

By Dana Kilroy ・2 min read

Dana Sullivan Kilroy is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience delivering compelling content. Her work has appeared in national, award-winning publications and sites, including: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Fast Company, Inc.

Get marketing tips straight to your inbox

Thank you!
Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We’ll email you 1-3 times per week—and never share your info.