Last Updated: Feb 8, 2018
A good email subject line is the key to getting your prospect’s attention and getting your email opened. The more subscribers that open your emails, the more exposure you’ll get for your products, services, or website. Here are four things that you should keep in mind to write email subject lines that get your messages opened and read.

Are you happy with the results of your recent email campaigns? Are they getting opened and acted on? If  you are sending to a list of people who have asked to be on your mailing list and you’re not getting good results when you send out mailings, the culprit could be your email subject line.

The subject line of an email has the same function as a headline on an ad: Its purpose is to entice the viewer to read more. With a print headline, the headline merely has to encourage the reader to glance a little further down the page they are already reading. In email, however, the subject line has to work harder. It has to be powerful enough to get the recipient to take the decisive action of clicking on the email so they can preview it or read it in full.

What kind of email subject lines will get your readers to click? Here are several guidelines to make your headlines more commanding:

Although there are a lot of variables, the most important one is that the subject line needs to appeal primarily to the recipient’s self-interest, not yours. In other words, the subject line should focus on the reader and a goal he or she wants to achieve. 

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For instance, suppose you are a web hosting company and you have an opt-in mailing list of web developers. You’ve started a new program where you’ll pay a referral fee for new web hosting accounts and you want to make the developers on your mailing list aware of the new program. If you send out a mailing with a subject line that reads, “Partner with OurCompanyName and Succeed,” your open rate and response rate is likely to be low. The reason: Even though you include the word “succeed” at the end of the subject line, the focus of the subject line is what you want to happen — partner with you. 

Change the email subject line to, “Earn Top Commissions on Web Hosting Referrals,” and your open rate and response rate will increase because you’ll be focusing on what your readers want to do – make more money. (The text of the email would obviously need to back up that claim and include a call to action that would get readers to call you or fill out a web form to sign up for the program.)

RELATED: 6 Tips to Write Mobile Friendly Subject Lines

To get your email opened, your subject line has to make the recipients think “This is something I want to know more about now.” To accomplish that, the subject line has to hint at the contents of the email and do so in a way that piques the reader’s curiosity.

Bland subject lines, even if they have some relevancy to the reader, won’t cut it. There are just too many emails constantly vying for their attention. 

Yes, this is the monthly newsletter you promised to send, but using “MyCompany Monthly News – Issue 10” as your subject line offers no hint at what’s inside or why it’s worth reading. Instead, make your subject line read “Convert More Leads – Free Workshop,” or “Get more vacation for less money,” Or, “What’s killing your lawn?” Make your business name or your name – if that’s what people expect to see – show in the From line so the email is identified with your business.

Email Inbox Subject Lines

Although most of people like to think that their decisions are made logically, emotion usually plays an important role, too. That’s especially true when the decision involves which emails to open in an inbox and which to delete. When time is an issue – and it almost always is when someone’s weeding through emails–subject lines that trigger emotions are more likely to get opened than those that don’t. Here are some of the most common emotional triggers.

Find a way to incorporate words that trigger emotions related to your subject matter, and your response rate will improve.

RELATED: How to Use Click-Through Rates to Create More Successful Emails

Your entire subject line doesn’t always show in your recipient’s inbox. The smaller the screen the person is using to read their mail, the fewer words will be displayed. Thus, if the subject line you write says, “Our new back pain therapy kills patients’ need for drugs,” what the reader may see is:

“Our new back pain therapy kills patients”

So, put the important words at the beginning of your subject. 

Editor’s note: Not using email marketing yet? Or not happy with your provider? uses and recommends Constant Contact. Try it free today.

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About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn