Email subject line best practices | Atomic Automation

Email subject line best practices

Shane Herring
Shane Herring

Automation Wrangler at Atomic Automation

When we talk about the importance of measuring email marketing metrics, your email open rate is 2nd only to your delivery rate.

If people aren’t opening your emails, you’re not going to be able to convert them into buyers. That’s why getting your emails opened is important and to do that, you need to write great subject lines.

In this article, we give you some email subject line best practices to get you started.

Email subject line best practices

69% of recipients will report an email as spam based on the subject line alone.

47% of recipients make the decision to open an email based solely on the subject line.

Gone are the days of having a subject line that reads something like “Here’s your free offer!”

Keep it short

Five words or less and under 40 characters. The character limit is to take into account that more people are reading emails of smaller devices.

Use actionable language

Using action verbs like “shop” or “help” can go a long way. You need to make it clear from the start what it is you want them to do. Eat, shop, donate, wear, relax, listen? Use verbs that help the reader visualise themselves taking the action you want them to take.

Just make sure to avoid spam words.

Create urgency

You need to let your recipients know that the time to take action if NOW! You don’t want them thinking “I’ll get back to that later.” Because guess what, they probably won’t.

Use words like “urgent” and “breaking,” which are considered the most potent words that imply time sensitivity, followed by “important” and “alert.”

Use sentence case

To (try) and grab people’s attention, some emails use uppercase subject lines. Unfortunately for them, this is a tactic used by spammers. Not only that, when you write a personal email to someone, you don’t use uppercase, you use title case.

Make your marketing emails more personal by doing the same thing.

Don’t be afraid of emojis

The use of emojis has shown to increase open rates by around 66%. They’re an attention getter. Using the right emoji or even just a symbol, can link your subject line to the email content.

The actual image displayed for a specific emoji isn’t always the same. A sad face displayed in the Outlook email client may look different to the sad face displayed on the Apple Mail client.

Be aware though that if an emoji isn’t supported in the email client, the recipient may see a ☐ character instead.

And lastly, consider your audience. Some demographics may not like emojis appearing in their inbox. Others will love it. B2B emails with emojis may lack a certain professional tone of communication.

Avoid spam

This can be difficult. The rules that spam filters use are constantly changing.

You may assume that using the word “free” in your subject line will grab a recipient’s attention. But using the world “freebie” will get more emails opened. Other words to avoid include $$$ (not a word I know but how do I write this?), guaranteed, report, earn.

Words to use include their first name, offer, gift, you/your, invitation.

Segment your list

Don’t send the same subject line to your entire list. Personalise your content to improve open rates and conversions.

Segmentation involves gathering data from your email subscribers so that you can send them personalised content that relates to their interests.

Are they thinking about buying from you, have they bought from you recently, is it their birthday, are they a business (B2B) or a consumer (B2C)?

Personalisation is about relevance. You need to include information in the email that is relevant to the person or business receiving it.

Get personal

In today’s digital world, people expect personalised content. Think back to the last spam emails you received. They didn’t include your name in the subject line and certainly didn’t include your name in the message body. The usual is “Hi,” or “Hi friend,”.

Personalisation goes beyond using their name. The best subject lines for open rates are created using information that you’ve collected about that contact. Which service have they shown interest in? Did they recently purchase a product? And my favourite, include the day of the week you sent the email especially if you send them at irregular intervals.

Personalising subject lines makes subscribers feel as though the email you’re sending was created with them in mind.

Personalisation isn’t just about the recipient, using your first name or the first names of our team helps build that critical relationship. Smart businesses with teams often send out emails ‘from’ the team members just to mix things up.

Wrap up

Your subject line is 2nd challenge in getting your email opened and reading your message, so it’s important to put some serious thought into this when crafting your emails.

Now if you’re like me, you’ll struggle to implement each and every one of the best practices in your subject lines. And that’s ok. The key is to take them on board and use the ones that are most relevant for the email going out the relevant recipients.

What’s the best email subject line you’ve seen. Let us know by adding a comment below.

Enjoy your day.

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Useful resources


The Guide to Marketing Automation


The Guide to Email Marketing


The Email Marketing Checklist


The Automated Campaign Worksheet

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