How to write a compelling email subject line

How to write a compelling email subject line

Business Development

GlobalLinker Staff

GlobalLinker Staff

288 week ago — 8 min read

Some people walk into a room and create a stir with their magnetic charm, good looks or personality. Others may put you off instantly, while still others have such an unobtrusive presence, that you are likely to overlook them altogether. A subject line is like your first impression of people: some become favourites, some you dislike and others, you simply ignore!The subject line is a short summary of the content of the email that appears in the recipient’s messages inbox. It is the reader’s first touch point with a mail received and it can prove to be the deciding factor of whether s/he will be enticed to open the mail, ignore it or delete it right away.

 An ideal subject line is concise, descriptive and engaging. Here are 8 tips to write a winning subject line.

1. Make your subject line clear and precise

While drafting a subject line, you must be specific about the goal of the email. The best way to engage your reader is to stick to the purpose of the email and encapsulate the gist of the email in an accurate and forthright manner.

Billalert: New Bill from ABC (Example 1)

eBill: Your XYZ Bill for Mobile Number: 98xxxxx420, Bill Date: 09-Jan-2019 (Example 2)

Example 1 does not reveal for which number the bill has been generated, nor does it specify the bill date.

Example 2 clearly reveals the mobile number for which the bill has been generated and the bill date.

2. Go for crisp not wordy

Short and concise subject lines work better than long and clumsy ones. I’m sure you know how the net suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder.  As per a study, the average office goer receives 40 emails daily, so the competition for a reader’s attention is always stiff. Therefore, the key to an effective subject line is to create an impact with a few well-chosen words. The advantages of a pithy subject line are:

  • Shorter subject lines are more readable and create a greater impact

  • Email containers can display only a limited number of characters of a subject line. If you make the subject line too long, then you run the risk of having the latter part of the subject line truncated. It is best to keep the length of the subject line within 50 characters.

  • More and more people check their mails on their mobile devices, which can only display a limited number of characters of a subject line. The shorter the subject line, the better the user experience.


3. Personalise your subject line

We all like to feel special. Readers are likely to ignore subject lines that have a mass mail feel to them. A simple way to personalise subject lines is to include the first or last name of the reader.

JobSearch: Judy update your resume so employers can find you

4. Entice the user to open the mail

It is essential that the subject line piques the interest of the reader, so that s/he is drawn to open the mail.

Epicurean: How to bake a perfect cake

Readers would be curious to click on the subject line above because they’d like to know how to bake not just a good cake, but a perfect one.

5. Build a sense of urgency

We are all hard-pressed for time and if we can put something off, we will! So make sure your subject line is such that the reader will want to click on it immediately. Maybe the offer period is running out; the stocks are limited; or the mail is simply something that you must read before your next job interview. Maybe it offers a glimpse into how to buy insurance, so if it’s tax time then that makes it an important piece of information. Whatever your mail offers that is critical to improving your reader’s life, do make sure your subject line presents it – in a clear, precise and must-click-on-this manner!

ABC Insurance: Double Your Savings - If You Purchase by Midnight Tonight

6. Don’t use these words!

Most email providers have spam filters and there is nothing more detrimental to your email campaign than your mail going directly to the Spam folder. Spam filters automatically sift out certain words. Here is a link that has detailed information about words that trigger spam filters.

7. Customise your subject line

Golfers would love mailers that connect with them via golf, food lovers would appreciate food-centric mails; each one of us has an area of interest that will make us perk up and click. So as an astute email marketer, don’t forget to capitalise on this. Readers are driven to open a mail if the subject line is tailored to their unique interests. Some of the parameters of customisation of an email subject line are:


  • Location – Providing localisation such as a city name helps to customise a subject line.
    ABC Developers: Need a great reason to buy a home in Mumbai?

  • Holidays and festivals – People try to plan their vacations around holidays and festivals. A smart travel portal for instance, must take advantage of this fact.
    XYZ Travels: Special Christmas Holiday packages for you

  • Occupation – The recipient’s profession can determine his/her interest in an email. Eg: the subject line below will interest a student.
    JobSearch: Apply for summer internships


  • Gender – The recipient’s gender plays an important factor in determining their interests. A woman is more likely to be enticed by the subject line below.
    Peaches & Cream: Make-up tips for the festive season


  • Age-group – A person in the age group of above 50 years is more likely to relate to the subject line below.
    XYZ: Retirement plans for your golden years


  • User’s site activity -- Use site activity data to gauge what aspect of the site appeals to the reader and accordingly customise your subject line.  If you have purchased some electronic items on a marketplace previously, you will be more likely to open a mail with the subject line -
    Judy, get a 25% discount on all laptops on Christmas Day


8. Test, test, test and then test again!

Finally, as sometimes, the best tips come last – you must start testing in order to arrive at a truly effective subject line.  Testing ensures you get a better feel of the idiosyncrasies of your audience. Often people don’t react the way you expect them to, or they have preferences that only experience reveals. After all, don’t forget it’s not robots but real live people you’re selling to! A simple method is to split test your subject line to gauge which subject line leads to the maximum opening rate. There are also several subject line testers and tools available on the net that help you craft a subject line that can withstand spam filters and appear optimally on all devices.

A well-crafted and well-thought out subject line creates a great first impression for your email and that’s a battle well-begun. Remember that a good subject line must communicate, captivate and increase your email open rate!

In the comments section below, share your tips to create a compelling email subject line.


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GlobalLinker Staff

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