Email Isn’t Dead – 10 Tips for Writing Great Subject Lines

EmailSubjectLines Email Isn’t Dead – 10 Tips for Writing Great Subject Lines Marketing professionals have been hearing for some time now that email is dead.

For those who still believe email is a great method for lead generation, customer retention, and ways in which to increase sales team’s response rates, this post is for you.

No matter what your goal, keep in mind that your company’s brand is also important. That, and creating email subject lines that invite, intrigue, provide solutions, and more.

Studies Show

I was recently chatting with Jason Falls, COE Social Media Explorer, about a couple social media topics, and email came up. He feels that email is still alive, and that there is a great populous that still uses it quite heavily and will for some time.

According to a recent study released by The Poynter Institute, GenXers are more likely to share content via email compared to Boomers and Millennials. At a 39 percent share rate, Gen X shares via email by more than five percentage points over the next demographic – Millennials, and seven percent more often than Boomers.

BuzzFeed blogger Matt Buchanan writes this about the study, “For Boomers and Generation X, the two most popular ways to share stories are by word of mouth and email, with email being more important to Gen X than either Boomers or Millennials. It can also be assumed that they’re more heavily reliant on email blasts and subscriptions.”

Part Art Part Science

When presenting on the topic, I often tell audience members that writing subject lines is a little bit art and a little bit science. Understanding the “why” people open an email is just as important as understanding the other big email marketing metrics, such as:

  • Delivery time of day
  • Audience demographic
  • Delivery method
  • Content
  • Social sharing
  • Can-SPAM regulations

10 Subject Line Tips

To aid in the art part of the equation, here are ten subject line tips from a variety of sources, including Forte Interactive, HubSpot, Fluttermail, Benchmark Email, and a few others.

  1. Keep it short but informative: Subject lines > 45 characters drop from 24% open rate to a 17% open rate. Avoid going over 50 characters. According to a survey by Informz, high open rates came from emails with subject lines of 10 words or less.
  2. Avoid gimmicks: Words like “free,” “act now,” “offer,” or “credit” may get picked up by the spam filter. Also avoid all caps in subject lines for the same reason.
  3. Keywords aren’t just for content: Leverage a keyword in the subject line whenever possible, because it will help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) later.
  4. “How to” subjects lines have proven to have great open rates, according to Mequoda.
  5. Creating a sense of urgency may create better open rates, but limit the use of “!” and “%” as they may cause the email to get caught in the spam filter.
  6. Emphasize product benefits over features.
  7. Fascination subject lines that draw the reader in.
  8. List subject lines, such as “7 Tips to Email Subject Line Success,” are generally a success. Tip: Keep the list number to 25 or less or it may seem overwhelming to recipients.
  9. Sharing news is also compelling to readers, for example “New Can-SPAM Regulations Announced.”
  10. My favorite tip comes from Constant Contact, “Think of your subject line as a tweet.”


To help drive home the tips above, below are a few examples from a variety of sources, including InTouch Solutions, Mequoda,, and more.

Short and Informative

  • Ten cool things you can do with Apple TV
  • Need a cool backpack for fall? We’ve got ’em.

Sense of Urgency

  • Don’t miss out – huge airfare sales happening now!
  • Important: account information for your 2010 taxes

Benefit Over Feature

  • Grow the Greenest Lawn, Courtesy of Scott’s Grass Seed

How To

  • How to Get 12 Hours Out of an 8-hour Day
  • How to Make a Perfect Salad


  • Creating Value out of Conflict: 4 Strategies
  • Take Two Minutes to Change the World!


  • Tired of Making Your Boss Rich?
  • What would you do with 2 more hours in your day?

Your Turn

What are some of the most intriguing email subject lines that have caused you to click?

Additional Resources:

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