Click-worthy Email Subject Lines

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Let’s start with a mental exercise to illustrate the challenge of writing click-worthy email subject lines.

Pretend you are planning to drop by for a short conversation with an acquaintance. Maybe you want to catch up and tell him what’s been happening in your world. Maybe you have something to give him. Maybe you want to schedule a longer visit with him later.

Your goal is clear: You want his attention.

He, on the other hand, is probably busy, likely isn’t expecting you, and may or may not be happy about you standing on his front porch.

So what’s the first thing you say when he opens the door and sees you there? How do you get his attention in a way that motivates him to hear you out?

The crucial first words are the equivalent of an email subject line.

Here are some dos and don’ts to help motivate your reader to open your email.

Do This in Your Email Subject Lines

  • Use concise language. People skim their inboxes very quickly. They aren’t going to waste time deciphering big words or dissecting complex sentence structures.

  • Convey benefits. Clearly tell your readers what’s in it for them. For example, “Increase your close rate by 30%” is far more compelling than “How to close your sales successfully.”

  • Use numbers. Numbers help set expectations and also help convey the benefit you are offering. “Open for a 25% discount code on organic dog food.” “The 128-page eBook you requested is inside.” “Join more than 325 local runners at this event!”

  • Start with an action word. Much like a call-to-action at the end of a sales letter or blog post, an action-oriented verb in the email subject line subtly inspires readers to open the message. “Open now for free biscuits” is better than “Biscuit offer inside.”

  • Create a sense of urgency. If your offer is time-sensitive, clearly state that.

  • Ask a question. This tactic can play to your readers’ interests or insecurities. “Can you afford to retire? Open now for a 60-second quiz.”

Don’t Do This in Your Email Subject Line

  • Don’t make false promises. If your subject line says there’s a coupon code inside, you better provide the coupon code right there in the body of the email. Don’t make the reader click to a website and complete another form to get it. This is how you lose subscribers and decrease your open rates.

  • Don’t use as your sender’s email address. This big red flag signals you're impersonal, robotic, and untrustworthy. Instead, use someone’s name.

  • Don’t use ALL CAPS or multiple explanation points!!! It looks spammy. (These tips will help you avoid that spammy feel in the email body, too.)

  • Don’t combine messages. Your email body should have one point, so your subject line will also have just one point. Don’t confuse your reader by offering a rate quote at the same time you announce a policy change. Talk about just one thing at a time.

Check out this infographic for more insights into current stats and trends on email subject lines.

Split Test Your Email Subject Lines

The rules and best practices around email subject lines are based on an inexact science. Email filters are increasingly sophisticated. What works for one industry may not work for another. And open rates depend largely on how well segmented your list is.

So, whenever possible, conduct A/B testing to see how different words, line lengths, and punctuation formats impact your open rate. Mailchimp and other email service providers can help you set up this testing.


Effective email subject lines have one single, clear message that convey the benefit to the reader.

Check out for more ideas on how to engage your customers and move them along the sales funnel.

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