Do we need another post on email subject lines?

My answer to that question is of course yes.

In the well documented crowded inbox only the strong will survive. It is essential to dedicate part of your email campaign planning process to crafting the best subject line that you can. The email subject line is a powerful thing, in conjunction with the Mail From it should be thought of as the headline for your content. The right headline will draw readers in to your article. In the same way the right subject line will drive recipients to open an email. The From Line reinforces who you are and goes some way towards explaining why your message has landed in your customer’s mailbox. The subject line shows them why they should pause and read on.

Is there a perfect subject line?

If we agree that content creation is an art-form, then it follows that there can’t be a one size fits all answer to this question. This doesn’t mean that you should give up searching and just plump for the safe bet. A few simple pointers can move your email subject lines from the mundane to the truly compelling, urging your readers to open their emails.

A compelling email subject line will reinforce your brand, engage your customers and improve your email deliverability.

Elements to play with

Subject line Length

Research on subject line success will always look at the length. And it will always show that there is no ideal length. The type of message and the audience, or expected response, will play a large role in what works, lengthwise. But the importance of the email clients that your emails are read in should not be overlooked. A number of email clients, and especially mobile devices, may truncate your lovingly crafted subject line. Consider front loading the headline, then if it does get truncated then you still get the thrust of your message across.


The subject line must make your recipients want to read on. But the content must deliver on that promise. Email marketing lives and dies on the relevance of the content. If the subject line promises one thing and the content delivers something else entirely then your customers will feel duped. This is not what you want.

Use teasers

Posing a question in the subject line is a good idea. If the topic is compelling, then there’s little in the way to stop the reader opening your email to find out how they can benefit from your offer.

The Spammers seem to have the right idea

No they don’t. If your subject line in any way, shape or form makes you think of spam then stop and immediately rethink. You’re allowed to go for a walk first, to get some fresh air. Then relax, start over.

Special characters

A not so new tactic is the use of special characters in subject lines. In the early stages of this discovery they were a great way to stand out from the crowd in the inbox. It wasn’t long before everyone was all over this new trick, and special characters soon saturated the inbox. Things have calmed down a bit now and it is certainly worth experimenting with them.

And that brings us to the golden theme of email marketing – test, test and test again.

You wouldn’t dream of just ploughing ahead with your content or data selections without first applying some testing and results analysis, nor should you jump in with a new strand of subject lines. There are many elements to play with when crafting your compelling subject line. Each of these will have many possibilities, so you should always engage a testing mentality.

If teasers appeal to you, try out different approaches. Should you personalise the subject line? There’s only one way to find out, run some split tests. Do special characters still hold their novelty appeal? Try your message with and without them, which will reveal how they work with your audience. Long, explanatory subject lines always out-perform short sharp ones, or so someone said. Test long versus short, dry against quirky, then you can start to develop your own ideas as to how your customers react to each type.

The Split-test feature in your email marketing platform should play a part in every email campaign that you deploy.