Let’s clear the air first: There’s no good topic line.

Sure, I stated it. What works for one model might not work for yours. And what does work might not all the time. The world is altering. Individuals are altering—and your topic traces should adapt to rise above the busy inbox and win these coveted electronic mail opens. However not simply any electronic mail opens. Those that matter.

So why are we right here, then?

We’re not out to mislead you, however moderately, to information you towards perfection.

Writing topic traces is difficult. Even for somebody like me who’s been doing electronic mail advertising for over a decade and now does content material for a residing. So I get it: It looks like the complete world—at the very least your job—is driving in your electronic mail’s topic line. What is going to get your electronic mail opened, clicked on, and changing? Let’s discover out.

We’ll cowl rather a lot, together with real-life examples, so be happy to take a look at our infographic abstract under or skip round to the main points that curiosity you:

  1. Welcome everyone’s ideas
  2. Think beyond the subject line
  3. Don’t focus too much on length
  4. Focus on your subscriber
  5. Show practical proof
  6. Personalize your subject line
  7. Use emoji (with caution)
  8. Make your reader curious
  9. Add some action
  10. Be specific instead of vague
  11. Think about transactional subject lines differently
  12. Use urgency—sparingly
  13. Avoid the fake RE: or FWD:
  14. Stop shouting
  15. Humor your audience
  16. Consider that some emails are designed for low opens
  17. Don’t make assumptions
  18. A/B test often

18 email subject line tips infographic

Why you must care about electronic mail topic traces

With electronic mail as a major technique of communication—much more so for the reason that COVID-19 pandemic started—the average person receives over 100 emails a day. How will you make your electronic mail stand out from the ocean of emails in your subscribers’ inboxes? That’s the place the topic line is available in. Use it to get your subscribers’ consideration and your emails opened!

And whereas Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection has thrown us a curveball, that doesn’t imply we shouldn’t care about opens anymore. It simply means we might not have the ability to monitor them (at the very least for Apple Mail customers), which provides topic traces an much more crucial function to get individuals to interact additional.

However first, let’s bust the #1 topic line fantasy

True or false: Sure phrases or characters will land your electronic mail within the junk folder. Suppose, utilizing ALL CAPS, the phrase “free,” or exclamation factors!!! There are tons of lists of spammy phrases to keep away from, in any case.

This is likely one of the greatest lies that simply gained’t go away (apart from “email is dead”).

The reality is, spam trigger words are a thing of the past. It’s an previous wives’ story that sure practices will get you instantly marked as spam. Spam filters may be triggered for a wide range of causes, however particular phrases alone are hardly ever the offender.

So long as your electronic mail authentication and engagement are each nice, don’t fear about supposed “spam set off phrases.”

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So, what do the consultants say?

There’s rather a lot of recommendation on the market on find out how to write the right topic line, together with lengthy lists of examples you possibly can simply copy and paste into your individual electronic mail. Some “greatest practices” are even conflicting.

It’s value mentioning once more: There’s no good topic line.

So, contemplate these tried-and-true ideas from electronic mail and copywriting consultants as merely a jumping-off level as you fine-tune what works greatest for your viewers. And go forward, combine and match them.

1. Welcome everybody’s concepts

This recommendation from Ashley Spencer, Supervisor of Digital Advertising at Chubbies, is a good way to kick off this collection of knowledgeable ideas:

Ashley Spencer

“Get your workforce concerned. Heck, get the entire firm concerned! Name out for company-wide brainstorms and get these artistic juices flowing. You simply may need a celebrity topic line author that works in accounting.”

I strongly consider there aren’t any unhealthy concepts when brainstorming, solely ones that encourage even larger concepts. And bringing in people exterior of your workforce? Genius. As a result of it’s that range of thought that pays off.

It’s no marvel Chubbies is so cherished for his or her topic traces!

2. Suppose past the topic line

Now I do know we’re speaking about topic traces right here, however remember your topic line doesn’t dwell in a vacuum. Litmus’ personal electronic mail advertising supervisor, Jaina Mistry, explains it effectively:

Jaina Mistry

“Your topic line, sender title, and preview textual content all work hand-in-hand. Consider your preview textual content as an extension to your topic line. Craft topic traces and preview textual content that work collectively and make sense when learn collectively. And keep away from repeating your sender title in your topic line or preview textual content.”

So, when crafting a compelling topic line, contemplate it as only one a part of the story in your electronic mail’s “envelope.” In case your objective is to get somebody to open, then do not forget that your sender title and preview textual content are additionally entrance and middle.

Have a look at this combo:

Chubbies email subject line example

Chubbies does an awesome job of getting the preview textual content full the topic line. However the topic line might additionally stand alone in the event you couldn’t see the preview textual content (that is completely on model for Chubbies, by the way in which).

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3. Don’t focus an excessive amount of on size

How lengthy ought to your topic line be? In an interview with Joanna Wiebe, Founding father of Copyhackers, Joanna advised us:

Joanna Wiebe

“When you concentrate on the truth that most entrepreneurs are advised to go for about 45-60 characters, it stands to purpose that the topic traces which may stand out are more likely to be completely different from the usual. So that you’d need to go very, very quick—like one phrase—or possibly even fairly lengthy.

For shoppers, I’ve written insanely lengthy topic traces that push proper to the tip the place the device gained’t allow you to add any extra characters. And that’s purely in order that it appears completely different in an inbox.

Do issues that others aren’t doing. So go quick or go actually lengthy.”

And Jaina is on the identical wavelength: “There aren’t any arduous and quick guidelines when it comes to topic line size. In case your topic traces do veer extra on the lengthy aspect, entrance load the topic line with probably the most related half. And take a look at topic line size with your individual viewers!”

The takeaway? Don’t focus an excessive amount of on character counts. As an alternative…

4. Focus in your subscriber

See? I’m not the one one saying this. Emily McGuire, Principal of Flourish & Grit, shares her greatest tip to shine your topic line recreation:

Emily McGuire

“Begin injecting the phrase ‘you’ into topic traces extra. As entrepreneurs, our job is to make it very easy for individuals to say sure. Making it apparent on your subscribers to see themselves in your copy will do exactly that.”

Right here’s why Emily says it really works:

  1. Topic traces are generally written with the model as the topic making it extra concerning the model than the subscriber.
  2. Subscribers have to know WHY they need to open your emails. If it doesn’t have something to do immediately with them, why ought to they care?
  3. It’s a psychological shift that helps you begin writing copy that facilities your subscriber as the topic as a substitute of you or your small business.

5. Present sensible proof

On the flip aspect, utilizing ‘I’ to indicate social proof additionally works wonders.

Jordie van Rijn, Electronic mail Advertising Guide and Founding father of Email Vendor Selection, found this for himself throughout topic line testing:

Jordie van Rijn

“Do individuals need to get a promise of their very own outcomes? 
And do you have to embody their outcomes in your topic line? Or would they moderately see how another person did it, like an instance or case examine, as some sort of proof?

So I examined two topic traces:

  • You’ll get [result they want] with this [tactic used]
  • I bought [result they want] with this [tactic used]

As you see, it’s just one small change of ‘I bought’ versus ‘You’ll get.’ However that adjustments the that means fully. On this take a look at, there was an 8.49% raise.”

If you wish to study extra about Jordie’s take a look at, try his article on the Knowledge & Advertising Affiliation (DMA) weblog: Personal Promise vs. Practical Proof.

6. Personalize your topic line

Knowledge by Sure Lifecycle Advertising has proven that personalizing topic traces can increase open rates by 50%! Whereas there are many ways to personalize emails, the primary title is what often involves thoughts. Why? As a result of it really works—if completed effectively.

Jaina Mistry

“First title personalisation can enhance your open charges, however the tactic may also lower your click-to-open fee (CTOR). It’s the ‘magpie’ impact the place one thing has drawn the subscriber to open, however they don’t have any actual intention of taking any motion.

In our re-engagement electronic mail, first title personalisation generated a better open fee by 5 share factors, however a 50% decrease conversion fee.”

In different phrases, don’t personalize simply because. Be sure that it aligns together with your technique and objectives so you should utilize personalization with most effectiveness.

7. Use emojis (with warning)

If an image is value a thousand phrases, effectively, that’s actually one option to go round character limits. And in topic traces, emojis are the one means to herald imagery. 😜

Little question, emojis are powerful. I’ve used them loads of instances myself, together with in our Litmus emails (you’re subscribed, right?). However Jaina warns:

Jaina Mistry

“Utilizing emojis may also help your electronic mail stand out within the inbox. However use them in topic traces with accessibility in thoughts. Be sure that your topic line is smart in the event you learn it out aloud with out the emoji.”

And take into consideration how a voice assistant or display reader might learn it. For instance:

  • Topic line: This electronic mail is lit 😍
  • Display screen reader: This electronic mail is lit smiling face with heart-eyes

Uhh, that wasn’t what you meant, was it? This goes for particular characters, too. We cowl some tips & tricks you possibly can reap the benefits of to soundly use emojis and particular characters in each your topic line and electronic mail physique copy whereas optimizing them for display readers.

8. Make your reader curious

Grasp copywriter, Claude Hopkins, stated it plainly: “Curiosity is likely one of the strongest human incentives.” And Eddie Shleyner, Founding father of VeryGoodCopy.com, agrees:

Eddie Shleyner

“Good, efficient topic traces typically make the reader curious.

LinkedIn, for instance, sends engagement emails with the topic line: [Name] simply commented in your put up.

This creates a ‘Curiosity Hole’—a void in your data that may solely be crammed by opening the e-mail and studying.

Work to create a curiosity hole in virtually each topic line you write, and watch your open charges enhance.”

A method Jaina likes to do that? Asking a query. (See what I did there?) She says:

“Create a way of intrigue by posing a query in your topic line which the e-mail can reply. This can be a nice sort of topic line to check.”

Some examples of curiosity in my inbox proper now are:

  • SHHH…it’s a shock!
  • Why is on-line brainstorming nonetheless so arduous?

9. Add some motion

Right here’s Jaina dropping in once more with one other tip (she’s a goldmine of information):

Jaina Mistry

“Add an motion so as to add extra readability and provides the subscriber an concept of what you need them to do together with your electronic mail.”

Finally, we ship advertising emails as a result of we wish our contacts to take motion on one thing. That’s why we have now calls-to-action (there’s that phrase once more). By having your immediate in your topic line, you’ve set expectations, and readers usually tend to act in the way in which you wished them to.

Which brings us to the subsequent piece of recommendation.

10. Be particular as a substitute of obscure

This one’s my private favourite and one which’s gained each A/B take a look at I’ve completed.

In case you’re questioning, you may be each particular and encourage curiosity like on this instance we used lately:

  • Everybody’s favourite ESP is…

It gained in a break up take a look at towards “New report: The State of ESPs.” Sure, that one’s sort of particular, too, however in the event you don’t know what our State of Electronic mail Service Suppliers report is, you then don’t actually know what to anticipate. By honing in on a element like “everybody’s favourite ESP,” now you recognize at the very least one information level you’ll get: the preferred ESP amongst your friends.

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How are your subscribers actually partaking?

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We’ve additionally completed plenty of testing with our Litmus Weekly emails and have concluded that utilizing the topic line to specify the content material inside works greatest for us, corresponding to:

  • Electronic mail accessibility ideas, high electronic mail shoppers for the yr to this point, and extra
  • BIMI, AMP for electronic mail, and the way forward for advertising
  • Can’t we have now each? A more in-depth have a look at Darkish Mode and extra

So why does this work?

I wish to name it pre-qualifying your readers. It’s also possible to contemplate it as warming them up.

Would it not be bizarre to cite myself? Technically, I’m penning this weblog put up, so these phrases are mine anyway, however hey, let’s add some selection to those headshots. So right here’s what I, Magan Le, should say about being particular:

Magan Le

“By utilizing specificity, you’re attracting the people who find themselves actually whereas hunting down the remaining. Sure, this may lead to fewer opens, however anticipate clicks and conversions to make up for it.

Obscure topic traces are dangerous. The individuals who would’ve actually wished your content material might ignore you as a substitute, considering your electronic mail isn’t related to them.”

11. Take into consideration transactional topic traces otherwise

Equally, there are some topic traces you in all probability shouldn’t contact. Often, these are for transactions the place your subscribers or prospects expect a really particular electronic mail.

Bettina Specht and the workforce at Postmark say:

Bettina Specht

“Take into consideration your topic line technique for broadcast or advertising emails vs. transactional topic traces otherwise. They in all probability have completely different objectives (and may even be managed by completely different groups). Password reset emails are an instance the place you in all probability don’t need to be all that artistic. As an alternative, optimize for readability and ease.”

This jogs my memory of a current expertise:

I positioned a web based order some time again however was questioning if it ever shipped. Then, the package deal simply confirmed up on my doorstep someday. Sifting via my inbox rigorously, I noticed I missed the transport notification. Seems, the topic line was “Be proper there.” I mistook it for an everyday promotional electronic mail I might ignore. Oof. Had it been one thing even simply barely completely different like “Shipped: Be proper there,” then it might’ve caught my consideration.

So, if somebody simply downloaded a whitepaper? Put the title within the topic line of the follow-up. Bought a waitlist? Actually use the phrase “waitlist” or “again in inventory” within the back-in-stock electronic mail. Inform it like it’s.

12. Use urgency—sparingly

It doesn’t matter what we do at Litmus, most of our webinar registrations often come from the e-mail despatched the day earlier than with the identical topic line format:

  • Tomorrow: [Webinar Title]

So easy, and but, these outcomes! Topic traces with a way of urgency are likely to have a 22% higher open rate than these with out. However in the event you use it an excessive amount of, it begins to lose its impact.

Be cautious of inflicting subscriber fatigue by overdoing it. Jaina cautions:

“Creating a way of FOMO (concern of lacking out) is usually a good option to get an open. However overuse can numb your viewers. There’s solely so many ‘Restricted-time’ or ‘Solely X days left’ emails your subscribers can take!”

To not point out, it’s demanding.

13. Keep away from the faux RE: or FWD:

On that notice, don’t trick your subscribers. Misleading subject lines are an enormous no-no.

Jaina Mistry

Jaina says: “Don’t use ‘RE:’ or ‘FWD:’ to make your electronic mail appear to be a reply or forwarded electronic mail. These ways might ship your electronic mail to the spam folder.”

This goes for all misleading ways that make it seem to be you may have a private relationship or a transaction has been made when that’s not the case:

  • Re: [Ticket #:1987356] 40% off
  • Did I go away my jacket at your house?
  • Your Reservation Affirmation
  • an pressing request

Jaina continues: “Don’t mislead your viewers with an open-bait topic line! Something click-bait or misleading is towards the CAN-SPAM act.”

You recognize who does these items? Spammers.

Positive, chances are you’ll get extra individuals to open. However these opens should not the great type. Inflicting confusion and misery amongst your subscribers is unhealthy on your model. Not solely would you get unsubscribes and spam complaints, however you might additionally get dragged over social media.

14. Cease shouting

You may discover a typical theme right here: Don’t make your viewers really feel unhealthy. This consists of shouting at them, as Jaina notes: “Don’t shout at your subscribers by utilizing extreme all-caps or multiple exclamation level.”

So whereas all caps and exclamation factors might not set off spam filters, they’ll set off your subscribers if overdone. Take this topic line for instance:

…If I have to loosen up, why are you shouting at me???

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15. Humor your viewers

Why not deliver pleasure to your subscribers as a substitute? Even in the event you contemplate your model a critical one, there are nonetheless methods you should utilize humor in email marketing. Laughter is one of the best medication, in any case. However actually, it reduces ache and syncs the brains of speaker and listener (author and reader?) in order that they’re emotionally attuned, according to Psychology Today. Wow.

“If it suits together with your model and electronic mail marketing campaign, lean into rhymes, puns, alteration, or humour! Typically a little bit of enjoyable and levity may also help your electronic mail stand out,” says Jaina.

Even a small dose of humor can really feel like a breath of recent air.

Listed below are some examples of topic traces tickling the humorous bone:

  • Witch, Please
  • Oh boix, La Croix
  • We’re bringing sets-y again
  • Screw it, let’s simply give everybody free stuff
  • Offers That Make Us Proud (Not like Our Nephew, Steve)

You recognize what additionally helps? Cute infants and animals.

16. Contemplate that some emails are designed for low opens

Now right here’s the kicker: Some emails are supposed to have low open charges.

Justine Jordan and the Postmark workforce have this to say:

Justine Jordan

“Contemplate that some emails (and topic traces) is perhaps designed to have low open charges. In different phrases, don’t concentrate on opens as the primary KPI for topic line success, particularly for transactional emails. All the knowledge your reader wants could also be within the topic line.”

These are topic traces like:

  • You’ve skipped your Jun 30, 2021 supply
  • Your UPS Package deal was delivered
  • You paid [Name] $7.50
  • MAGAN, No New SSN, Inquiry or New Account Alerts to Report This Month
  • Thanks on your cost!

Okay, possibly I ought to test that I didn’t get overcharged with that final one.

17. Don’t make assumptions

All the pieces right here being stated: Don’t. Make. Assumptions. Ben Sailer, Inbound Advertising Director at CoSchedule, mirrors the sentiment:

Ben Sailer

“All the time test your assumptions about what is going to and won’t work.

Finally, solely you’ll know what works greatest on your viewers and goal buyer base. The takeaway right here is to by no means get too comfy doing one thing the identical means for too lengthy with out questioning whether or not that’s actually one of the best strategy.”

This jogs my memory of Kait Creamer’s keynote at Litmus Live 2019 on emotional intelligence.

Kait shared a narrative about her time at MakeMusic, Inc. She was engaged on a winback marketing campaign and used a intelligent spin of a Star Wars quote as her topic line. Who doesn’t know Star Wars, proper? Apparently, plenty of her viewers. They have been confused. Offended. And that was an assumption she by no means made once more.

Alongside the identical traces, be cautious of acronyms like TGIF and TFW (I don’t even know what that one means—Jaina wrote it). Whereas they’re a enjoyable option to shorten topic traces and join together with your viewers by utilizing their lingo, understand that your total viewers isn’t truly acquainted. Particularly in the event that they’re world or are from a demographic completely different than yours.

Which leads us to…

18. A/B take a look at typically

As a result of how else are you going to know what’s and isn’t working? To check your assumptions, Ben shares:

“Regularly take a look at completely different components of your topic traces, together with size, emojis, and completely different emotional sentiments. Select one facet to check at a time and see what occurs.

You may additionally take a look at extra artistic versus extra simple topic traces, or within the case of a weekly publication, probably utilizing the identical topic line each week, appended with that week’s situation quantity.”

And possibly you recognize you must, however for no matter purpose, you aren’t. I’m actually responsible of this. In any case, it takes just a little extra thought to first lay the groundwork for A/B testing after which run your take a look at accurately so your outcomes truly imply one thing. (By no means take a look at simply to check.)

Okay, however A/B testing doesn’t should be arduous. Bear in mind Jordie’s topic line take a look at earlier? One tiny tweak drove important outcomes. It’s all a part of what he calls his mini information to raised topic traces for lazy entrepreneurs:

Jordie van Rijn

“Seize some A/B testing concepts and begin bettering your campaigns. And of all of the assessments you are able to do, topic line testing is the simplest.

Even in the event you aren’t actively testing, simply write and ship out two topic traces. 
Why? As a result of this manner, you’ll have a a lot greater likelihood to get a sense on your common, minimal, and most open charges.

Typically, the open fee is down and also you suppose: ‘Huh? Possibly individuals weren’t ?’ However it seems your topic line bombed, and they’re . By sending out at the very least two variants, you get a way more secure consequence of your marketing campaign, and it means that you can hedge your bets.

Change one phrase or the order of the phrases:
 I moderately like this type of ‘lazy testing,’ the place you simply change a small factor. One phrase, the order of the phrases, or the size of the topic line. No have to overthink it.


And simply if you suppose you’ve discovered the right formulation, Jaina lays down the legislation:

“Check your topic traces typically. How your viewers reacts and engages with them as we speak will change within the subsequent 3 months, 6 months, and so on. And look past open charges, and see how your topic traces are impacting click-to-open charges and conversions.”

Closing ideas in your opening line

In a nutshell: Do set your subscribers’ expectations and clearly state what’s inside the e-mail. Don’t write your topic traces like commercials.

And one of the best factor about it? You may get extra out of your efforts and use your learnings to gasoline headlines for the remainder of your advertising channels. Win-win.

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Initially revealed on December 5, 2012, by Justine Jordan. Final up to date on June 17, 2021.

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