email subject lines

Are Your Email Subject Lines Killing Your Email Campaigns?


Email marketing can be a great way to keep in touch with your customers and promote your products or services, but in order for people to read your email and do what you want them to do, they have to open the email first! If you have poor email subject lines, your emails may never be read.

Which means the links in your email will never be clicked.

Which means your reader won’t get the opportunity to view your offer.

Which means you’ll miss out on potential leads, sales, or brand building opportunities.

Which would be a major waste, right? Especially if you spent time and money on your email marketing campaign.

Email subject lines are like the titles of books: they need to grab attention, spark interest, and encourage people to want to know more, all in about two seconds. If you were walking down a street and saw a book with an uninteresting title, would you stop and pick it up? Probably not! But if that book had an interesting title, you might be tempted to double-back, pick it up, and maybe even buy it.

Which is why it’s important to make your email subject lines better.

So here are 5 tips for better email marketing subject lines that encourage people to open your emails and help you get better results from your email marketing campaigns.

email subject lines

Keep your subject lines short and sweet

The first trick to better email subject lines is to think about how people go through their inboxes.  Or, if it helps, think about how you go through your email inbox. We’re all busy, right? And we all battle email inboxes that can get very out of control super fast, not to mention fill up with lots of junk and spam.

So we skim, typically with a trash-happy trigger finger.  You don’t have much time to convince someone that your email is important enough to open.  The shorter and punchier your email subject line, the more likely it is to get opened.

If you have too many words in there, it might be missed or intentionally passed over by the person who has to go through hundreds of other emails.

Forty-five characters is about as long as you want them to be. If your subject line is longer than that, important details could get cut off and people might not see all of it before they decide whether or not to open your email.  Get to the point!

If you can’t get everything you need to say into 45 characters, try rewriting it a couple times or cut out filler words or phrases. Getting better at not including unnecessary phrases could be better for your copy in the long run too.

Good: Our favorite trick for improving your email open rates

Better: Do this for better email open rates

Good: Take 20% off your purchase in the shop today only!

Better: Take 20% off – today only!

email subject lines

Ask a question

Questions are a great way to get people interested in your email for two reasons.

First, it’s human nature to want to know the answer, so they’ll naturally feel compelled to open your email and read more.  Especially if it’s a question they’ve been looking for an answer to themselves and haven’t quite found yet.

(Little tip – really digging in on your ideal customer and the questions and pain points they have can help you identify these.)

This could be as simple as adding a question mark to the end of a statement instead of leaving it open-ended.  For example, rather than saying, “The best remedy for winter dry skin” you could say, “The best remedy for winter dry skin?”

This makes people wonder what’s in your email – in this case, what is the best remedy for winter dry skin – and encourages them to open it!

And the second reason questions work so well for email subject lines is they open a dialogue.  They draw you in and are harder to ignore than a simple statement.

email subject lines

Pique their interest

Think about the headlines you read on the magazine covers when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. They’re always a little sensational, right?  Some more so than others.  But they operate under the same premise as an email subject line – to get people to bite in a short amount of time.

Think like a magazine editor: make your email subject lines interesting enough that you would stop mid-checkout and pick up that magazine to learn more.

Some no-fail ways to do that:

Start a story

It doesn’t need to be as juicy as “She escaped a cult!” but “In 1 year she 5X’d her business!” is still pretty captivating.

Create urgency

People like to feel like they need to get something before it’s gone. If you’re emailing your list about an offer, use the subject line to tell them that it will only be around for a limited time.

Make them controversial

When you make a statement that goes against the grain, it gets people thinking.  Example: “Why I don’t do Reels” – considering everyone and their brother is doing Reels these days, me saying I don’t do them isn’t just controversial, it sounds downright insane.

Create mystery

People love learning secrets and having “exclusive” information, so why not use it to your advantage?

Tease the value

We say it all the time – people are more inclined to do something if they know there’s something in it for them, right?

So why not make your email subject lines better by including a little teaser as to what people will find inside?

Read More: 5 Simple Secrets to Writing Better Marketing Copy That Actually Converts 

You don’t have to give away too much, but letting them know that if they click through they’ll get something they really want or need is way better than just saying “November Updates”.

(Side note: Please never use the word ‘update’, ‘newsletter’, or similar generic term in your subject line. Trust me on this one.)

Again, this works really well if you know common questions, pain points, or desires that your audience has that you can tap into.

email subject lines

Stand out in the inbox

I don’t know about you, but my personal inbox is out of control. I get a ridiculous number of promotional emails every day, many of which I don’t even remember signing up for.

My business email gets most of my energy, attention, and organizational techniques.

But my personal inbox? Like the wild west.

If an email doesn’t grab attention fast, there’s no hope for it. The subject needs to catch the eye when your subscriber does a quick skim.

Here are some super easy ways to do that:

Use emojis

Now don’t go overboard on them or anything, but using an emoji or two in your email subject line stands out in the sea of other text-heavy subject lines.


All caps won’t be for everyone, but use them sparingly and it can be a really effective way to grab attention.

Think about it. “We’ve got a BIG announcement!” is far more eye-catching than “We’ve got a big announcement!” There’s little more energy and oomph in there.

Use their name

If you collect first names from your subscribers, put those to use! Even in a fast skim, people gravitate to their own names. You can typically add them using dynamic tags in your email service provider. Not sure how to do that? Google “how to use dynamic tags in [your email service provider]” and you should be able to find a tutorial or two.

email subject lines

Test to see what works

Here’s the rub – some tactics work better for some businesses than others. And you won’t know which ones will crush it in your business unless you try ’em out.

So if you want to constantly improve your email subject lines, get in the habit of testing them!

You can use A/B testing in your email service provider to split test different subject lines and see how they work in your business.  And it’s super easy to do.

One way you can start is by making a list of all the tactics above and putting them in order of what you think might work best for your business. Then start testing a couple.

For instance if you want to test emojis, write your subject line.  Then add an emoji to one and omit the emoji on the other.

Do an A/B test where half of your list gets the emoji and the other half doesn’t to see which subject line performs better.

Then rinse and repeat! You’ll always be one step ahead in the inbox and better equipped to get people reading your emails.

Oh, hi! 👋

I’m Morgan – online marketing expert, business strategist, and entrepreneur.  My motto when it comes to marketing is “let it be easy.  I help entrepreneurs break up with the burnout and banish overwhelm with simple strategies that help you grow on cruise control.


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