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Subject Lines: Why They Matter More Than You Think

By: Angela Ash



Email marketing campaigns are all the rage these days, given that they are efficient and affordable, if done the right way. Much has been said about various email marketing strategies but all of them, curiously, overlook the most important feat – subject lines.

Basically, the general recommendation stands at 41 characters and a concise message, and that’s, more or less, universally accepted. As regards to the actual contents of a subject line, marketing agencies are solely focused on keywords.

This is wrong on so many levels that it’s not even worth explaining it. The simple truth that subject lines decide the fate of your email is all you need to know. No keywords, no matter how popular, will help your cause if they are randomly placed or incorporated into a clickbait – the practice that has become a common occurrence rather than an exception, unfortunately.

So, first things first – you’ll need to learn how to compose efficient subject lines, not just some mumbo-jumbo swarming with some keywords.

Clarity Comes First

Stellar subject lines announce the offer following in the text body. No boasting, no theatrics and no clickbaits. The actual skill you need to learn is how to write short, focused subject lines that speak volumes in just a couple of words.

First of all, successful brands continually work on deepening relationships with their customers. From day one, you should encourage communication. Asking recipients for feedback in an email is absolutely needed, but the way in which you do it is of essence.

As a rule, subject lines featuring “do you have a minute,” “we need to chat” and similar platitudes are flagged as spam before you can say Jack Robinson. Instead of making people pressured to provide feedback, address actual issues.

Shopping cart reminders are the best example. Oftentimes, people are facing technical issues preventing them from completing a purchase. Every time a cart is abandoned, make an effort to ask the customer what went wrong.

In this way, you will show the customer that you care and also help your cause by eliminating potential issues for other customers. This is also a great way to build a relationship based on trust with your audience.

Keep up the good practice by following up with adequate offers announced by concise subject lines in your brand’s established communication style.

For and Against Emojis

There is no general rule when it comes to emojis. Some people like them; others don’t. It all depends on your target audience. If you’re selling expensive cars, chances are your audience will not appreciate the “flippant” style.

If your audiences are young adults, likely they will prefer casual communication, emojis included.

Again, everything depends on knowing your audience, which is the starting point of every successful marketing campaign, email or not.

If you decide on using emojis, make certain to test-send your email and check it out on different devices and OSs. The majority of emails are being accessed via iPhone and Gmail, so pay attention to these in particular.

When it comes to the choice of an emoji, it obviously needs to resonate with the message. Positive emotions are normally preferred to negative one, as follows:

Personalize Emails

Personalized messages fare better than others, and we believe we need not explain why. According to various studies, personalized messages boost CTRs by 14%, on average and conversions – by 10%.

If we add that the great majority of promotional emails are not personalized, you’ll have no difficulties realizing how to boost your chances. Make personalization a top priority for best results. This doesn’t apply only to subject lines but to all forms of communication – emails, social media, chats, and even content creation.

Optimize Emails for Mobile Users

Most emails are being accessed on mobile devices – the trend that is in full swing. This is important to keep in mind at all times since mobile users do not appreciate any kind of content that requires stellar connection. Think in terms of tourists and you’ll get an idea.

Keep images to a minimum. If you must use them, optimize them so that they retain full quality but are not too large. Optimize your website so as to not lose customers when they click on the CTA and land on an image-heavy page.

Last but not least, use one font only – not too small and not too large, and not fancy by any means. It needs to make the message easy to read.

Create Urgency

Most marketers know that creating the sense of urgency is the key to getting the recipient to perform the desired action. However, many fail at actually achieving this goal, either because they are prone to theatrics or because they confuse clickbaits with quality offers.

The usual practice is offering time-limited special offers, either discounts or coupons, free shipping, giveaways or some other benefit. Choosing the right benefit is the key, but it is equally important to announce it efficiently.

How many times have you seen subject lines like: “hurry up, the limited offer is ending soon” or “your coupon expires in two days?” We’re guessing one too many, but still, did you read the message? Most people do, provided they know the recipient. If your message appears out of the blue announcing that the coupon expires soon and the recipient has no idea about being in the possession of any coupons from you, then you have lost that recipient for good.

Therefore, rather than creating urgency at random, make certain to announce your offer beforehand.

Get Creative!

We can safely assume that the majority of people receive too many offers. To think that your message must beat all the others speaks volumes about the importance of the subject line.

To help your cause, mind the timing of your message. It’s recommended to send emails either at 8 a.m. or at 4 p.m. Mind the time zones! In this way, your message will be at the top when the recipient is checking incoming messages, which will increase its visibility drastically.

Now that you’ve ensured that your email is easy to spot, you need to know that it is actually read. Get creative with the subject line. Don’t be content with random “recipes” that work. Be unique, concise, clear and use personalization to your benefit.


Email is a great tool. Too great, in fact, that many marketers tend to misuse it by confusing quantity with quality. To avoid this trap, make a calendar. Don’t send emails too frequently but also don’t slack off, or people will forget about your brand. Personalize your messages as well as your offer, and encourage communication with smart word usage. Social media is great for this purpose.

Last but not least, be yourself. Don’t generalize your subject line just to meet some criteria. Be reliable, trustworthy and respond in a timely manner, and soon people will start recognizing your offer at a glance – even if their inbox is full.

Published: March 9, 2021

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Angela Ash

Angela Ash

Angela Ash is a professional writer who focuses on business topics related to marketing, remote work, productivity, entrepreneurship, freelancing, employee engagement and more. She also provides content and editing services for Flow SEO.

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