The Secret to Writing Kick Butt Subject Lines

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Be honest: when you write your emails, how much time do you spend on your subject line?

1 minute? 2 minutes? 10 seconds?

Coming up with a subject line doesn't necessarily have to take a long time. However, as the first piece of content your readers will see, its one and only job is to get your email opened.  If your subject line comes across as boring, unintelligent, or worse yet – spammy – all the hard work that's gone into crafting your email goes right down the drain.

When writing your subject line, always keep this mantra at the forefront of your mind:

“Simple, trustworthy, explanatory”.

Simple: Yes, there's room for creativity within your subject lines, but don't feel you need to craft a highly-complicated tome based on an algorithm no one's thought of before. Keep it SIMPLE. Test after test shows that simple, clear headlines beat out creative ones, hands down.

Trustworthy: Subject lines that contain questionable words like ‘free', ‘buy' or ‘earn' are sure to get your emails sent right to the spam file. But did you know there are also words that, while not triggering a spam filter, tend to seriously damage your open rates? According to MailChimp, for instance, three other words to avoid are ‘help', ‘percent off', and ‘reminder'.

Explanatory: Your subject line should give a clear indication of what's contained in the email. This isn't the time to surprise your readers; be very clear what they can expect if they open your email. Meeting their expectations in this way also builds trust, so the next time you send an email, they are more likely to open that one too.

OK, this is all well and good, but I also know the feeling of trying to brainstorm a subject line and coming up empty.

So to help you out, I have compiled a list of keywords that tend to correlate with higher open rates, as well as some email subject lines that others have used with success.

Hopefully these will inspire you the next time you come up blank!

20 Keywords to Try Including in Your Subject Lines

  • Thank You!
  • Free Delivery
  • News
  • Bulletin
  • Video
  • Alert
  • Daily
  • Breaking
  • Update
  • Review
  • Trial
  • Half price
  • Limited
  • ROI
  • Invitation
  • Sale
  • Savings
  • Exclusive
  • Gift
  • Voucher

15 Email Subject Line Templates to Try

  1. 5 secrets to  ______________
  2. Have you heard about ____________?
  3. Just in case you missed this…
  4. Do you have a burning question about _________?
  5. For ______, this works like crazy
  6. Do you know the symptoms of _________?
  7. The #1 way to ___________
  8. Do __________ faster with these 5 tips
  9. How these people are succeeding at  ___________
  10. A ________ in 4 hours?
  11. ________ ends today…Act now!
  12. Thanks for __________
  13. 10 tips for ____________
  14. A 10 step to do list for _____________
  15. It's urgent that you ____________

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas for your next email or newsletter. But keep in mind that there is no replacement for split testing. What works for one business or industry may not work for another, so it is imperative that you test out different subject lines, not only in terms of open rates, but also in terms of conversion and unsubscribe rates.

Do you have any ‘tried and true' email subject lines? Any that you definitely wouldn't recommend? Let me know below!

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10 years ago

Very nice post Kim. I really like your selection of keywords that should been used when we are emailing our subscribers. And I definitely agree with keeping it simple. If it is long, maybe you will end up boring people and they will never go to your site. The key is to make it simple but very attractive.

10 years ago

Thanks for the templates and suggestions, Kim. As to including “Thank you” in the subject line, I once had my mail land on the spam folder. May be spammers got that word too 🙂 lol. Anyways, I personally found that having short, simple and descriptive enough titles get the most opens. Thanks again!

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