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6 Tips for Stellar Subject Lines


It’s said that you’ll never get a second chance at making a first impression and nowhere is that more true than within the realm of email marketing. The subject line is your recipient’s first glimpse into who they’re dealing with and your first shot at gaining their trust. Here are six email subject line tips to improve your open rate.  

1. Keep It Simple

No one is going to open an email if they’ve already read an essay in your subject line. In 2014, personalization platform company Retention Science released a study that found that subject lines with 6-10 words had a 21% open rate. The 6-10 word open rate was 5% higher than the next closest range of 0-5 words. In general, try to keep the subject line between 6-10 words and a maximum of 50 characters for best results.

2. Get Personal

There’s nothing worse than receiving an email from a generic business email address like or These email addresses make recipients feel like you don’t care and reduce the chance of them saving your email address down to almost zero. Preferably, use your own name in your email address and, if it makes sense, use your recipient’s name or business name in the subject line. This lets your recipient know that there is a real person on the other end who wrote this email just for them.

3. Incite Action

We all know calls-to-action are important, but they’re not often used in emails until the recipient has already gotten to the body. Calls-to-action in the subject line can entice more readers to open the email and learn the details of what they need to do. Recipients tend to respond best to direct instructions and a command in the email subject line is a great way to improve your open rate.

4. Get Creative

Most email subject lines are boring and generic. Those that stand out will experience higher open rates. Retention Science’s study found that email subject lines referencing popular movies or song lyrics had a 10% higher open rate than those that used more traditional subject lines. This trend doesn’t stop with movie and song lyric references. Word play and small jokes in your subject lines help your email shine in a recipient’s otherwise dull inbox.

5. Create Urgency

Email inboxes have no shortage of distractions keeping you from reaching your readers and sometimes a sense of urgency is exactly what you need to reach the top of your recipient’s priority list. Including a deadline in your subject line lets your recipient know that your offer won’t last forever and they need to act fast. This won’t only help with email open rates, but could also improve lead acquisition and response rate.

6. Test, Test, Test

No email subject line is perfect and there is always room for improvement. Don’t limit yourself by getting comfortable with a set list of templated subject lines. Use A/B testing frequently to see which of your subject lines is performing the best and make note of the drivers of these fluctuations in open rates. Tools like Streak and Bananatag let you track your email open rates so that it’s easier to compare and contrast different subject lines.

Even with stellar prospecting and a huge email list, no one is going to see your awesome content if they don’t even open the email. Establishing trust, making a great first impression, and getting your emails opened all starts with a well-written subject line.

Jameson Slattery is Executive Director, E-commerce & Digital Marketing at Colorescience.