Email Marketing

Supercharge Your Email Open Rates With These Killer Subject Line Tricks

Did you check your inbox today?

There’s probably a bunch of mail marked “unread” that you won’t get around to.

As an email marketer, it’s your job to ensure that readers are drawn to your message, click through, and read your email.

Without a stand-out subject line, this isn’t going to happen. Emails with weak subject lines remain unread and eventually fade away.

It wouldn’t be overkill to say that subject lines make or break your email campaign.

In this guide, I’ll demonstrate a few tricks you can use to ensure your subject lines drive clicks.

Open Rate is King

Open rate is a measure of how many people actually open your email.

If you send out 100 emails but no one opens your message, your email campaign was a waste of time and effort.

The average open rate is 25%. However, you should try to outperform this benchmark.

If you’re not convinced as to why you should – just take a glance at some of these email marketing stats:

To put that in perspective, the world’s largest social network Facebook has 1.94 billion users.

Email is the most popular online activity across all age groups from teenagers, working adults, to retirees.

email marketing stat

When you combine these facts, it translates to an exceptional ROI.

For every dollar spent on a successful email campaign, you can expect $38 in returns. This makes improving your open rate critical for success.

1. Start With A KISS In Mind

You may have heard of the infamous design principle “Keep it Simple Stupid.”

The great news is that it works for your subject lines (though we’ll never call you stupid).

Clear and concise subject lines perform extremely well. With the average person receiving 121 emails per day, you can understand why short and sweet is effective.

People don’t have time for games or cryptic messages.

They want senders to immediately get to the point as to why they are emailing them.

MailerMail recommends limiting subject lines to 28-39 characters. This is the range in which click-through rates are highest.

Check out this sample inbox for yourself to see which subject lines stand out.

simple subject line

Short subject lines also improve email experience on mobile.

You also want to avoid cutting off important words. These subject lines from MarketingProfs and Elegant Themes leave readers annoyed:

mobile emails

2. Arouse Emotions To Motivate Action

People make decisions based on emotions rather than logic.

The fear of missing out (aka FOMO) is one such emotion. If you can craft your subject line copy to trigger a feeling of urgency or loss aversion, the results can be incredible.

You can easily accomplish this by hinting at time-sensitivity.

Mention an upcoming deadline or limited time remaining to avail an offer to get readers to act fast and click-through.

This subject line from Parabo makes sure readers take swift action.

urgency subject line

Use phrases such as “Today Only” or “Get this deal before it’s gone” to bring to light these feelings.

Subject lines that create urgency enjoy a 22% higher CTR.

If it’s not urgency, you can try your luck with subject lines that prompt a reader’s curiosity.

To do this right, you need to create intrigue that generates interest from the reader but doesn’t give away everything so that there is a reason to click-through.

If you saw this email from Canva in your inbox, you’d probably be enticed to click.

curiosity subject line

Think of eliciting curiosity as a “loop” process.

To satisfy the mind’s desire for resolution and closure, use your subject line to open a loop to initiate interest.

Once your reader is hooked, close the loop in the body of your email.

3. Be Personal And Friendly

An email is an extremely personalized medium for communication.

The emails we look forward to seeing in our inboxes are from family or friends. These are people who we know, trust, and who refer to us by our first name.

This has made us accustomed to seeing our own name in an email.

Combine this with our psychological wiring to respond to our name, and it’s no wonder that subject lines that personally address a recipient enjoy 30% higher click-through rates.

Take a look:

personalized email CTR

Twitter builds rapport with its readers by referring to recipients by name in their subject line.

personalization email name

Personalization works because it makes the email unique to your prospects.

Unfortunately, almost every marketer has started to use the name method to personalize email and people are associating such emails as spam.

Yet, addressing a recipient by their name isn’t the only way to personalize.

You can also refer to the location or geography where a recipient is based.

Thrillist does this exceptionally well with its New York themed subject line.

personalized location

4. Add Some Visual Jazz

People process information far more quickly based on what they see rather than read.

But email is a text-based channel, right?

Not exactly.

It’s entirely plausible to add excitement to your subject lines by using emojis. These are small digital images and icons that add flavor to your subject line.

You must have seen emojis used on social media, forums, and personal messaging apps.

Here’s an example of emojis in a subject line from West Elm:

emoji subject line

Emojis are cute, save valuable real-estate, and convey emotion which helps your email subject line get noticed in a crowded inbox.

These elements work together to boost your email open rate.

While emojis can be fun and eye-catching, be mindful of your strategy.

Just as emojis can increase open rates, a badly-placed emoji can negatively impact open rates.

emoji CTR

With that in mind, here are a few guidelines when adding emojis to subject lines:

Popular emojis are great but won’t always be relevant to your subject line. Pick an emoji that is actually related to your message, regardless of its popularity.

If you operate in an orthodox industry such as finance or construction, using a quirky emoji will likely lead to negative reactions from your audience.

Remember that your recipients will not all be using the same email client.

If their email client doesn’t support emojis and converts a part of your subject line into an unrecognized symbol, you will seem spammy.

As with anything good, emojis can be effective if used carefully.

Don’t go adding one to every subject line. Otherwise, you will become predictable and readers will tune you out.

5. Numbers And Lists Are Your Friends

Subject lines are just like blog headlines.

They both serve as the first impression readers have of your brand.

The same reasons that compel people to click-through to your blog can also lure them to open your email.

Subject lines that feature numbers are a surefire way to attract attention. Numbers help the mind breakdown and visualize information into an easily digestible list.

Coschedule sets its subject line apart with a number amongst a sea of text.

subject line numbers

Make sure that you don’t spell out a number but instead use the actual number itself. Also, subject lines should start off with a number instead of one being featured later.

When adding numbers, use odd numbers as much as possible.

Psychologically, odd numbers such as 5 or 7 are easier to remember than even numbers and actually have a 20% higher click-through rate.

6. Focus On The Benefits

People are always in search of solutions to problems and challenges they face.

Citing a common pain point in your subject line creates immediate interest and draws readers to click-through to learn more.

Here are a few universal pain points you can allude to:

Instead of listing a feature in your subject line that means little to your reader, be specific and tell them something they care about.

And don’t be vague about it.

Instead of saying “how to increase your conversion rate.” be specific and say, “how to increase your conversion rate by 50% in one week.”

Mint uses this formula to entice readers to open their email.

benefit email

7. Insure Yourself With Some Social Proof

People conform to the actions of others under the presumption that it’s an accurate reflection of the correct behavior.

In psychology, this is known as social proof.

It’s a widely used concept in web design and implemented on almost all pages where conversion is critical.

For example, think of landing pages and eCommerce product pages. Most successful brands include reviews or “as seen on” social proof to drive a sense of product reliability.

Similarly, social proof can work to increase your email open rates.

Here are a few ways to leverage social proof in your subject lines:

For example, you might create a subject line such as “why [influencer] uses your product” or “why more than [number] people use your product.”

Product Hunt leverages social proof by incorporating both influencers and wisdom of the crowds in their subject line.

social proof subject line


Whether you’re sending out an email to prospects or customers, the end goal is to get the recipient to open it.

You motivate click-through with your subject line.

Remember, a good subject line ultimately has to grab a reader’s attention and convince them that your email is important enough to warrant a click.

Start writing your own winning subject lines by incorporating these tips and tricks today.

About The Author: Ryan Eldridge is Chief Strategist at Squirrel Digital Marketing, a data-driven growth marketing company and digital marketing agency. He is also CEO and Co-Founder of Nerds on Call, a computer repair company servicing clients throughout California and Oregon. He appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and Fox 2 in Oakland, offering viewers insight into tech news and marketing. See Ryan in action at