How to write a 5-star subject line cover image of a man writing an email

The Anatomy of a 5-Star Subject Line: Crush Your Email Outreach

It can be assured that the old adage of ‘never judge a book by its cover’ is absolutely the last tip you’d want to consider when crafting an appetizing email subject line. Email subject lines are arguably the most immediately judged upon form of media we consume, especially if they’re sent from sources that aren’t instantly recognizable.

Take your own inbox for example: of the 144.8 billion emails that are sent around the world every day, how often do you come across one that truly compels you to stop everything you’re doing and open it? 

Let’s assume that the answer is ‘seldom’, if not ‘never’. What was it in that inviting prose that scratched your curiosity itch and urged you to take precious seconds out of your day to click on it? That is the question we look to scientifically answer.

Statistics show that the interpretation of an email subject line dictates whether or not it will be open, including 69 percent of email recipients report email as spam solely based on its subject line, and 47 percent of email recipients open an email based entirely on the subject line itself. To ensure your emails are being read and not swiftly sent to the trash, let’s dissect the anatomy of what it takes to craft a five star, temptingly tantalizing email subject line:   

Make Subject Lines Personal 

Right off the bat, let’s dispel all the undesirable aspects of an email subject line. From entirely capitalized pleas for attention (‘WARNING: OPENING THIS EMAIL WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOR THE BETTER’) to outrageous claims of success (‘Click Here If You Are Looking To Add $1 Million To Your Bank Account’), a common thread between desperate and dreary subject lines is the lack of personalization. Studies show that incorporating personal elements into an email subject line can increase open rates by 50 percent.

You can begin by addressing recipients directly by first name, which can automatically ward off suspicions of recycled spam. Beyond that, try to integrate as much research to the specific recipient as possible. If you have access to someone’s transaction history, subtly incorporate their interests based on their past purchases into the subject line. Utilizing merge tags into your email campaigns can also emphasize the personalization of a subject line, as well as boost the specificity and individuality of an email’s content.   

Short And Sweet 

Finding the perfect balance of being informative and quizzical with your subject lines depends solely on its length. You have literally seconds to capture someone’s attention as they scroll through their email, and that duration becomes drastically reduced if they’re using their phone.

Subject lines with between four to nine words are generally recommended, with seven words tending to have the highest click-to-open rates. Subject lines featuring double-digit amounts of words tend to drastically reduce your engagement. In addition to words, keep your punctuation marks or emojis to a minimum as well, as excessive use of exclamation or question marks will only signal red flags for spam. 

Show Urgency, But Not Desperation 

There’s a fine line between instilling a call-to-action and coming off as rash and  impetuous. Urgency, when used creatively, is the backbone of marketing. It compels the recipient to act quickly or else they’ll miss out on an exclusive and incredible opportunity.

Providing timeframes (‘last chance’, ‘this January’, ‘final deadline’, etc.) that imply swift effort can persuade readers to click on whatever is inferring that they’re missing out on something. Promoting exclusivity is another means of enticing email recipients, such as indicating only preferred customers, trusted clients, or special guests are being offered a chance to open this email. 

Never A Dull Moment 

The more creative, quirky, and humorous your subject line can get, the more enlightened, sophisticated, and humanizing it will come across as.

Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with your subject lines, as a little originality can go a long way when it comes to increasing click rates. Witty pop culture references, word play, cunning alliteration, or clever puns can be quick to catch the eye of a rapid inbox scroller, and, if well executed, will be rewarded by the recipient acknowledging your whimsical prose and initiating engagement. 

Be Honest And Forthright 

If you’re hesitant about being too cute or puzzling, then getting straight to the point with your subject lines is always a safe, not sorry, route to use.

If it’s a ‘thank you’ email regarding their participation or involvement, use the subject line to inform them of your appreciation, as well as how you’re doing so within the email (‘Joyce; Here’s A Token Of Our Appreciation’). If it’s a call-to-action or a survey request, don’t waste their time and be sincere about what you’re asking from them (‘Help Us Better Help You Brad’). The worst way to betray a customer or client’s attention is being deceitful or inconsiderate with your subject line. 

Clear and Concise 

No matter what tone you choose to go about incorporating into your subject lines, you want to avoid being vague or oblique at all costs. Be as specific and detailed as possible.

If you’re offering a discount or coupon, don’t just use ‘Claim Your Free Coupon Now!’ as your subject line; inform them exactly how much the discount is or what the coupon is for. If you’re attempting to compel recipients to utilize your services, don’t be coy with what you can provide them. Tell them right then and there in the subject line how you can increase their open rates by exactly how much, or how you can offer them exclusive B2B marketing solutions or software that no one else can. Beating around the bush is the fastest way to lose someone’s interest.