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What Makes a Good Email Subject Line?

Subject lines determine the fate of your email. It is solely upon them to let the recipient know that your message is worth opening, let alone reading.

The average office worker receives around 90 emails daily, which means that, in order for your offer to be considered, your subject line must be concise and to the point and your email on top of the other messages.

Mind the Timing

First of all, emails should be sent at 8 am or 4 pm, because the majority of recipients access their inboxes in the morning and just before the end of the day. For international brands, that means sending multiple batches of emails in accordance with recipients’ respective time zones.

Another important thing is to keep it moderated. Sending emails too frequently is the fastest way for your messages to be flagged as spam. Once or twice weekly is a reasonable plan. 

Attracting Recipients’ Attention

Now that your email will be spotted immediately, it’s time for your subject line to attract the recipient’s attention. Most subject lines feature a keyword or two, which is fine if they fit in nicely. Here are some commonly effective ones.

According to Alchemy Worx, the five most efficient keywords are “go,” “just,” “upgrade,” “content” and “wonderful,” followed by “congratulations,” “promotional,” “snapshot,” “deduction” and “voluntary.”

Adestra and Smart Insights have discovered that the most effective subject line keywords are “alert,” “free delivery,” “available,” “news” and “new.”

Other high-performing subject line keywords include “introducing,” “back in stock,” “order today,” “orders over,”  “breaking,” “off selected,” “brand new,” “iPhone,” “available,” “thanks,” “thank you,” “sale starts,” “great deals,” “latest,” “golden,” “bulletin” and “special.”

The choice is rich and usually every offer can be introduced by at least one of these words. However, use them sparingly. Subject lines should be concise. The best formula is to use one keyword to attract the attention of the recipient (e.g., “breaking: [offer description]”). 

Emojis: Pros and Cons

When it comes to emojis, opinions are divided. Because not all emojis are properly displayed on all devices and in all browsers, they are tricky to use.

It is well-known that younger audiences love seeing emojis, so if this is your target group, make sure to test send your emails and check them on multiple devices and in most popular browsers.

The great majority of emails cater to mobile users. If your audience is predominantly U.S.-based, the common device is iPhone.

As regards the choice of the emoji, naturally you should use the one that underlines the message behind the offer, but don’t overdo it. Using too many emojis will create the opposite effect.

Needless to say, people love seeing positive emojis.

“Emojipedia notes that the most popular emojis at any given time are smileys, hearts, humans, and hand gestures. Even though there is a long list of animals, sports, objects, and symbols it seems that people want to see themselves or their emotions reflected in the emojis they use.” – Jeremy Burge, founder of Emojipedia and creator of World Emoji Day

Below is the list of most popular emojis by country. 

most popular emojis by country

Subject Line Length

Much has been said about the topic of subject line length, with some general conclusion that the optimum count is ca. 41 characters.

The calculation comes from the word limit on most popular devices, notably iPhone (41). The other most popular choice – Gmail – has the limit of 7 characters.

Subject lines must not be cut; they convey the message and announce the offer. Ultimately, they tell the recipient whether to bother opening the email at all, so if they are cut, it sends a wrong message.

Generally speaking, shorter subject lines are more effective than longer ones. It is a true form of art – conveying your feelings using as few words as possible. 

Address Urgent Issues

People look for offers that will solve their issues as efficiently and as fast as possible. Your offer should appeal to this sentiment, by creating urgency.

Use insights to get to know your audience. Shopping cart abandonments, for example, are a great way to learn about your customers’ interests without having to ask for their input.

Asking the customers directly is also recommended. Surveys and feedback, if done the right way, are welcome by the audience, especially if you’re offering some kind of incentive. For example, you may offer a discount on the next purchase or access to exclusive content (an e-book, for example).

In line with the abovementioned, you should send only personalized emails with customized offers. Sending the same offer to different types of buyers will not serve any purpose except to make the analysis more difficult.

It is only to be expected that different people look for different products and services, so give them what they are interested in. If you run a brand that serves different buyer groups (e.g., regulars and VIPs), send two different types of offers to each of them.

Finally, let the audience know that you care. Your brand may not have a face behind the voice, but the voice can be a friend, albeit invisible. Start with sending a welcome message after subscription and a thank you message after each purchase. Of course, address people by their name.

Consistency Is the Key

A successful brand is widely recognizable by its approach, its tone of voice and, ultimately, its unique offer.  Be consistent when addressing people; choose your style and stick to it.

Mixing different approaches is not good – it’s rather schizophrenic and definitely unexpected. Your audience will expect the same level of quality and customer support at all times, and the way you get the message across should be consistent with the trend.


Email campaigns are the single cheapest and most efficient way to gain new customers. Like any form of advertising, they should adhere to a stellar strategy. Many brands experiment in the beginning until they come up with the winning combination. The only exception to the rule is – the subject line.

Subject lines must be impeccable from the first message you send. First impressions decide the outcome in the long run. If your first email is flagged as spam, you have lost that customer.

Therefore, stick to the tips mentioned above – comply with the ideal length and wording of the subject line for best results. In time, people will come to recognize your brand solely by your subject lines, which is the ultimate goal you should strive to achieve.

After working as digital marketing consultant for 4 years Deepak decided to leave and start his own Business. To know more about Deepak, find him on Facebook, LinkedIn now.


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