6 Quick Win Tactics to Improve Email Marketing Subject Lines

Posted by Rowland Marsh on 09/10/16 15:57
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Rowland Marsh

Tactics to improve email subject lines

Here is a scenario: You have a decent-sized subscriber list, quality content and an efficient ESP, but your open rates are lower than expected. How much time has your marketing team spent on composing email subject lines? Likely not enough. Your email subject lines are hugely significant in your engagement strategy and effective subject lines have a big impact on boosting open rates and click-throughs. We've outlined 6 quick win strategies to improve your email marketing subject lines and offer a free downloadable email subject lines guide:

1. Use actionable language

The easiest way to encourage subscribers to open your brand’s marketing emails is by thinking of your subject lines as calls to action. By clicking on your email in their inbox, they open the door to your content. Using actionable language within your subject lines and pre-text headers, urges your subscribers to head towards that action. Think about phrases such as “Discover this summer’s must-have…” or “Book now to avoid missing out…”. If you spark subscribers' interest, the actionable language can trigger an open.

2. Keep it short and sweet

Sounds simple and like common sense, but it is crucial to have punchy email marketing subject lines in order to grab the attention of the subscriber browsing through their inbox. Be smart with your wording and playful, if suitable, but also be concise and snappy.

Average subject line length for email marketing is between 41-50 characters, and any longer will be affected by cut-off points on many mobile device browsers. However, a study by Return Path showed that the highest average read rate (for the 3000-strong retail senders in the research) was for subject lines comprising of between 61-70 characters. There are no perfect formulas, but keeping your subject lines to the point is the way to get engagement from subscribers.

3. Insert "magic" questions

Adding questions to subject lines is an effective way to hook customer intrigue. Focus on your customer personas and what their desires, needs and issues are – in relation to your business offering – and try to serve these needs and solves their issues with your email content.

Try to pose “magic” questions that your insights show your customers want answers to and lead them toward content which can answer these answers. Your subscribers will be compelled to open your emails, engage and click on relevant calls to action. Check out the following subject line examples from brands using questions as a tactic:

  • Where will your next adventure take you? – TNT Travel
  • Craving the next great TV show? Read on – Next
  • Off to Uni? All the essentials you need in one place... – Mr Hyde

4. Use emojis and symbols to stand out

Emojis are no longer a fad. Instead, they're now a key engagement tool in both social media and email marketing. It's a growing trend for brands to add emojis and symbols into their email subject lines. Not only are emojis eye-catching, they help enhance your message and provoke an instant emotive reaction. Reports have shown they significantly increase open rates.

Tread carefully with emojis though and judge their suitability to each piece of content. Don't replace a word with an emoji – some devices and platforms don't support them – only use them to accompany your message.

5. Insert keywords

Not only are keywords crucial to good SEO in marketing, they're important for continuity and customer experience. In email marketing, you want to make sure subscriber expectations are met through the engagement progress. Inserting primary keywords in your email subject lines and repeating these within your email templates, in conjunction with your calls to action, makes the customer experience clearer and more user-friendly. Subscribers seeing continuity between subject lines and content are more likely to convert, which means improved click-through rates.

6. Utilise personalisation

Adding personalisation to email subject lines humanises marketing content, reassures subscribers and encourages interaction. Customers want to feel like individuals in a brand relationship, and personalisation stops subscribers viewing your emails as spam. Read more on the important role of personalisation in email marketing with our following blog: 5 Ways to Boost Email Marketing Conversions with Personalisation.

Remember to test and optimise!

Not strictly a quick win, as it does take time to test all the of the elements that go into composing click-worthy email subject lines, but testing and optimising is one of the first things you should be looking to implement when launching an email marketing campaign.

It's easy to test different subject line lengths, wording and use of symbols, but in order to optimise your subject lines you should put in place a strategic email marketing split testing process, so you can evaluate the performance of different subject lines and refine them to improve engagement rates.


These tips should help you increase open rates and click-through rates, and should give you better focus around the importance of making your email subject lines stand out from subscriber inboxes. It's a costly oversight to put all your efforts into your email design, but not address the important role of email subject lines in achieving high customer engagement and conversions.

Want to learn more about email subject line optimisation? Download our free ebook The Ultimate Guide to Writing Email Marketing Subject Lines now and start creating more impact with email!

Download Ultimate Subject Lines Guide

Enchant is a leading UK digital marketing agency, based in London. Specialising in email marketing, CRM, inbound marketing and paid social advertising, our marketing consultants help brands to reach their full potential with customer-centric strategies. Get in touch and see how we can help you supercharge your performance fast!

Topics: A/B testing, calls to action, Email Marketing, Email marketing campaigns, Email marketing strategies, Email subject lines, Keywords, Magic questions, optimisation, optimise, Personalisation, Questions, relevance, Relevant content, Split testing, subject lines, Testing

Rowland Marsh

Written by Rowland Marsh

Rowland is the Marketing Manager at Enchant Agency. He is a writer, content marketer and former film reviewer. Rowland studied Literature and Philosophy at UEA and has a background in promotions, marcomms and print media.

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