Writing a great subject line for your emails can be the difference between gaining sales and being instantly deleted. Yet it’s something that, for many of us, is an afterthought.

How much time do you spend writing your email subject lines? 30 seconds? A minute? Surprisingly, it only takes seconds for your recipient to decide whether to open your email or not, based on the subject line alone.

So, how can you compel people to open your email and take action? Here are some ideas:

Write the subject line first

You already know what your message will say, so it should be relatively easy to note down a few key words or phrases that relate to your email message and then write a subject line from these.

Put key words first

It’s no surprise that we receive half of our emails on a smartphone. Long subject lines will be cut off. Therefore, it’s best practice keep them short and make sure those first few words indicate what your message is about.

Use power-characters sparingly

With power-characters, I’m referring to things like TYPING IN CAPS, using a bazillion exclamation marks, question marks, emojis, or putting weird symbols that might confuse the recipient.

Sure, using power-characters may attract your receipient’s attention, and it could even be the magic key that gets your message opened if done right but take it easy and only use them if it makes absolute sense.

Numbers can pique interest

There have been loads of studies on using numbers in subject titles (Google it if you don’t believe me). People love numbers and lists, so having an email title like ’20 reasons to…’, or ‘20% off this new product’ may create enough interest for people to open the email and have a look. Give it a try!

Use names

If your inbox is anything like mine, you’ll open your browser every day to a slew of new emails, and I’m willing to bet a large proportion of those are junk emails. This is what you’re up against when you send emails – and why anything you can do to stand out is so important.

Among the cold, impersonal emails, it’s always nice to see something more personal. Mentioning your recipients by their name, or even mentioning their company or location, can work.

Don’t be boring

It’s OK to use humour or wordplay in your titles, as long as it’s relevant. Ask a question, mess around with a popular song, film, or book title or hint at a personal story or anecdote related to your email message.

Create a sense of urgency

Putting a deadline in the email subject line can work wonders if you’re offering something of value. Words like ‘NOW’, ‘TODAY ONLY’, or ‘BY MIDNIGHT’, for example, let your recipients know that the offer is valid for a short time only.

Another option is limiting the number of offers available so that it’s a ‘first come, first served’ kind of deal.

Ask a question

Asking compelling questions that relate to your audience can also tempt them to click open – this is where knowing your audience comes into play because you have to be aware of what type of question will grab their interest.

Getting into their heads with a ‘what would you do?’ type of question or the ever-intriguing ‘can you help?’ makes your readers feel like they’re about to show their superpowers somehow and contribute.

Highlight value

Why should your readers care? People need a good reason to want to open your email. So make sure that you’re subject line focuses on the benefits. Point out, straight from the off, what value they’ll be getting if they open the message.

Examples of this could be money off or some other limited offer, information that promises to save them time or money (or make more of it!), or an invitation or freebie that they won’t be able to resist.

Check it before you send it!

Please check your subject line for errors! Remember, this is the first thing people see, so if it has a glaring spelling mistake or doesn’t make sense, your message may go straight to the recycle bin!

Send a test version to a couple of trusted colleagues to ensure all is correct before sending the final version to your audience.

Over to you

Has this article inspired you to work on your email subject lines? Have you found the magic formula that gets your emails opened every time? Or would you like some further guidance on setting up your emails? Give me a shout; I’d love to hear from you!