Less than a second. That’s how long it takes a person to decide the fate of your email. In the worst of scenarios, they’ll send your message to spam … and nobody wants to end up in spam. Especially when your professional job is marketing and success hinges on you getting emails opened, read, and acted on. (See what we did there?)

But of course, the challenge is that a single sentence dictates everything. And that sentence is the subject line.

Research shows that 69% of email recipients report emails as spam after reading a subject line.

In general, the subject line should be:

  • Succinct
  • Benefit focused
  • Accurate about what’s inside the email

A great subject line can also be clever — and maybe even a bit unusual. Keep in mind these are not hard-and-fast rules. Your audience will always tell you what works and what doesn’t with their clicks. So follow the data. Always follow the data.

And if you haven’t collected data yet, don’t worry! We’ll help you get started with 12 best practices for email subject lines.

1. Email Subject Lines … Focus on the Benefit

Why should your reader care? Don’t make them guess the benefit of opening your email. Spoon-feed it to them. We’ll give you an example:

Learn How {Customer Name} Increased Open Rates 77%

The benefit is “we’re going to show you how this customer increased their open rate and help you do the same.”

Also, you’ll want to overdeliver on your subject line in the email content. Otherwise, the next time you land in the inbox, your reader will pass you by (or worse, mark you as spam!).

And by the way, that 77% open rate is a true story; you can check it out here.

2. Great Email Subject lines … Keep It Active

The challenge with subject lines is you have limited space. Using action words like “get,” “watch,” “join,” or similar can help use that space more wisely. Why? Action words make your subject line more powerful.

For example, if you have an upcoming webinar, you might write:

Join to Learn How to 10x Email Open Rates

In this example, you’re telling the reader exactly what they need to do and combining it with a specific promise.

3. Best Practice Email Subject Lines … Make It Short

You might write a juicy subject line but you’ll face performance issues if it’s too long. Email providers have specific limits to how much text they’ll display, which can threaten to chop off part of your message. Here’s an example:

Long subject line:

Join to Learn How {Company Name} Doubled Revenue and 10x Email Open Rates

What your reader actually sees:

Join to Learn How {Company Name} Double…

A big difference, right? You lost the best parts of your message.

So, how long is too long? A good subject line is typically 50 characters or less.

4. Marketing Emails Subject Lines … Avoid ‘Spammy Words.’

Spammy words earn you a one-way ticket to the junk folder. And here’s the worst part. Machine learning is watching you, so if your emails habitually get marked as spam, getting back into the inbox will be hard.

A few potential trigger words to avoid:

  • Free
  • Act now
  • Offer
  • Get it now
  • Exclusive deal
  • Get started now
  • Apply now

And watch your use of symbols, emojis, and all caps. They can quickly make you look spam-like to both readers and the ISPs. So know your audience, avoid spam trigger words, and continue to test email subject lines to see what users like and what they don’t.

5. Email Subject Lines … Don’t Try to Act Like You Know Them

That includes adding a “FW” or “RE” in your subject line or trying to be mysterious (“You won’t believe this …” or even worse, “Hi”). These are bush league tactics that “consultants” want to sell you on but that never result in meaningful relationships with your audience.

For more tips and examples, check out our partner Act-On’s blog.

Contact Us today to learn more about how Goose Digital can help you with your email marketing performance.