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5 Subject Line Tips to Increase Email Open Rates

By Snap Agency January 5, 2021

You know that old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover?” The thing is, many of us do—our “cover,” in this case, being email subject lines. You’re less likely to open a book if the cover doesn’t capture your interest; the same rule applies in the world of email marketing.

Now, your customers are busy people, so there’s no magic solution for how to increase email open rates to 100%. In fact, the industry-standard email open rates sit somewhere between 15-25%. 

Of course, we want you to shoot for the moon, so we’ve compiled several subject line tips to skyrocket those open rates above average. No, really, we’re talking in the 20-30% open rate territory. Let’s get your customers forming positive impressions about your “covers” now so that they open and discover the exemplary brand within.

1. Personalize Those Subject Lines

Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” And that doesn’t just apply to verbal conversations; adding your customer’s name to that email subject line has proven to increase open rates by 17%.

Consider the following subject lines:

“We’ve missed you!”

“Thanks for being a loyal member!”

“We love your style.”

Now, place the customer’s name somewhere within that subject line. We suggest making it the first word so that they see it immediately, but feel free to get creative.

Consider the new and improved subject lines:

“Dana, we’ve missed you!”

“Thank you, George!”

“Mia, we love your style.”

While deceptively simple, this technique can subtly shift customers from feeling like the means to complete a transaction to valued patrons of your business.

2. Limit Number of Characters, Especially on Mobile

No surprise here: in email subject lines, less is more. And with around 50% of emails opened on mobile devices (as opposed to 20% on desktop), you want to ensure those mobile users can read your full subject line without it getting cut off.

How many characters should an email subject line be? Our research suggests around 24-30 characters; 35-40+ characters show significantly less open rates on mobile.

Of course, a minimal number of characters isn’t always possible, especially in those personalized emails when customers have long names. There are, of course, some exceptions. When in doubt, though, keep those email subject lines short.

3. Numbers and Lists Are Your Best Friends

Similar to blog posts, numbers and lists are eye-catching in emails. That’s what makes a good old Top 10 list so appealing—they invite curiosity, and they’re often quick reads with new, relevant information. Numbers also break up the monotony of our standard visual field—similar to a deliberately placed pop of color on a graphic ad.

Maybe Top 10 lists aren’t really in your line of work. If so, no worries, because numbers with percentages or dollar amounts are equally effective. Here are some examples:

“75% off sale ends TODAY!”

“Boost web traffic by 55%”

“$80 rebate? Yes, please.”

4. Make Use of FOMO

FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, has its psychological roots, but has become that much more prevalent with the rise of the internet and social media. Meaning, emails that imply scarcity or limited time offers speak to that FOMO and boost open rates like nothing else.

Here are some examples of what we mean:

“$9.99 tees – 24 HOURS ONLY”

“50% off to first 20 customers”

“Hurry! Last day of fall sale”

When those email open rates begin to rise, you’ll have both your marketing technique and humanity’s deep-rooted flock mentality to thank. Call us science nerds, but we think that’s pretty cool.

5. Create an Air of Mystery

We talked earlier about how lists make us curious, and that same rule applies to emails that create “gaps” in our knowledge. In other words, our innate desire for closure (“what does that subject line mean, anyway?”) will have users opening emails to solve the mystery.

Here are some examples of mysterious, slightly-offbeat subject lines:

“Whatever you do, don’t open this email.”

“Is this skincare routine for real?”

“You’re doing landing pages wrong.”

Sidenote: as fun as these subject lines can be, we suggest you use them in moderation. After all, an air of mystery can wear off fast and may come across as too clickbait-y if used all the time. The last thing we want is for your carefully-curated email campaign to wind up in the spam folder, so avoid anything aggressively sales-focused and consider adding personal branding to subject lines.

20-30% Email Open Rates? It’s Easier Than You Think!

Now, how’s that for a subject line? No, seriously—we want to help you craft compelling email subject lines and boost those open rates to new heights. For a more in-depth conversation on how to maximize subject line potential, send us a message, and we’ll get you started.

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