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Are Your Email Campaigns Click-Worthy? Here’s How to Tell

Written by Tom Ewer on July 10, 2014 Blog.

Email Click ThroughSo, you probably already know by now that having an email list is an essential part of marketing your business online. And you likely know that what you put in those email blasts matters. People subscribe to your list and trust you’ll deliver to them quality. If you fail to meet this expectation, they’ll hit unsubscribe in a nanosecond.

But there’s a missing component here. Have you guessed? Your subject line!

Yes, the email subject line is the most important part of each email you send out because it’s the split second you have to capture someone’s attention, intrigue them, and make them want to click to open the email and read more. This is long before conversion here, or even clicking through to your website. All I’m talking about is that simple decision between, “Yes, I want to read this email” and “Nope, I’m going to delete it.”

To get your email campaign on track and to make sure your subject lines are totally click-worthy, I’ve put together the following tips.

Know Your Audience

You can’t write a good email subject line without having an understanding of who you’re talking to first, and if you do happen to write a good one that resonates, it will have been a happy accident and therefore not repeatable. You need repeatable strategies that can allow you to build a real campaign, not just take a shot in the dark.

So, take some time to get to know your list. This can be largely accomplished by making the content on your site highly targeted to your intended audience, increasing the likelihood that those who sign up are in your target demographic. The better foundation you lay here, the better your click to open and click through rates will be. And whatever you do, try not to waste anyone’s time with an off-base subject line. Mislead a subscriber and they’ll unsubscribe in a heartbeat.

Mind Your Tone

While it might be a bit difficult to even think about tone in as small a space as an email subject line, you still have to try. Because coming off as rude or inappropriate is a surefire way to lose potential customers. This does come down to knowing your audience. You can get away with a harsher, more direct tone with certain audiences over others.

One tone that works very well across most industries and audiences is urgency. Create a sense of urgency in your subject line and you’re more likely to encourage people to open your email. You’ll make them feel as though they’re missing out on something if they don’t. People don’t like to miss out on opportunities. You just need to make sure the incentive is befitting of the headline. Basically, it needs to live up to the hype. A good example is to use the email subject line space to announce a sale, discount, or special you’re running at your store. Add in a sense of urgency – a specific date, timeframe, or deadline – and you’ll watch those clicks increase.

Get to the Point

An email subject line doesn’t exactly offer up a lot of room to beat around the bush. In fact, you have to get to the point immediately or else the entire email stands to fail. This means you need to be incredibly specific. You simply don’t have the space to elaborate on your idea – you have to state the idea upfront. This can definitely be a challenge and you’ll likely need to write out several versions of your subject lines before you find one that ticks off all the criteria.

The Shorter, The Better

Email OpenThis falls right in line with getting to the point: your email subject lines have to be short. For starters, if they exceed a certain length, the entire thing won’t be readable in the subscriber’s inbox. That’s not a good thing. That’s your messaging going unread. Please don’t do this.

Instead, take the length of your headlines into consideration as you write. The more concise you are, the better. Keep this figure in mind: email subject lines that consisted of 49 characters or less are 12.5% more likely to be opened than those with higher character counts.

And the first five words are the most important of all. Some email providers only display around 30 characters before cutting off the email’s subject. This means you need to make every single word do the hard work of encouraging a click.

It may take some revising to get that subject line just right, but it’ll be worth it, I promise.

Subject Lines Are Similar to Headlines

What works in a headline might work in a subject line, too. Not in every case, of course, but it’s something that’s worth looking into, especially in terms of drawing inspiration from a wider range of sources.

For instance, lists always get a lot of engagement in online articles. People like organized content and lists promise to offer that. So, you can use this to your advantage when crafting a subject line. Offer tips and tricks related to your industry. Or “5 ways to do X.”

Also, attention-getting subject lines are more likely to be clicked. What’s attention getting? Depends on your audience and industry. But it’s sometimes okay to push the envelope a bit. If you can phrase your subject line in such a way to sound somewhat scandalous or indicates that must-know information is contained in the email, go for it. Just make sure you’re not misrepresenting your brand or your products when doing this. Going a bit over the top is fine so long as it’s truthful.

When writing, it’s a good idea to go big to start out with. It’s a lot easier to cut back on the scandal and intrigue than to try to artificially insert it into a boring subject line later on.

When all else fails, seek out examples of email subject lines that have received a high click rate from established brands. And think about the article headlines that have prompted you to click. What worked? What didn’t? Pulling from your own experience as a consumer can be helpful here, so long as your interests can align with your target audience’s.


Crafting the perfect email subject line isn’t easy. In fact, it can be downright difficult, especially if you’re not used to this kind of writing. But rest assured: you’re in good company. And you can find more than enough examples of excellent subject lines and headlines online from which to draw inspiration. Just remember to get to know your audience, to consider your tone, and to be as concise as possible.

With enough practice, you’ll be writing email subject lines like the pros and encourage clicks. And from there, you can build a compelling email that promotes engagement and the all-mighty click-through. Now, what I want to know from you is what tips you’ve found to be useful in creating email campaigns? What elements of a subject line have you found to promote the most email opens? Is there a mistake you made early on that you’d like to warn others about? Please feel free to sound off in the comments below!

Image source: sruler9284, Jonathon Narvey


One Response

  1. Terry Herrera
    July 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    Definitely agree with keeping subject lines short. Something short that grabs their attention. I never thought about lists though, I just realized they would grab my attention for sure. Thanks for sharing Tom!