Quick subject line guide

Good subject lines = more clicks = more sales 

That's how it's supposed to work. However, you'll need to understand some simple rules about writing a subject line. Let's walk through it.

What is the subject line? From name? Preheader text? Why do you need to care?

Here are the basics. Take a look at this image below. As you can see, the from name, subject line, and preheader text are all part of the first impression your message makes. 

All 3 work together to help get people to notice, recognize, and engage with you. 

All 3 are chances to help win people over or make them uneasy with you. 

Desktop view (Gmail on Chrome)

Mobile view (Gmail app on IphoneX)

Your from name should be a consistent part of your marketing/brand. You'll choose it once, and not change it very much. People need to recognize it and associate it with your brand. You can make your from name your business name or your own name. Whichever you think people will recognize right away (Business name is a safe call). If your business name is longer than 20 characters, then you can shorten it, so it's still readable in the inbox.

3 simple rules for subject lines

The subject line should follow these 3 rules:

1. Stay concise: Get your point across in 1-7 words, and make sure the 'keywords' are stated first. Keywords are any words that you know your audience cares about or will get their attention.

Example of being concise: Consider A vs. B below

  • Version A: 50% off sale today only. Take a peek -->
  • Version B: We have a wide selection of hats, and we thought we'd put a sale on today

Version A communicates what's happening right away and has an action for people to take. Your audience is more likely to open this subject line.

Example of keyword placement:

  • Version A: New Lip Plump shades just arrived in the store
  • Version B: The store just got a new shipment of Lip Plump shades and colors

Version A communicates the product name and that it's 'new' right away. Your audience is more likely to open this subject line.

2. Stay accurate. Offering up an over-the-top subject line to get people to open will make them feel tricked. If your subject line says "we've got cute puppy pics," and then they open the message and there's NO puppy pics... then yes, you got them to open... but without those cute puppies, they will probably unsubscribe or mark it as spam. So while you want to be enticing, you don't want to promise something in your subject line that you can't deliver on in the content of your email.

Example accurate vs inaccurate

  • Version A: See why our new boyfriend tees are all the rage
  • Version B: You won't believe what we just did!

Version A is fun and incites a little curiosity and, unless you have a real and very impressive story, then Version B is just clickbait.

3. Spell check it. This sounds like a no-brainer, but trust me - at every email marketing conference I've ever gone to, people love to tell horror stories about misspelled subject lines. Run everything you write through a spell check and text-to-speech app that reads it back to you. It's one small extra step because you don't want to be the one who forgot the 'r' in 'shirt.'

Quick subject line tactics/themes 

  • Emoticons - Can be a fun tactic, especially if you know your audience regularly sees and uses emoticons. Don't overdo it, and some emoticons may not work for inbox (Outlook 🤦♀️ ), so make sure the subject line works with or without the emoticon. 
    • Example
    • 👕 shirts for Father’s Day
    • ❄️  Burr! Check out our new cold-weather styles.🧣🧤🧦
  • The Question - This type of subject line takes a regular statement and turns it into a question. It entices the viewer's curiosity. 
    • Have you seen our Fall line?
    • What are you wearing for New Year's Eve?
    • What's the hot new style for summer?
  • Utilize Urgency - If you have a limited-time promotion or inventory of a product, you can make sure people understand that by setting up a subject line with urgency. Be careful with this one. It's very easy to overdo it, so be selective about when you try it. If everything becomes urgent, then nothing is really urgent. 
    • 3 hours left, and then they’re gone!
    • We're running out fast, only 10 left.
  • Using your unique selling proposition (USP) or niche - This is when you really lean into your brand. Really bank on what you know about your audience and make the subject align with what you know about what subscribers love about your product. In the examples below, only the niche audience would fully appreciate the subject line. To people not in that niche, it wouldn't seem as powerful. It can be a risky play but have big payoffs if you have a solid connection between your niche and your products. 
    • Nerds: 'Fear is the mind-killer' prints available  
    • All the 🖤 feels for these new shades 💄👄
  • Being Helpful - Who loves little tips? We all do. Make a message that's helpful to people and show that off in the subject line. Guides/how-to tips/where to find/recipes/steps - these are all ways to help people understand something. Keep the value real and digestible, and your audience will really connect with you.
    • Gift guide if you’re in a rush
    • Style guide for Fall fashions

What to do with preheader text

Your preheader text backs up your subject line. It's a little extra real estate you can use to get your point across. 

Take a look below for a quick refresher on where the subject line and preheader text are.

Desktop view (Gmail on Chrome)

Mobile view (Gmail app on IphoneX)

It's a more flexible space, meaning you can expect people to see anywhere from 30 - 200 characters, depending on where they view the message. It's important to remember it's not guaranteed that they will see the whole preheader text or read it at all. But they might, and many do. Which means you can use it to get your point across. 

Use this text to support what you just stated in your subject line. Let's say you could state that you had a new sale on sweaters; you could use the subject line to say what colors or styles those sweaters were. 

Here are a couple of examples where the subject line stands on its own, and the preheader text reveals a bit more and entices people to open.

Subject lines for remails

Quick backstory: A remail is when you send the same message to people who didn't open it originally but change up the subject line. The viewer doesn't realize it's the same message because they've already missed the first message. Remails are great but don't do them too much, or your overall open rates will go down. (If those go down, then eventually so will sales)

Now the question is, what do I set for the remail subject line? You can try a totally new subject line, something you think will get their attention and follow best practices. Or you can hit on some urgency. For example, if message 1 was a sale, and message 2 is a remail, it could focus on the sale ending soon. 

Example:

  • Message 1: We've got a sale happening
  • Message 2, the remail: Don't miss out! Our sale is almost over!

Reminder: Read this article on remails for more info on how to set one up.

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