Email subject-line blunders that are costing you money

What do you think: does marketing cost money or make money? If it’s successful marketing, it ultimately creates more money than it costs. If it’s bad marketing, it can cost more than you’re willing to risk. If it’s no marketing at all, that costs you money, too, in the form of lost opportunities. The goal is to leverage your marketing as much as possible. The truth is all marketing can be continually improved over time.

When it comes to email marketing (which, by the way, has the highest return on investment (ROI) of all marketing methods), there are many ways to maximize your results. One of the things that can make the biggest difference in increasing open rates is having better subject lines.

Here’s a short list of things to help you create better subject lines:

Get Descriptive

The more specific your subject line, the better. A subject line that says “November newsletter,” “December newsletter,” “January newsletter” (you get the idea) doesn’t give a person a clue about what content is actually IN the email. Don’t waste this valuable real estate just to tell them you’re sending them something (they already figured that out when they saw you in their inbox) – tell them what the email is ABOUT. Also think in terms of a subject line that is searchable. What do they think it’s about? This way if they remember they saw something about “fall decorating ideas” they can do a search for it and find it. Email inboxes fill up fast and people search for what they think they remembering seeing, either recently or a long time ago. What a concept!

Get personal

Make your subject line feel more personal by mentioning their name in it, using language that you know resonates with their emotions, or asking a question. Statistics show these things increase open rates because people are more likely to open email when they feel personally connected to the sender. If you tag your list, you can also use those categories to help get more personal with your subject line. For example, people tagged as first time buyers can receive an email referencing their first purchase or being new to the community. Remember to mention their name in the body of the email, too. You’re talking to human beings here, so write accordingly.

Get to the point

Be descriptive in your subject line, but don’t use too many words. Research shows the most opened emails have subjects with between 6-15 words. That is not a magic formula, however. The real rule is say what you need to in as few words as necessary. It is silly to always create an 11 word subject line just because that is the magic number. There is not magic number, just like there is no magic bullet. Or magic unicorns, for that matter, in case you’re wondering. Best practices are developed through repeated tracking, and are great benchmarks, just don’t think they are do or die.

Get over yourself

Yes, subject lines are important. Yes, they can increase your open rate. At the end of the day, however, delaying your email because you’re just not feeling clever enough doesn’t make sense. Do your best and move on. Every single subject line is not going to knock it out of the park, some will be better than others. Looking back at open rates and subject lines and doing your best to estimate how much weight the subject line had is a smart thing to do. Split testing subject lines is a great idea, just make sure the subject line is the ONLY thing different. If you change the subject line and the day and the time, you won’t be able to isolate which change made a difference.

When it comes to email, pay attention to the subject line. It is not an afterthought, it’s important. When you get descriptive, get personal, get to the point, and get over yourself, you can improve open rates. As with everything, practice and tracking makes you better over time. Good luck!


Back to Blog


Beth Boen September 3rd, 2019 At 11:39
Great advice! Reply