Content tips: Strategies on how to title an email

Do you know how to title an email? It’s more nuanced than you might think.

The amount of advice available on the subject can confuse even veteran digital marketers. Why? Some of the most well-known tactics for creating the best email subject lines can conflict.

Because email marketing is an online industry, best practices are always shifting. Platform updates and device upgrades change how an email displays or performs. Audience behavior and preferences can evolve depending on demographics like age, gender, and past purchasing history.

So how can you make sure you’re creating effective email titles? Let’s go through some tried-and-tested successful subject line strategies together. 

Why should you learn how to title an email in the best way possible?

Irresistible email titles are a must because without opening an email, the content within remains unread. No further action will take place. This means no connecting with potential customers, no click-throughs, and no conversions. Yikes.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to train yourself to write better subject lines. Most advice on how to title an email is comparable to general email marketing or online writing best practices.

Writing great email subject lines is something of a balancing act. You’re given space to fit a limited number of words to hook people into clicking on your email. You’re also blindly competing with every other email in a reader’s inbox. Your title must be brief but unforgettable at the same time. 

No pressure.

How can you write the best email subject lines for your marketing campaigns?

Below are more than a dozen tactics. Employ these and allow that delicate balance of brevity and distinction to shine through your titles.

1. Focus on writing the most interesting email titles

Why is it important to make email titles irresistible and compelling? 

You need subject lines to stand out because 80% of people aren’t giving their inboxes their full attention. A bold headline and an attractive image can be what a subscriber remembers from a marketing email - even if the email itself is excellently written.

Here are some concrete ways you can go about creating interesting email subject lines:

  • Entice people to satisfy their curiosity: Good “how-to” subject lines fall under this tactic, but the most interesting would be the lines completely out of left field. For example, the title of the Gozengo email below is “NEW! Vacation on Mars.” 

Here are some concrete ways you can go about creating interesting email subject lines:

Source: Really Good Emails

  • Display a sense of humor: A joke can make or break your email campaign. Funny subject lines can be difficult to execute. However, if your sense of humor lands with your audience, you may hit the jackpot and get a metric boost.

Here are some concrete ways you can go about creating interesting email subject lines:

Source: Really Good Emails

  • Break out those literary devices: Tap into those rhyming or alliteration skills. Literary devices make lines memorable and unique. The title of the email above is a great example: “Small steps for a smoother shave.” Remember to resist the urge to turn it into poetry. Consider A/B testing if you’re unsure how your audience will react. 

  • Be bold, short, and sweet: If most of your subscribers are smartphone users, you should limit email titles to about 30 characters. Do it even if you don’t have enough customer data to confirm this. Research suggests that up to 60% of email opens happen on mobile devices. Below is an Apple email with a brief but powerful subject line: “Meet the incredible new iMac.”

Here are some concrete ways you can go about creating interesting email subject lines:

Source: Really Good Emails

Always keep in mind you’re writing for an audience with a short attention span, no matter what your brand’s target buyer personas are.

2. Establish a personal connection between you and your readers

Did you know that campaigns using segmented lists can result in a more than 750% increase in revenue? Personalized subject lines also make for more successful emails because the custom touch increases the likelihood of opens by over 25%

Connecting with your readers on a personal level can be done in a few ways. Here are three of the most obvious:

  • Add active, commanding, or emotional words: When you use certain marketing words, you bank on the probability that your readers will display a strong or extreme response.

  • Point out a benefit or pain point: This is related to the tactic above. Along with a long list of words, including descriptions or references to what’s beneficial or painful for your readers may lead to more opens and more click-throughs.

  • Use personalization: We mentioned this in the statistic above. Even the simple act of including a subscriber’s name in a subject line can result in better open rates. In the example below, the name of the subscriber is Smiles Davis. Here is the subject line: “Smiles Davis’s guide to San Francisco.”

Connecting with your readers on a personal level can be done in a few ways. Here are three of the most obvious:

Source: Really Good Emails

As technology advances, more personalizations will be possible. However, most of these functions—such as those made possible by dynamic content—are more comprehensively used in manipulating email content rather than improving subject lines.

3. Assure readers that your email is valuable

The best way to cut through your readers’ inbox noise is to offer real value. When you’re learning how to title an email, use these suggestions to confer a sense of great worth:

  • Make a promise (that you keep in the email content): This is a two-part strategy. If you promise your readers something in the subject line, you should have the desired content within the email or accessible after a click-through. Doing the former can boost open rates in the moment, but may eventually result in unsubscribes. 

  • Let an unmistakable sense of urgency lead your email: The title of the email below—“50% off your groceries today”—highlights a huge discount and a limited amount of time to take advantage of the offer. Subject lines like this enjoy an open rate that’s more than 20% higher than those that don’t seem urgent.

When you’re learning how to title an email, use these suggestions to confer a sense of great worth

Source: Really Good Emails

  • Front-load the most important details: Readers remember what you mention first. This strategy is compatible with writing short-and-sweet subject lines for mobile. If you keep the essential information in the beginning and stick to 30 or so characters, you’ll never have to worry about your message getting cut off mid-sentence. 

  • Ask the right questions: The key here is choosing a question that readers will respond to in exactly the way you want. Open-ended or not, the gist of your subject line should be the response—whether or not it’s left unsaid. The title of the Casper email below spells it out: “Ready for bed? Turn on the Sleep Channel.”

When you’re learning how to title an email, use these suggestions to confer a sense of great worth:

Source: Really Good Emails

A final thought on providing value for readers: 70% of people open brand emails because they’re looking for a discount or special deal. 

4. Work with the right characters

This subset of strategies is similar to using certain literary devices, adding marketing words, and pressing on personal benefits and pain points. When figuring out how to title an email, remember your pre-approved and frowned-upon elements. 

Three things to keep in mind:

  • Check your lines for sensitive content: Routine updates keep email spam filters unpredictable, but most digital marketers agree on a common set of triggering phrases and words to avoid. Following this habit will keep your campaign messages from adding to the almost 60 billion junk emails sent globally each day.

  • Include a number in your email title: IFTT’s email below has the perfect subject line to illustrate this: “10 Instagram Recipes You Need For A Social Summer.” If it sounds like a listicle you want to read, it’s likely to pique others’ interest and become an engaging headline. 

When figuring out how to title an email, remember your pre-approved and frowned-upon elements

Source: Really Good Emails

  • Try not to shout: On the internet, excessive capital letters and punctuation marks can signal excitement and anticipation. However, if you overdo either (even by just a little bit), the tone can turn anxious and rude.

Finally, consider adding an emoji for a refreshing visual. Stick to easily recognizable and commonly used emojis or symbols when deciding how to title an email. But don’t do this for all subject lines. In modern email marketing, only about 9% of emails have emojis in their titles. In the email below, Dunkin’ Donuts does it right: “FREE 🍩🍩🍩 today!”

 

Finally, consider adding an emoji for a refreshing visual

Source: Really Good Emails

Strategies involving the use of characters and symbols are some of the trickiest in practice. You can go against one or more of these ideas and still come up with a winning subject line. 

Remember: Your knowledge of your target audience and customer data will always trump whatever rule goes against your gut instinct. 

Wrap up

Learning how to title an email is a must for digital marketers. The best email subject lines reach more readers and benefit marketing campaigns significantly.

We discussed more than a dozen effective email title-writing tactics above. Here are some general pointers to consider when crafting the best email subject lines:

  • Focus on writing the most interesting titles

  • Establish a personal connection between you and your readers

  • Assure readers that your email is valuable

  • Work with the right characters

Need more advice on how to master titling an email? Check out the 10 best email subject lines designed to boost open rates.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. Unlike other email providers, Emma puts their customers first. It's email marketing that works for you.

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