Sending promotional emails for your online store is extremely valuable. When sent to your existing audience, emails can increase exposure, brand loyalty and sales. When sent to people who aren’t yet familiar with your brand (but who might have given their contact information for a similar brand or promotion), emails are a great opportunity to turn these people into new customers.

But before any emails can have great results, they must be read. And before they can be read, they must be opened. It’s your job to create a subject line that is enticing enough to capture your recipient’s attention and convince them to choose to open the email. For this reason, subject lines are extremely important, but are oftentimes overlooked aspects of a brand’s marketing campaign. Keep reading to learn the top five best practices for email subject lines.

Keep subject lines short and sweet.

In general, keeping subject lines between 30 and 50 characters is ideal. This may not seem like a lot of space to work with, but it’s actually the only way to ensure that your entire subject line shows up, no matter what kind of device your recipient is using. There are numerous devices, browsers and email clients, all of which visibly show different subject line lengths. And, if your recipient is on a phone (which most people are these days), they’ll be able to see fewer characters in the subject line than if they were on a computer. That’s why subject lines should always be 50 characters max.

Realize the power of personalization.

Now more than ever, people want content tailored to them. They don’t want generic emails that could be for anyone. They want to feel that companies take time to get to know them and customize content for their specific needs.

With this in mind, it makes sense that subject lines that are personalized with the recipient’s first name are opened significantly more often. People love seeing their unique name and feeling that the content has been created specifically for them. However, because not every subject line can be personalized with the recipient’s first name every time (or it would lose its effectiveness), other great ways to personalize a subject line are to add the recipient’s location or specialty in the subject line.

When sending pretty much the same email to different groups of recipients, try being more specific in the subject line. For example, you can have the same subject line but start it with “Vitamin e-retailers” or “Nutraceutical sellers” to appeal more to these unique subgroups.

Keep your emails out of the spam folder.

Just as there are certain things to do when creating subject lines, there are also certain things to avoid. That’s because doing certain things with your subject lines sends them straight to your recipient’s spam folder.

Using all caps, excessive punctuation or multiple exclamation points are surefire ways to get your emails sent straight to spam. In addition, if certain words — including “RE:,” “FW:,” “free,” “money,” “win,” “deal,” “help,” “reminder,” and “percent off” — are in your subject lines, it’s almost 100% certain that they’ll head straight to spam.

Tell, don’t sell.

You don’t have a lot of real estate in an effective subject line (see #1 above), so you really have to be direct and quick while also being powerful. Make sure that your subject line clearly conveys what your email contains and why the recipient should open it. Give an idea of what’s inside the email without giving everything away. Be direct — and don’t try to do too much in a single subject line.

Test, test, test.

Testing subject lines pays off in a big way. First, it’s important to use one or more of the very valuable subject line tools that are available. These include, Email Subject Line Grader and Email Subject Line Tester. Each of these services allows you to insert your subject line and receive feedback about what’s working well and what’s not — and then tailor accordingly.

Once you’ve come up with some great subject lines based on these services, test your subject lines with sample audiences to determine which ones are the most effective before sending the emails to the bulk of your recipients. The more you test, the more you’ll learn your audience’s preferences — and the higher your open rates will become.


At InteractOne, crafting powerful emails for eCommerce stores is one of our specialties. To learn more about subject line best practices and how we can help you increase your email open rates, contact us.

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