EMAIL SUBJECT LINE BEST PRACTICES FOR 2021—AND WORDS TO AVOID

 

Write a better subject line!⁠”⁠ ⁠
“Get more people on the list!⁠”⁠ ⁠
“Sprinkle a few emojis in there!⁠”⁠ ⁠

You've heard it and thought it. The elusive search to increase your open rates.

New subject line tactics over and over trying to get more people to open.

I've been there done that while working with businesses from every possible industry (e-commerce, tech, solopreneurs, you name it).

With the subject line tactics and strategies I've tested and implemented, I've been able to increase open rates for my clients by over 20%.

Are there generalized email strategies that get more opens? Yes, there are a few.

BUT mostly, methods for developing the best email marketing subject lines depend on your brand and the experience you want your customers to have.

Like anything in the email marketing world, it's important to TEST your content to hone in on EXACTLY what resonates with your ideal customers. And of course to be aware of the email subject line words you should avoid.

Here I'm giving you a tried and true place to start that will set you lightyears ahead of your competition.

We'll cover:

  • The best email subject line hacks for short term results
  • The best email subject line strategies for long term results
  • Email subject line words to avoid

 

 

Email Marketing Subject Lines That Work In The Short Term

 

1. Email subject lines that have nothing to do with the content of the email (e.g., click bait).

 

Examples:

Your order information inside.
»»» Important updates to your account

I have seen these email subject lines used for a weekly promotional email. I fell for it, opened the email, and was immediately miffed (do people still say miffed?)

I have also worked on email marketing campaigns that tried this method and tested it against a more content-appropriate subject line.

The clickbait type of subject line got way more opens.

Guess what else the clickbait type of subject line got way more of? UNSUBSCRIBES.

Yeah, people don't like being tricked. It's almost like they're normal humans who appreciate respectful communication. Weird, right?

 

2. Sender names that are not immediately recognizable as your brand.

Examples:

Taylor Borgenstein
Billeremy Smithwisen
Sammabelle

I can't tell you how many times I have gotten an email from some random name.

The subject line doesn't tell me much about how I know them either.

Is it SPAM? Is it someone I met a long time ago and forgot their name? Is it my potential new best friend?

Who knows?!

I open. I see who it's actually from and then guess what I do? I UNSUBSCRIBE.

Again, I'm not alone here. I've tested and the same results happen.

Try this instead:

Taylor Borgenstein | Corporation Inc.

Billeremy Smithwisen from Do-Gooder 501(c)(3)
Sammabelle of ​Really Cool Company Name

 

Email Marketing Subject Lines That Work In The Long Term

 

1. Think. Customer. First.

When developing the best subject line for email marketing, always remember, WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM?

That should be at the core of your content strategy to begin with. BUT we all need a starting point.

Here are some examples of subject lines I've gotten in my inbox.

See DTE Energy's email? They sent out a survey, which, good for them for wanting to improve.

The subject line is “DTE Energy would like your opinion.”

My first thought, Well isn't that nice.

What's in it for me?

Why would I want to take precious time out of my day to fill out their survey, especially when I have at least 20 other emails in my inbox begging for my attention?

DTE didn't think from their customers' perspective.

The best email subject lines give them an incentive to open the email, read it, click it, then complete the requested action.

Here are some better, customer focused subject line examples:

  • YOUR VOICE MATTERS.
  • XX-minutes of your time to shape the future of energy.
  • YOUR OPINION IS NEEDED.
  • Giveaway time! Give us 2 minutes of your time and enter a chance to win _______.

2. The formula for creating the best email subject line that connects.

BENEFIT + YOU/YOUR + WHEN = ↑ Open %%%

Lemme break that down.

BENEFIT:

  • What benefit are you promoting in your email?
  • Giveaway
  • Special offer
  • Products/Services/Content that's gonna change their world

YOU/YOUR:
Include this word to bring home that this life changing offer IS JUST FOR THEM.

Including a personal qualifier in your subject line like “YOU/YOUR” has been proven to increase opens.

See these examples of email subject lines?

They know the importance of including the word “you” or “your”.

 

3. Appropriate Emojis/Characters

People love throwing emojis and characters into email subject lines.

If used appropriately, they can boost your opens.

But don't just throw them in willy-nilly.

The best and most genuine email marketing subject lines always get the long-term results. It connects with your audience and creates a feel-good experience.

So if your audience is the type that would appreciate an emoji/character here and there, then spend some time familiarizing yourself with what might work with your content.

USEFUL EMOJI RESOURCES

Emojipedia

Includes directories of thematic emojis (holidays, seasons, events)
Shows how an emoji will appear on different devices (android and iphone emojis are different!)

Characters

There are more options than emojis!

Characters display differently than emojis (unicode is more universal).

Why is that important? Not all emojis work across every browser/device.

Some emojis are compatible on an iPhone but not Android. Some emojis work in gmail but not in an Outlook desktop app.

See if you can find anything that resonates differently with your content.

 

7 Words To Avoid In Email Subject Lines:

Ok now here's the juicy stuff, because we all want that list of what we absolutely should NOT be putting in our email marketing subject lines.

Because we don't want to be THAT guy that used a word to avoid in our email subject line.

We're secretly scared that we already did.

We want to call out our competitors for using a naughty word in their email subject line so we can point and laugh and feel better about ourselves.

Ok, so… ready???

  1. There
  2.  Are
  3.  No
  4.  Words
  5.  To
  6. A
  7.  Void

Ok, so 6 and 7 are technically 2 separate words, but if you read it a different way you could totally get philosophical about this. But I digress…

Seriously though, there ARE no words to avoid in email subject lines. Like:

  • free
  • bonus
  • hidden
  • butt

I know, I know, we're so worried that if we say the wrong word in a subject line that we'll get spammed or blocked or even worse, SHAMED for using a gotcha/naughty/racy/CLICK HERE NOW word that someone's corporate email ninjas don't like.

But the truth is, using jazzy language in your subject lines isn't going to get you put on Santa's email naughty list. That's not how spam filters work.

Now, that's not to say that you have free reign to start making it sound like you're having a Fire Sale or using expletives that are only reserved for when you step on one of your kids' legos.

What I AM saying is to know your audience, and don't be afraid to juice up your email subject line language here and there.

And if you're still not sure, use an emoji. But again, know your audience.

 

Key Takeaways/TL;DR

The best email subject lines put your customer first.

The best email subject lines connect with your customer and tell them why they should act now.

Words to avoid in your email subject line… don’t exist! BUT be mindful of your customer base.

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