The secret to sexy, clickable subject lines

The secret to sexy, clickable subject lines

Writing great content is one thing, getting people to read it is a whole other kettle of fish. It truly doesn’t matter how well written and engaging your email might be, if no one ever opens it, no one will ever get to enjoy the prose or be moved by the perfect call to action. It’s critical to spend almost as much time crafting engaging subject lines as you do crafting great emails.

Sorry to have misled you, but the secret to writing sexy, clickable subject lines is that sadly, there’s no specific secret. There are just a whole bunch of useful guidelines. We recommend you read them over and then give them a try. See what combinations work best for you. Test a few options. Test a few more. In the end you’ll figure out your own personal subject line secret sauce.


1) 50 characters or less. (That’s between 4 and 7 words)

No, it’s not a hard and fast rule. Yes, email services will deliver emails that have subject lines with more than 50 characters. Still, you should follow it, if only because most recipients won’t see anything beyond the 50th character.  The general rule of thumb is that the shorter the subject line, the higher the open rate.

2) Strong and relevant keywords

You only get a handful of words to move someone to open your email so you’d better make those words matter. Carefully choose keywords that will mean something to your reader all while remaining relevant to what the email contains.  It’s a fine balance, but one that often pays off. Place the keywords at the start of the subject line to ensure they get read even on the smallest of cell phone screens.

3) Watch your spelling and punctuation

The subject line for an email is the first line of contact for most potential customers. Just because it has to be brief and catchy doesn’t mean it shouldn’t also be classy. Spelling, grammatical, and punctuation mistakes will stand out like sore thumbs and might turn off more than one prospect.


4) Skip the spam

Your consumers are savvy and they can smell empty hyperboles from a mile away. So can Spam filters. Do yourself a favor and don’t fall into the clickbait spam trap or your email risks never arriving or being sent straight to the trash if it does. Andrea O’Neill of Mail Chimp put together a helpful list of words to never ever use in a subject line. Take a look to see what words you should avoid like the plague.

5) Drive your readers to action

It helps if you consider the subject line as a call to action, the action being the act of opening the email. What subject line can you craft that will make the reader want to see what else you have to say?

  •  Use verbs to create a feeling of urgency and excitement.
  • Ask questions to get people thinking and wondering.
  • Offer up a solution to a particular pain point.
  • Incite curiosity.

6) Be timely

By all counts, the average business person receives around 200 emails a day. If you want someone to do something right away, you’d better mention it in the subject line.

Deadlines, timely information, urgent news… all of that should figure in the subject line if you don’t want to receive a slew of “I’m so sorry I missed the deadline” emails three days later.

7) Be reliable

In order to build trust with your audience you have to consistently deliver. If your subject line promises something, your email had better deliver it. Clickbait subject lines only ever work once and do nothing for either your bottom line or your reputation.

Test and other tips

8) Test your subject lines

Not sure what’s going to work best with your audience? Test a few options with a small segment of your list.

It’s also helpful to see how your past open rates performed. What sorts of subject lines have done the best job of engaging your audience? Keep tabs of what works to help increase your open rate and engagement in the future.

9) Remember your audience is unique

We said it earlier, but it merits being said again, no two audiences are alike. What works for one, might not work for another. So keep your people in mind. See what they like, and then consistently work to deliver that. It’s all part of relationship building, which, really, is what marketing is all about.

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