8 types of subject lines that will make your emails open

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A good subject line makes all the difference to your commercial emails and email newsletters. In this article you can read which types of subject lines improve the open rates of your newsletter, plus bonus tips.

Type 1: The interrogative subject line

Subject lines in the form of a question work well because they make the reader think. The best questions evoke recognition in the reader and refer to their own experiences, preferably with a "problematic" tinge.

Questioning subject lines suggest that the reader isn't alone with a particular behavior or problem and that the content of the email provides information about others' experiences, implications, and solutions.

Example subject lines:

  • Do you immediately check your email when you get up in the morning?
  • Are you having trouble shedding the holiday pounds?
  • The first example fits perfectly above the newsletter of a time management trainer who knows very well that e-mail among his target group is the numero uno distraction in a busy working day. The second example could just be from Basic Fit, above their September newsletter.

Type 2: The "How..?" subject line

Okay, that sounds better in English: I mean of course the "How to.." subject line.

Example subject lines are:

  • How to get more traffic to your site in 5 simple steps
  • How to have a successful salary interview with your boss
  • How you can easily save hundreds of euros a year on your phone bill

The "How to" is an evergreen, not just in email marketing. Next time in the supermarket on the magazine shelf, take a look at the covers of the Linda and Happinez: 10 to 1 that you see those kinds of titles. That isn't without reason: it sells more magazines.

Make sure that such a subject line is always about the end result , not about the effort. Or better yet, imply that that end result can be achieved with little effort ("5 simple steps", "easy").

Type 3: The Scarcity Subject Line

This type is also as old as the road to Rome. We hate to admit it, but the fear of fishing behind the net is an ingrained human reflex.

Some example subject lines:

  • Today only: Free shipping on your order
  • Only 3 tickets left
  • Last day early bird discount

Market traders use this technique when they buy "The last 3 bunches of red roses!" on Saturday afternoon. honk in your ear. You can also make perfect use of it in subject lines.

Type 4: The Announcement

Words and terms like "new" and "{company name} introduces.." make readers feel like your email contains information they don't already know. That has more impact than you might think: research shows that emails with these terms in the subject line are opened up to almost 10% more.

Think of:

  • New: the summer collection from Nike
  • Update in your accounting program
  • Mazen Rommers introduces new content service

As you can see in the last example: you can also double up.

Type 5: Subject lines with numbers

With a number in your subject line you create an expectation and you indicate exactly what people are going to get.

Comparative tests even show that subject lines with numbers perform tens of percent better than without numbers.

To name a few:

  • 8 subject lines that will make your newsletter read more
  • 40 tips to make your website easier to find
  • In 3 steps to more sales

Note: higher or lower numbers play a role. Nobody wants to increase sales in 40 steps. On the other hand: 3 tips for a better findability of websites would sound scanty and implausible.

Type 6: The curiosity stimulus

Curiosity is a psychological phenomenon that you can capitalize on in the subject line of your newsletter. Even scientific research has been done on this. If we don't know something, it makes us feel like we're missing something and we look for information to make up for that lack.

But there is a subtle extra layer in it: it only works if there is a basic interest in the subject. For example, you don't get me curious with a question like "Do you know how many balls there are in the ball pit at Ikea?".

It also helps if there is already a little – but insufficient – ​​prior knowledge. In other words: your target group has heard the bell ringing, but doesn't know where the clapper is.

For example, you can respond to it like this:

  • 9 out of 10 marketing managers make this crucial mistake
  • The Secret Behind Google's Search Engine Logic

In the first example, marketing managers are addressed (but also people who perform marketing tasks or work with or under marketing managers). The second example suggests the answer to the question of how Google really works (something anyone with a website would love to find out).

Type 7: Subject line with surprise effect

Our brain loves surprises. A surprise gives us pleasant incentives. A subject line that causes a smile, offers an unexpected benefit or presents a striking twist of thought sets your email apart from the dozens of other emails in your newsletter reader's inbox.

Example subject lines:

  • What Louis van Gaal can teach you about subtle communication
  • Happy to pay more tax

This is arguably one of the most difficult tactics. Humor is often involved – corniness is lurking. But if the content of your newsletter offers clues, be sure to experiment with it.

Type 8: The personalized subject line

Many e-mail marketing programs offer the possibility to personalize the content, as well as subject lines.

For example, you can create subject lines like:

  • Mazen, how does your website perform in Google?
  • Mazen, are you familiar with this classic email marketing pitfall?
  • Mazen, we still have 3 tickets left for our seminar

This way you address your reader personally. If that is possible on a first name basis , that is all the better, because it's even more personal.

Do you think it's a bit ordi? Well, studies have also been done on this and the predominant conclusions are that it really helps: sometimes newsletters are opened up to 15% more.

Symbols (emojis, emoticons) in your subject line?

Nowadays you can also include symbols in your subject line. With the exception of a single outdated e-mail program (eg Outlook 2003), this is always displayed correctly. However, the display can differ per e-mail client.

Some newsletter tools already offer you a ready-made option to include emojis (emoticons) in the subject line, but you can also insert or copy/paste yourself.

Bonus tips for a higher open rate of your emails

Combine different types of subject lines

You have already seen it in some examples: you can often combine different types of subject lines. If one tactic gives results, why not use 2 or 3?

Don't make subject lines too long

E-mail programs show a limited number of characters in the subject line. So it makes no sense to create very long subject lines.

In addition, emails are very often read on mobile phones – and they show even less of the subject line than email programs on larger screens.

Concrete optimal length:

  • For mobile phones: max. 30 to 40 characters
  • For computer screens: max. 60 to 70 characters

From experience with different types of customers, I know that newsletters are easily read for 50% or more on mobile. So basically you're stuck with that max. 30 to 40 characters.

That is quite difficult, many examples in this article go beyond it. If it doesn't work, at least make sure the most important information is at the beginning of your subject line.

Exception to this rule: communication about a very specific topic with a very specific target group. In that case, longer subject lines (with more information) may work better.

Also use the preview text

In addition to the subject line, many e-mail programs also show a small part of the e-mail text in the inbox. The preview text, sometimes referred to as preheader text. Those are the first words that the program sees in the e-mail.

Some newsletter programs (eg MailChimp and ActiveCampaign) offer you the possibility to edit the preview text or. preheader text separately: it will then not be visible in the e-mail, but immediately after the subject line in the inbox.

Take a good look at your sender details (sender name and address)

In addition to the subject line, readers of your newsletter will be the first to see the sender information.

Make sure you use a company name that is familiar to the reader as the sender name, or – if the nature of your newsletter, business or target group allows it – a trusted personal name.

Also take a look at the sender's address: in your case is a personal address (eg name@yourdomain.com) better than a business address (eg info@yourdomain.com)?

Vary your subject lines

If you send out a newsletter every week with very similar subject lines, it will become jaded. So take a look at your previous mailings with every newsletter to avoid repeating yourself.

A/B test subject lines

The open rate of your newsletter is measurable, so you can test which subject lines work best.

If your newsletter tool offers an A/B test function, you don't have to compare different mailings, but you can test it within one mailing. Then you can, for example, send 2 variants of your newsletter to 2 segments of your mailing list, after which the rest of the mailing list automatically receives the version with the best performing subject line.

Tip: in A/B testing, always use only one variable to test, otherwise you won't know yet what caused the improvement.

Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience

Try to imagine what keeps your readers busy and what their challenges are. Perhaps in general, but perhaps also in a specific situation or period (think of the example of the Basic Fit mailing, which is best sent shortly after the holiday period). You can combine that basic idea with almost all of the subject line examples in this article.

Don't use misleading subject lines

Of course, there are misleading subject lines that can make more people open your emails. And no, I'm not giving examples.

It only works once and then only for your open rate – not for your click-through rate. What you'll also see increase: the number of unsubscribes.

So keep it real : feel free to stimulate with your subject line, but make sure there is a logical connection with the content of the email.

Dive into the history of your own email newsletter

Have you been sending e-mail newsletters and/or other commercial e-mails for some time? Then you have historical data from which you can draw conclusions.

Create a spreadsheet with all your mailings, their subject lines and open rates. For completeness, also include shipping dates and times in that overview (an e-mail at 11 o'clock in the evening or on Mazentmas Day has different opening percentages than an e-mail on Tuesday morning).

This exercise can give you valuable insights into which subject lines work best for your specific readership.

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