Understanding Email Subject Lines

There you are, sitting in your chair, upset wondering why your open rate is so low…especially after you worked so hard to create such a beautiful, eye-catching email. You’re probably asking yourself what did I do wrong? Why isn’t anyone opening my emails? You may be forgetting to also concentrate on one thing that seems much too simple…. Your subject line. Nobody will open your email if it’s not appealing to him or her. There’s also an unfortunate chance that your email was sent to their spam folder. There are so many things you can do to make sure that people are opening your emails.


Open Rates

Email Sent

The Better the Subject Line, The Better the Open Rate!

A good open rate is somewhere around 13%-15%. Some of you may think that this sounds reasonably easy. Guess what, IT’S NOT. Depending on what your subject line is and what customers you are targeting, this will have a huge effect on your open rate. Make sure to keep track your email campaigns with UTM parameters so you can measure results. Dates, subject lines, open rate percentages and anything that you think will help you get a step up on mastering this craft. This will show you what’s working and what’s not. Make sure the email client you are using can provide these statistics and even more. The more information you have, the better. Another great way to see what subject lines work, and what doesn’t is something called an A|B split. An A|B split will send out 2 different emails for your campaign, with slightly modified changes to each one. In this case, you would use your subject lines as your “A” and “B”.  You can do this two ways; A 50/50 split, or champion. A 50/50 split is just like it sounds, 50% of your list gets one subject line, while the other 50% gets the other. A champion email is when you take a percentage (as an example I will use 20%), and sending out 10% to “A” and 10% to “B”.  After about an hour or two, you can see which subject line is doing better, and deem it “champion”. You can now send out the last 80% to your customers with hope that it will have a great open rate!



Research, research, research! Go online and study keywords or phrases that people like to see. And what words or phrases that scare or intimidate people so you can stay away from them. Try creating a sense of urgency in your subject line. Get them excited about email! Try using cliffhangers so it forces them to open the email to see the rest of what you have to offer. Nobody wants to be left hanging!


Spam Filters

Be careful on your choice of words that you use for your subject line. Certain words like “free” can trigger the spam filter. Even though you may be giving away something that is free, it’s not worth taking the chance to have your email that you worked so hard on to get sent to the spam folder. Also, stay away from symbols in your subject line. They also tend to grab the attention of the spam filters. Do some research and look for specific words or phrases that will or may trigger your email to be sent to spam.


Character Count

Another good practice is to keep your subject line fewer than 75 characters. This should ensure that the whole message shows up in the subject line. Nobody wants to open an email with the subject line getting cut off. They also might get the idea that it’s spam. The more characters you use, the higher chance you have of getting your email getting thrown into the spam folder. As a heads up, if you plan on keeping it short and sweet, some email providers such as Gmail, have the body text of the email shown right after the subject line.


Even with all this information, it takes a lot of time, patience and research to get people to open your emails. There may not be a guaranteed subject line that gets you a 100% open rate, but there are definitely some great tools that can help and guide you to become an email master!


Meet Nick Wittenrood

Nick Wittenrood is in charge of the email department at Launch and is always looking for ways to improve his knowledge of the digital marketing industry.