8 Subject Line Strategies You Should Add to Your Marketing Template


The first thing to know about your email newsletters is they probably won’t get read.

It’s the hard truth. You can be offering your subscribers a map to the Fountain of Youth or answers to the meaning of life–

And yet that email will join the hundreds of other emails that offer discounts or even the scam emails offering people millions of dollars from an unknown relative.

So, what is the point of an email campaign?

Simply put, email is still this most effective way to directly engage and follow-up with your target audience.

Yet the process of keeping your emails out of the spam box and in front of an eager-to-open audience is becoming more and more complex: as much art as it is science. And perhaps the most important important “screw” on which your success swings?

The email subject line.

Here are 8 strategies to help ensure your email newsletters: get into the inbox, get seen and get open.

Let’s dive into it…

#1 – The Gatekeeper (Avoiding The Spam Filter)

You have pretty much lost all hope on your email being read if it gets sent to the spam folder. So your first obstacle is to dodge THE GATEKEEPER! Here are some tip on how to do it:

  • Avoid using ALL CAPS
  • Avoid using exclamation marks or if you have to stick to using only one
  • Avoid words or phrases that sound spammy (like “free,” “money,” or “guarantee” — see more examples below)


Test out your email. Send your email to a couple of dummy email accounts. Did it make it to the inbox? Or did it come up short and end up in the spam folder? If it did end up in spam adjust your subject line and re-test and keep doing so until you make it to the inbox!

If you use Active Campaign for your email marketing, or other popular email services, they often will automatically run your email through a spam check filter before it’s sent out.


  • Use best practices and avoid certain words that could trigger the spam filter on your message
  • Test your email before sending

Download our email newsletter checklist: Want to write the perfect email newsletter? Click here to download our free PDF “7 Point Perfect Newsletter Checklist.”

#2 – Inform & Educate — avoid being seen as a salesperson

The sales person is not loved, he is hated by most.

If your subject line looks like a sales pitch then chances are it will get sent to the trash. Instead of trying to sell something to the reader inform them about the content of the email. This will entice them to open the email for further information.

For instance, a study was conducted by MailChimp on over 40 million emails sent to subscribers. The subject lines of emails with the highest open rates were compared to emails with lowest open rates. Here’s how the top and lowest 5 compare:

best open rates subject lines research

Notice how the subject lines with best open rates entice readers to open the email for further information. In no way, shape or form do they come off as pushy.

These subject lines work by educating the reader about the content of the email. See, this non-pushy salesperson trick puts people in their “comfort zone” or happy place… They let their guards down and they click open the email and BAM!


I’m joking of course, but you get the point – don’t come off as a salesperson!


  • Don’t “hard sell” — educate and inform
  • Don’t sell but tell them about the what benefits are inside the email

#3 – Boring or Exciting

Okay so another thing you may have noticed about the high open rate emails compared to the low rate ones is that they seem a little on the snoozeville side. So is it better to be boring? Well, it depends.

  • When To Be Boring:


If your customers decided to subscribe to your site to receive informational emails, such as a newsletter they might be a little uneasy when they receive an email from you with a subject line that says OPEN NOW FOR HUGE SAVINGS!!!!

The newsletter’s purpose is to inform customers and build long term relationships with them.



If your loyal subjects explicitly signed up to receive discounts and sales then they are ready for your over-the-top excitement about promotions, but don’t forget the Gatekeeper! (see strategy #1 above)

For instance, instead of saying: “50% off now!” test out something like “fifty percent off now, e-coupons inside.”

See what I did there? I avoided the percentage and dollar sign, avoided keywords that might trigger the spam filter & I informed the reader what the content of the email is about.


  • Stay Consistent and Meet Expectations

#4 – Lists, lists, & more lists!

People love lists. The reason for that is… well pretty much people love short cuts, and lists are just that. Lists are quick summaries that allow a person to quickly read over a topic. A great example of that is this article! I will wait as you scroll to the top to check …

Back? Okay, so by adding in to your subject line (once again no sales pitch) something that reveals the email consists of a list. This will intrigue the reader.

For instance:

  • 2 Tips to quit smoking today
  • Top 10 strategies for losing weight
  • Quick tricks for improving your life
  • Top 5 ways to increase your credit score
  • Three ways to Go Green

Don’t believe me? Here are some ratings on subject lines that have list-like keywords:



  • Increase your open / click rate with a list-based subject line

#5 – Stand out from the crowd

Differentiation is a common strategy marketers use to improve their brand, but it is also a great way to get your email read. People are bombarded with the dozens (sometimes, hundreds) of emails a day and after a while they all start to look alike. All the subject lines start to run together, your eyes glaze over at the site of 50 new unread emails…

Create a subject line that is different than your typical one; don’t be afraid to stand out!! People sometimes like the unexpected.

Here is an example of a subject line used by real estate company, Sperry Van Ness:

“Were we boring you?”

At the time the company was actually getting a 30% open rate, which is still higher than the industry standard. However, they felt like it was the same people reading the emails. So in order to “freshen” their lists they added that subject line in their emails and their open rate skyrocketed to 50%!

Use with caution though to avoid coming off cheesy or you might find yourself in the trash. Get to the point and inform subscribers, but stand out.


  • Stand Out
  • Be Unexpected
  • Don’t be cheesy

#6 – You only have 3 days to live! (unless you read this email)

Creating a sense of urgency is a great way to get that email of yours read. I mean seriously, you want people to react right now so why not create the perception that they have to react right now? (Remember don’t add a million exclamation marks)

One thing people do not like is missing an opportunity, or being left out. So use those dislikes. Use urgent sounding phrases like: One Day Only, Only for President’s Day Weekend.

But do yourself a favor; actually be within your urgency. There is nothing worse than finding out you were bamboozled into buying something because you thought it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. What I mean is if you tell people “it’s for this week only” actually live up to that, because when people no longer trust your company then creating awesome subjects lines are the least of your problems.

A missed opportunity trumps almost all reasons why a person might not react to your product. So by adding this “urgency” in the subject line, people will open the email to see what it is that they need to do to seize the opportunity.
Don’t go overboard with the urgency battle cry though. There are plenty of spam keywords that are often associated with “the urgency perception.” You also don’t want people to think you are using a sales tactic on them.


  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Be true to that urgency

#7 – Size does matter

A quick way to get your email sent to Spam or the Trash is one long subject line.

See, the reason it’s called “subject line” is you simply state the topic at hand. Now had it been named “story,” or “summary” I would totally understand writing a novel in the subject line.

Keep in mind, we live in a digital age and most emails are being read on a person’s mobile device. According to research published by Marketing Land, 66% of emails are now opened on a mobile device:


As a result, some of these mobile devices won’t show a lengthy subject line. Imagine a reader’s face if they read an email from you saying “Kill Two Birds…” Sure I know your subject line was “Kill Two Birds with One Stone,” but I am not the one you need to be convincing…… Awkward.

Analyses from Mailchimp and others have repeatedly shown that it’s best to keep your subject line at 50 characters or less. So get straight to the point.


  • Don’t Kill Two Birds
  • Stay Under 50 Characters

#8 – RE or FWD

This one is a little “sneaky.”

You want to consider using “re:” or “fwd:” in your emails. ContactMonkey, a company that tracks emails, analyzed over 30 million emails and discovered that using these phrases (for outside sales emails) will have the best chance of being read.


It is my professional opinion that this tactic could create mistrust between you and your reader.

For this reason, I recommend you use this as a follow-up tactic after sending an initial paid offer email. In this way, you’re actually following up in a way that’s ethical, rather than pretending to follow-up on an email conversation that never happened.


  • Using “Re:” or “Fwd:” might get a reader’s attention, but use sparingly and in-context for best results


Subject line best practices to incoporate into your marketing mix today:

  • Don’t use keywords that might trigger the spam filters
  • Test your newsletters before hitting the send button
  • Keep your subject lines under 50 Characters
  • Hold back on the exclamation marks
  • Create a sense of urgency but without coming off gimmicky
  • Create subject lines that stand out
  • Tell the reader what the email is about
  • Don’t try and sell them within the subject line
  • Don’t forget the lists

Final tip:

Write the perfect newsletter: Want more email marketing training and tips? Click here to download our free PDF “7 Point Perfect Newsletter Checklist.”

It is difficult to get high open rates; most people look at emails and send them straight to the trash (assuming email was able to get passed the spam filter).

Despite its challenges email marketing with email newsletters or autoresponders is still the most effective way to reach your audience. So the next time you are going through your emails, and an email that is not personal catches your eye, ask yourself why. Once you have determined the answer apply it to your next email marketing campaign.

What are some other strategies for increased your email newsletter open and click-thru rates? Leave a comment below and then share this article on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin for the benefit of others.


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