Subject line do’s and don’ts for open rate success


Open rates are an important factor to consider in any email marketing campaign, and it all begins with a subject line. Whether a company is sending advertising offers, company newsletters, or greetings of any sort, the percentage of those opening the email can heavily rely on how a subject line is constructed. Looking to improve your open rates? Here are some tips to consider when creating subject lines for your next email marketing campaign.

According to iContact, 47% of recipients open an email based on its subject line alone. Keep in mind that your organization isn’t the only one sending marketing emails, so finding a way to stand out is imperative.

I spoke with Oliver Kirby, one of MultiView’s Senior Content Editors, who says that subject lines are important because they are the first thing a reader sees in their inbox; a “window to the brief,” as he calls it.

MultiView sends over 6.5 million news briefs each week, so subject lines are a daily (perhaps hourly) consideration. Here are some do’s and don’ts the editorial team has picked up along the way – and some best practices for the email marketing industry at large.


  • Include your company name in the email’s sender profile: If it’s hard to distinguish who is sending the email, it could be deleted without a second thought.
  • Be specific: Speak to the readers’ interests, connection to you or your products, or greet them by name. Kirby says that “a great subject line is something that is relevant to the audience who will be receiving the email.” For example, if the emails could be in regards to an important industry event that is time-sensitive.
  • Keep it short and sweet: Get to the point, while paying attention to character counts. Email open rates via smartphones continue to skyrocket, so be mindful of the room allotted to subject lines on these devices. Research by Marketo shows that the optimal subject line has seven words, or 41 characters.
  • Catch their attention with a list or a question: Both methods will leave readers curious enough to open your email to discover the answers that lie within.
  • Use FOMO or a call to action: Kirby notes that a subject line that includes a “call to action” or expresses urgency will catch the reader’s eye. Instill the fear of missing out by sending reminder emails. A subject line such as “Last chance to register for our 2019 conference” could spark several last-minute registrations.


  • Be vague: “Check this out” isn’t very specific, and doesn’t address what your email is about.
  • Send too many emails: You don’t want to be seen as annoying – that could result in several unsubscribes. Create an email marketing calendar to thoroughly plan your campaign, and build excitement for future emails.
  • Use too many special characters: You may want to emphasize something important, but you don’t want to end up in a junk folder, either. Kirby says he avoids using characters that are often caught in spam filters. This could include exclamation marks, all caps locked wording, and any characters beside basic letters and numbers. Limit yourself to one exclamation point, dollar sign, or question mark.
  • Overdo it on the emojis: Using emojis in subject lines can actually increase your open rates. But, as seen with special characters, too many emojis may trigger spam filters. And pay attention to formatting – you want the emoji to appear, not a random assortment of characters that haven’t rendered properly.
  • Re-use the same subject line again and again: A weekly email update might be the perfect sending consistency for your campaign, but adding variety to the subject line will keep the monotony at bay.

Putting together over 25 publications each week, Kirby has seen his fair share of subject line success stories. He leaves this final piece of advice, which is mindful of the content inside the emails corresponds to a subject line:

“A great way to increase the chances of a reader scrolling through the entire message once open is to place the content the subject line references at the bottom of the message – since the subject line is what prompted someone to open the message in the first place, it’s likely that they will want to read the entirety of the email until they come to that topic!”

Email subject lines may need some tailoring to fit an audience or campaign, but should be your first consideration if you’re looking to improve your open rates. Best of all – open rates can be measured quite quickly, leaving you with room to improve for future send-outs. Reflect on what changes can be made, and implement the suggested improvements. Your open rates might just see a boost!

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