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The Beginner’s Guide to Better Email Subject Lines

As any good email marketer knows, a strong subject line will help your email stand out in even the most cluttered inbox. If a subject line is bland and has no benefit to the reader, they may send your email straight to the trash folder. An email subject line has one job: to get the email opened. So how do you write a good subject line?

Capture the reader's attention

You could have the most beautiful and informative email marketing campaign in the world, but that won’t matter if your subscribers don’t open your email in the first place!

The key with subject lines is to intrigue your reader enough to make them open the email without giving away the contents of your email all at once.

As with all marketing copy, your goal is to serve a specific need: get people's attention so they'll open the email and read more about your product or service. Once you've captured their attention with a compelling subject line, use the message body to tell your story and convince them of the value of whatever you're selling.

Here are three tactics to improve your email subject lines:

Ask a question

The easiest way to start a great subject line is by asking a question. Everyone likes to answer questions, so prompting your reader lends a personal tone to your email and allows the reader to respond directly to you.

Questions pique curiosity, and curiosity is what makes people open and click-through emails.

Example email subject lines:

  • What would you do with $1,000?
  • Are you getting all the benefits of social media?
  • Are coupons right for your business?

Make it relevant

The best way to stand out from the crowd is by creating personalized email subject lines that the reader can relate to.

To do this, all you need to do is take a moment to think about what's happening in your subscribers' lives at any given moment. If they've just subscribed, maybe you could send them a tip on how to get started with your product or service. If it's been a while since they've heard from you, maybe focus on an upcoming event or recent industry news.

If you're in e-commerce, you can tailor your email to the season—if you have a holiday sale coming up, use a seasonal word like "Halloween" or "Thanksgiving." Alternatively, if there's a popular event coming up related to your niche, try mentioning that in your subject line.

Example email subject lines:

  • Last-minute shopping? Look inside
  • See what's heating up on Black Friday
  • Make Thanksgiving more than a meal 🦃

Demonstrate value

Give them a reason to open your email! This doesn't have to be an elaborate story — just let them know what's in it for them. What will they learn? What will they gain?

Provide something valuable in exchange for the time your reader invests in opening your email. This could be free resources, exclusive content, or a coupon code. If a subscriber feels like they're getting something of value, they may be more likely to open your emails in the future.

Example email subject lines:

  • 25% off – No code required! Ends Today!
  • Download Our Latest Case Study for Free
  • Last Chance: Save $100 on the Tacx Neo 2T

Common mistakes

The number one mistake we see people make is trying to be too clever with their subject line. They think that if they can just outsmart the recipient and trick them into clicking the email, they'll have a higher open rate.

Respect your recipient enough to give them an honest and clear reason for why they should open your email. Make sure your subject lines match the content of your emails, particularly if you're emailing about a specific topic or selling a certain product.

If you are sending an email about an event, don't use a subject line that would be more appropriate for a holiday sale or discount code. While this might seem obvious, many people still do this and lose credibility as a result.

Whether you're writing a newsletter, pitching a story idea, or asking to be added to someone's holiday card list, your email subject line is one of your first and biggest opportunities to make a good impression. At the end of the day, good email subject lines set reader expectations and build trust.

Maximize your odds

Email subject lines are like headlines—they need to get the reader's attention or they will be ignored entirely. Good subject lines can significantly increase open rates, but there is no surefire way to create a killer subject line. That's why you need to A/B test your email subject lines to see what works and what doesn't.

A/B testing is a technique that's used to optimize conversion rates. It's simple: Pick two different email subject lines, send one to segment A of your audience, and the other to segment B. Then track your open rates, click-through rate, unsubscribe rate, and any other metrics you want to improve. After you've gathered enough information, you'll know which subject line converts better and should be sent out to a wider audience. You can even run a multivariate test with as many variants as you want!

All modern-day email systems can test multiple email subject lines. They typically work by:

1. Sending out the variants to a small cohort of your entire email list

2. Waiting for a predetermined period of time

3. Determining a winner, then sending the winning email subject line to the rest of the email list

Below are the metrics from a recent email campaign we ran:

We had five variants, which we sent out to 10% of our email list. After one hour, it became clear that Variant One performed much better than the rest. As a result, the remaining 90% of our email list received an email with Variant One.

If we hadn’t A/B tested our subject lines and had just run with Variant Five, our second-best email subject line, we would have had 12,000 fewer opens!

It took only a few minutes to generate these additional variants, and it had a massive impact.

A/B testing is a great way to find out what works best for your emails and what falls short. The more you run these tests, the better you'll get at writing email subject lines that will bring in new leads.


A compelling email subject line is the best way to boost your open rates and improve engagement on your email marketing campaigns.

Ultimately, what you write in your subject line depends on what industry you work in, who your audience is, and several other factors.

But no matter what you write, make sure it offers value to the recipient in some way—this will give your email the best chance at being opened. By employing some of the tips and tactics in this post, optimize your subject lines to get more clicks and—hopefully—more conversions. After all, if an email falls in your reader’s inbox and no one opens it, does it make a sound?

Want to learn more? Here is our guide with 11 tips to write better email subject lines!

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