Email subject lines that actually get opened

Limited time only! Act now! Here’s what you need to know! Don’t miss it! Open now!

Got your attention? We in marketing call this sort of thing “clickbait” . . . the sensational headline lures you in, and the content rarely measures up to the hype.

Mailchimp recently analyzed more than 40 million emails to single out those with the highest and lowest open rates. Interestingly, the “best” subject lines — those with the highest open range, 60-87% — weren’t clickbait at all. In fact, the subject lines were straightforward and uncomplicated.

The worst lines? The subject lines with the worst open rates were, well, clickbait. Subject lines included “Last Minute Gift – We have the answer,” “Valentines – Shop Early & Save 10%” and “You Asked For More.” They were salesy and pushy, even a little aggressive. While they might seem creative, they led to low open rates.

Hey, it’s human instinct: our brains tune out extra noise. We’re getting used to junk email, so anything that even hints at spam gets deleted right away.

email subject lines that won't get deleted
Straightforward subject lines are key to keeping your emails out of their trash.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a little urgency! But not every subject line needs to read like a mailbox sales circular. Remember, there’s a real person receiving your email — so write for that person. Back to Marketing 101 . . . a good subject line describes the email. Simple. The highest open rate subject lines, according to Mailchimp, were basic. “Sales and Marketing Newsletter” topped the list.

Sending a newsletter or a blog digest? Your subject line should say so. Reserve the urgent subject lines for things that really are urgent, like a last-minute reminder for a deadline or a flash sale. If it is a special promotion, mention that. Not everything is earth-shattering — and so not every subject line needs to be either.

Creativity is still welcome, of course. In their study, Mailchimp discovered that some clever subject lines actually did have decent open rates. The key is in setting the right expectations. Approach your subject lines with honesty, and don’t create unnecessary hype. Your subscribers will love you for it.

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