Email Marketing: Subject Lines That Get Opens

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When it comes to email marketing, subject lines that get opens are top priority. Because it doesn’t matter how good your email copy is or how irresistible your offer is, if the email doesn’t get opened, it won’t get read.

If the email doesn’t get opened, your subscriber will never see your offer. If it doesn’t get opened, you’ve just wasted your time, effort, and possibly some money, too.

So, how do you write email marketing subject lines that get opens?

Jay Schwedelson, President and CEO of Worldata and Founder of, says personalization is the answer.

Personalization is the Key to Email Marketing Subject Lines That Get Opens

Personalization in email marketing goes way beyond a “Hi [[FirstName]]!” greeting. Remember, we’re talking about subject lines here … before your subscriber even sees the greeting.

So how do you personalize email subject lines?

Here are some tactics that have been proven to work, according to research:

  • Use the recipient’s first name in the subject line to catch their attention. Doing so increases open rates by an average of 17%.
  • Use the recipient’s location in the subject line to show that the email has relevance specifically to them. Doing so increases open rates by an average of 26%.
  • Call out a recent life event they’ve experienced — new home purchase, new child, getting married, new job, etc. This signals to them that this email is relevant and needs to be opened. Doing so increase open rates by 31%.
  • Mention an interest or hobby of theirs in the subject line. This increases the open rate by an average of 22%.
  • Use the recipient’s company name in the subject line. At an average of 28% increase in open rates, this is even more powerful than using their first name.
  • Refer to a past purchase the recipient has made to show them this email is personally relevant to them. Doing so increases the open rate by an average of 33%.
  • Use the recipient’s job title or job function to grab their attention. This increases the open rate by 34%.
  • Mention their generation (for example millennials, baby boomers, gen x) or stage of life (grandparents, college student, etc.). This tactic increases open rates by 25%.

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Each of these personalization tactics allow the recipient to quickly and easily identify that this email is going to be of specific interest or value to them.

And when they believe the email contains something they’re specifically interested in or that relates directly to them, they open it.

Of course, in order to use these personalization tactics, you have to actually know your list. You need to gather information about what’s important to them. You need to segment your subscribers into different categories. If you need help with that, let’s talk.

Beyond Personalization in Writing Marketing Email Subject Lines That Get Opens

While personalization is a highly effective tactic to improve your open rate, it’s not the only thing you can do.

Words Matter

Campaign Monitor shared these two lists of words that increase and decrease opens:

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So, it makes sense to use more of the words that increase open rates and less of those that decrease it. This requires careful, intentional thought and some creativity. The effort is worth it, though.

Additionally, keep up to date on changes to these lists as well as subject line words that are trending. For example, Jay Schwedelson recently reported that Cheat Sheet, Secret, Sold Out, and Back To School are trending with increased open rates of between 22% (Back To School) and 31% (Cheat Sheet).

Length Matters

As far as the length of your subject line, both the number of characters and the number of words counts. And when it comes to subject lines, less is more.

Campaign Monitor says that subject lines that are 3-5 words and 17-24 characters long get the best open rates. Test it for yourself and see if the same holds true for you, too.

You Don't Have to Figure Out Subject Lines and Email Marketing on Your Own

There is an art and science to email marketing and writing subject lines that get opens. 

But you don't have to figure it out on your own.

At WorldLight Media, we help our clients with email marketing, and other digital marketing strategies like writing subject lines that get opened and email copy that gets a response.

We’re here for you, too, if you need help.

Contact us today to start the conversation.

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