We get a lot of emails—agreed? Way back in 2018, the total number of emails—business and personal combined—exceeded 281 billion, and the situation has only grown more dire. Maybe “a billion” emails a day is an exaggeration, but you probably get more than you’d like to. You’re in good company: the average person receives 121 emails a day. Sadly, however, many don’t even give the email a chance—likely because the subject line was sub-par.

Email marketing remains a potent arrow in your digital marketing quill. Emails let you reach customers more personally than other avenues and provide a high ROI in both customer engagement and sales. For example, an email has six times the conversion power of a Twitter post. 

So how, then, do you cut through the noise with high-quality, relevant subject lines that get opened and drive conversions? Read on and find out.

Short and sweet

It’s critical to optimize your character, and word counts for email subject lines. A widely accepted marketing best practice is no more than nine words or 60 characters. Many recipients will read emails on a mobile device, so shorter is usually better. 

Question everything

A subject line that poses a question immediately engages the reader and even presents the opportunity to open a dialogue. Just don’t ask simple yes-or-no questions. Instead, keep it open-ended and keep the reader guessing (just not in a deceptive way).

Asking a question in your subject line can be especially effective if highly relevant to your audience. For example, suppose you’re in commercial construction. In that case, you’re far more likely to open an email with a subject line like, “What’s next for construction marketing?” or  “Should construction companies use blogs for marketing?” This is also another reason you should be creating segmented email lists.

Don’t get filtered out

Avoid using certain words that reduce open rates and can even trigger a reader’s spam filter. Phrases to avoid include “100%,” “congratulations,” “no cost,” and “discount,” among others.

Calm down

Avoid ALL CAPS or too many exclamation points(!!!) An email with the subject line, “FREE TRIAL TODAY ONLY” or “EXCLUSIVE 50% OFFER EXCLUSIVELY FOR YOU” will probably go unnoticed.

As in real life, most people don’t like to be yelled at through email. Using too many caps or exclamatory is tacky, disruptive, and spammy. Don’t fall back on shouting. Instead, focus your energy on personalized, relevant, and brief content. 

ABT (Always Be Testing)

Audiences are fickle. A subject line strategy that works well for one group might be a bust with a different audience. That’s where A/B testing can help you. 

Maybe you’re confident you know the subject line styles that will prompt readers to open your email. But with minimal effort, you can continue to tweak and optimize that language to get even better open and conversion rates. When you A/B test your subject lines, you create a fantastic resource. You can now note the responses and open rates of your various subject lines.

Take note of which strategies worked best and continue to A/B test. You’ll quickly hone your subject line approach.


In short, avoid using emojis in subject lines. While at first, emojis seem novel and potentially eye-catching, they’re likely a turn off for most potential readers. Worse, on some devices, they might not load at all. Search Engine Journal notes that “subject lines without an emoji had the higher open rate at 52.94% to 47.06%.” 

Readers find emojis distracting at best and tacky at worst. They “decrease the perception of competence.” In other words, you lose standing as an authority in your industry. Imagine a somber economic report announcement that included the clapping hand and smiley face emojis. It is, as the kids say, “so cringe.”

The numbers game

Include a number in your subject line to increase your clickthrough rate by more than 200%.

Numbers improve engagement by catching the reader’s eye, setting clear expectations, and piquing interest. A title like 7 Marketing Tips for Manufacturing Companies promises an easy-to-digest blog about a topic aimed at a specific audience.

Aaaand Action!

Like a call-to-action, a subject line that includes an action verb inspires readers to click. In addition, a subject line that starts with a verb can target an audience looking for a specific service. For example, a word like “boost” might appeal to someone with a certain metric that’s lagging, while the word “measure” could entice someone whose business is struggling to capture reliable data.

Last thoughts before you hit send

That’s a lot to keep in mind just for a simple email subject line. And there are plenty more tips out there for crafting enticing, catchy subject lines that get clicks.

But don’t feel overwhelmed. 

Just remember: know your audience, keep it short and simple, be honest, use actionable words, and keep it fresh.

Let’s close the circle by having a conversation about how Red Mallard will help you create emails that get opened. Contact us today.

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