16 Tips To Increase Your Email Open Rates With Smart Subject Lines

published by on 4th September 2015 under Email Marketing

Smart Subjectline


Even though the subject line is a small part of an email, it is the first impression you have on your recipients. If the email subject line doesn’t catch their attention, you won’t go any further.

Subject line writing has truly evolved over the years. Today, people need quick and easily digestible content. With the overwhelming amount of content online trying to get people’s attention, a good subject line can make or break your email content.

Some interesting numbers for you from Neil Patel:

  • 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy
  • But only 2 out of 10 will read the rest
  • A writer should spend half the entire time it takes to write a piece of persuasive content on the headline

We all know that writing email subject lines is not an exact science. There are so many factors that can affect your open rates. Below are 15 tips on crafting a click-worthy email subject line that will increase the number of people who will actually read your email.


Let’s begin!


Tip #1: KISS - Keep it Short and Straightforward.  Most people quickly scan subject lines to decide if they’ll open or ignore the email. Keep your subject line to 50 characters or less. Some fun facts:

  • People scan headlines – take in only the first and last 3 words
  • Less to read so higher chance of retaining attention

I would go on and recommend to write concise and no nonsense email subject lines. If you’re email has a specific purpose then your subject lines should be specific as well. Be careful not to go overboard with promotional and cheesy phrases.


Tip #2: Give it a sense of urgency.  Using deadlines like “5 Hours Only” or “24 Hour Giveaway” will encourage your reader to act now, instead of putting it off until later – when there’s a chance of them forgetting it. Email subject lines that use this scarcity appeal compel people to act or make a decision because of that inherent fear of missing out. This is a particular human behavior most evident back in the days where people were always on survival mode. Hang on, on second thought, that’s also evident in today’s times.

A word of caution in using this scarcity appeal, make sure what you’re offering in your email is something that your recipients care about, otherwise, the time and availability limitation would be irrelevant to them.


Tip#3: Appeal to your audience’s interests. Tailor the subject lines to connect on a more personal level with your target audience. This is pretty much one of the guiding principles of online marketing. By knowing your audience, you can cater to their specific needs and tickle their fancies with the right style and tone in your subject lines.

For example, let’s say you have two primary segments in your e-mail list – Marketing Managers and Business Owners. Each segment has different goals, interests and challenges. When you send out emails to them, make sure you use different subject lines that best appeal to their interests or address their challenges.

Marketing Managers are interested more in how-to guides and specific tactics, while Business Owners are interested more in the end result – the ROI. Here are two different subject lines that show this concept:

Marketing Manager: “Five ways to improve e-mail open rates by writing better subject lines”

Business Owner: “Improve e-mail marketing ROI by understanding how subject lines affect e-mail engagement”


Tip#4: Use Personalization. It’s said that a person’s favorite word is their own name. By adding the recipient’s name, you you make the the person feel connected to your business. It’s a good way to start building the relationship. Say something like this: “Hi David, don’t miss out on our latest analytics update…”

Additional tip, if you’re not comfortable using names, use “you” or “your”. This gives them a feeling of being addressed directly.


Tip #5: Use Localization. You don’t have to end with incorporating the recipient’s name into the subject line. You can try personalizing a message with location-specific offers and language. MailChimp research suggests including a city name is even better.

If you’re an eCommerce business, sending emails that promote discounts and deals based on the recipient’s local area or based on past purchases would be a great way to attract more opens. Generally, it’s always good practice to know and understand your target audience to be able to use the right language and offers that best resonates with them.


Tip #6: Don’t make false promises. You don’t want people clicking on ‘Unsubcribe’, right? Best way to do this is to deliver on your promise in your subject line.

For example, you created an email workflow for people who download files from your website. If you email subject line says, ‘”You’re download is ready”, better make sure there is a clickable link inside where they can access what they downloaded from your website. Sounds pretty standard right? But there are still some who make false promises just to get their emails opened. Tsk… tsk.

Additional tip, say something along the lines of, “Access your case study now”, instead of a generic “Thank you”. This goes back to being concise (Tip#1); make it clear that something is inside the email waiting to be accessed. 


Tip #7: Consider how your recipients will benefit from your email. Make it clear how your email will benefit your recipient. Given that you’ve done your homework of understanding your target audience – interests, goals and challenges, write a subject line that best communicates the value of your email to them. Below is an email I received from Quick Sprout that illustrates my point.


Quick Sprout email


Tip #8: Use Questions. Asking a question in your email subject line can also draw your recipients in. These types of subject lines arouse a sense of curiosity to know more about the subject and see whether it applies to them. By asking questions, you engage with your recipients in an instant dialogue and make them more likely to open your email.

Possible questions:

  • Are your landing pages converting?
  • Is your website providing the best user experience?


Tip #9: Use numbers and lists. People just love numbered lists. Similar to using questions, these types of subject lines make your emails stand out and create curiosity. Email subject lines with numbered lists make your recipients feel that the content of your email is a quick and easy read.


Tip#10: A/B testing. Heard this a million times? Improving e-mail subject lines is a process of testing and optimizing. I can’t emphasize this enough. A/B test everything, especially your email subject lines.


Tip #11: Avoid spam words.  Avoid words like- Free, Bonus, Discount, % OFF, because they trigger spam filters. These words are way overused and commonly associated with sales pitches. Though some may not trigger a spam filter, many recipients will choose to ignore them.


Tip #12: Don’t overuse capitalization. More caps does not equal more email opens. Best to capitalize your letters following grammar rules.


Tip #13: Use free subject line testing tools. Most email marketing systems have their own built-in tool for testing subject lines. SubjectLine.com is helpful when it comes to testing your subject lines. It’s a free subject line rating tool. Simply type in your subject line and click submit. You’ll get a rating for your email subject lines and a breakdown of the results. Below is an example of a subject line I tested.




Tip #14: Emoji or not to emoji? Using symbols or emoji in subject lines isn’t a new idea. However, now that many of us have emoji-friendly mobile devices and regularly read our email on them, it’s become an increasingly popular tactic for attracting attention in crowded inboxes.

Word of caution though, if a character isn’t supported in the email provider of the client, the recipient will see a ☐ (empty box) character instead of the actual emoji or symbol.

Try using emojis and symbols in your next email subject line and test! Sometimes images are better than words in grabbing people’s attention.


Tip #15: Add preview texts. Preview texts provide your recipients a glimpse of your email content. Don’t underestimate the preview texts’ power to improve your open rates. Treat them the same way you treat your subject line. Below is an example preview text from one of our newsletters here at FIRST.

Email Pre-header


Tip #16: Use negative words. In his Infographic, Neil Patel notes that negatives tap into our insecurities. The words “No”, “Without” and “Stop” lead to more shares.




As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, there are several factors that can affect your open rates. Other factors could be:

  • Email list segmentation – have you properly qualified and segmented your email contacts database?
  • Sending frequency – how often are you sending emails? Make sure you’re not being too annoying.
  • Sending time and day – are you sending your emails on the best time and day of the week? That would depend on your target audience’s time zone, industry and background. Check this post on the best time to send email newsletters to get an idea.
  • Purpose for sending – do you have a clear grasp of why you are sending out emails? In the case of a newsletter, does you business even need one? Find out the why before the how.

As more and more content is created everyday, each piece trying to grab your audience’s attention, combat this noise by making your subject lines brief, concise and interesting to your audience. You might not come up with the perfect subject line straight away. It will take ongoing A/B testing to find out what works best for your unique audience. As you get a better understanding of what works, you can optimize your subject lines for better performance.


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Pumpkin Patch Increases Performance Display Revenue 10x in 5 months

published by on 1st September 2015 under Case Studies, Digital Advertising, Digital Strategy, etc

Pumpkin Patch Works With FIRST To Increase Revenue 10x In 5 Months


How FIRST drove revenue with Performance Media for a global brand

Pumpkin Patch is a fashion retail chain based in Auckland, New Zealand that provides premium kids clothing ranges both in store and online. Over the years, Pumpkin Patch expanded into the AU, US and UK markets, initially with retail stores and mail order catalogues. More recently Pumpkin Patch has been driving growth in these markets through digital channels.

To sustain continued growth and expansion, this global brand needed help in developing a customer focused and data-driven approach to their digital marketing. Pumpkin Patch approached FIRST to better understand the true influence of performance media on customers and develop and roll-out a performance marketing strategy to increase revenue and customer acquisition.

Through a culture of responsiveness, testing and refinement, FIRST implemented a smart, data-driven strategy that drove a significant increase in revenue ten times in five months while enhancing the ‘brand building’ benefit of display advertising.


Cost and Revenue Graph Pumpkin Patch Case Study


Find out the specific actions and tactics taken by FIRST that continues to deliver outstanding and constantly improving revenue gains from performance media. Read the full case study here.


Maree Lawrence Senior Brand Marketing Manager Pumpkin Patch


Read the full case study here


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FIRST is Now a Google Tag Manager Certified Partner

published by on 31st August 2015 under Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager

FIRST is Now a Google Tag Manager Certified Partner


FIRST is Now A Google Tag Manager Certified Partner

We’re very pleased to announce that we are officially a Google Tag Manager (GTM) Certified Partner. And as far as we are aware, we are the first in New Zealand to be awarded this partner status.


What could Google Tag Manager do for you?

  • Have more agility, speed and control on your marketing campaigns and deployment of tags and tracking without depending on developers or the IT team
  • Save time by managing all marketing tags in one place
  • Save time on deploying advanced Google Analytics solutions – is often so much easier and faster in GTM – and in return get richer data for greater insights and better decisions

Earning this Partner Certification required deep analytics expertise and evidence of high performing campaigns that utilised GTM to help maximise return on digital investment.

As an early adopter of GTM, we’ve worked with the solution extensively and have customised to clients unique requirements. See what we have done for Harmoney.com by reading our case study post.


Read the full Harmoney GTM Case Study here


Our Partnership with Google

In addition to this new Certification we are also a Google Analytics Certified Partner (1 of 3 in NZ) and a Google Analytics Premium Authorized Reseller (1 of 2 in NZ).


FIRST and Google Partnerships


We can help you with any of your Google Analytics needs:

  • Analytics & Measurement Strategies
  • Migration to Tag Manager, Universal Analytics and Enhanced eCommerce
  • Audience insights, website conversion insights, media optimisation
  • Analytics dashboards
  • Analytics for mobile apps
  • Custom-built advanced solutions

… as one-off projects, or to provide ongoing support and analytics leadership for your organisation.

Questions? We’re here to help.

Call us today at +64 9 920 1740 so we can chat about your specific needs.

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FIRST Team Survives The Zombie Invasion at Escape Masters

published by on 28th August 2015 under Events, Team Fun

FIRST zombie invasion


You read it right!

For one of our team activities, FIRST headed over to Escape Masters, New Zealand’s first real-life escape game, to experience a real adrenaline rush (like we don’t already have enough at work :) ).

Escape Masters had lots of experiences to choose from – zombie invasion, alien abduction, rescue mission, gangsters’ room and cyber crime. Our main goal was to escape from a room by finding hidden keys and clues, cracking codes, solving puzzles/problems and linking them all together to reveal the code or uncover the location of the key to the exit door before the time was up. Each room had a Help button which we could use three times in case we got stuck.

It was everyone’s first time which made it more exciting! We chose the Zombie Invasion experience and the hard level (oh yeah!). For this experience, there were two identical rooms – same set-up and puzzles to be solved. Our team was randomly split into two with six members each to see which was the fastest team to escape from the room. Below are the teams and their team names :)

Team Bite Me

Team Bite Me


Team Breathers

Team Breathers


Game On!

We had 50 minutes to find every clue and solve every brainteaser in the room to get the code to unlock the exit door. The moment the time was started, everyone scattered and went through everything but the floor and ceiling to look for hidden keys and pieces to puzzles and clues. Pieces of furniture were turned upside down and everything in sight was scattered on the floor. It seemed like the zombies have already gotten in the room. But nope! It was still us.. humans.

Thirty minutes in and Team Breathers decided to push the Help button as there were still quite a few locks unopened. Team Bite Me managed not to push the Help button and worked on their own in finding the code to escape.

And The Winner Is

Team Breathers won finishing at 36 minutes! Team Bite Me finished at 49 minutes, just 1 minute before the zombies invaded the room. It was an awesome team activity for all of us first-timers. Would definitely come back for a fun and unique experience at Escape Masters!




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Harmoney Partners With FIRST To Gain Deeper Customer Insights And Smarter Campaign Optimisation

published by on 27th August 2015 under Case Studies, Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), Google Analytics, etc


How Harmoney.com gained deeper customer insights and smarter campaign optimisation with help from FIRST 

Harmoney is New Zealand’s first peer-to-peer 100% online lending platform. A lack of understanding into the website behaviour of different customer segments was preventing Harmoney from converting leads into customers. Gaining clear visibility on its conversion funnel performance to uncover needed insights was a challenge for the marketing team. In addition, tracking was difficult due to the technicality of their website’s design.

Since partnering with FIRST for customised analytics tracking solutions and actionable insights on user segmentation, Harmoney gained deeper understanding of their customers’ behavior, enhanced campaign performance and improved online experience for their customers through Google Tag Manager implementation.

Find out how FIRST customised Google Tag Manager for Harmoney to meet their objectives, read the full case study here.


Glen MacKellaig Head of Digital Marketing Harmoney

Read the full case study here. 

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