Study: These words will make or break your subject line


If you want to boost engagement with your email campaigns, it helps to say “thank you” in the subject line, according to a recent report from Adestra.

The report was based on data from more than 3 billion email attempts that were part of 125,000 global campaigns conducted by organizations in four industries (retail/B2C, conferences/events, media/publishing, and B2B).

The researchers selected the 300 most popular single words, characters and two-word phrases and then looked at the relative lift or decay of each term versus the average.

As the report notes, the results only provide a “broad interpretation of the causal effects of individual words”; that is, they are an overview of average performance, and the terms won’t always work for every brand.

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Overall, email subject lines that include the words “thank you” have the highest above-average engagement levels (+62 percent)—perhaps because many automated, transactional messages include this phrase, such as email receipts sent by brands after customers complete online purchases.

Subject lines that separate topics with vertical pipes (e.g., “Sale now on | New lines added | Win trip to Dubai | Share your pics with #summer2015rules”) also perform significantly above average (+47 percent).

Timeliness also tends to work well in email subject lines, with words such as “bulletin” (+32 percent), breaking (+27 percent), and “order today” (+27 percent) all boosting engagement.

Mundane words that make reading feel like work hurt engagement levels with email subject lines.

The worst-performing words examined include: “journal” (-50 percent), “forecast” (-47 percent), “training” (-47 percent), “whitepaper” (-40 percent), and “learn” (-36 percent).

Check out the full report for results by category, as well as for the specific engagement metrics (open rate, CTR, unsubscribe rate, etc.) of individual words.

A version of this article originally appeared on Marketing Profs.


5 Subject Line Tips You Haven’t Heard


Trying to pique readers’ curiosity to entice them to open an email is so 2009. The world of email subject lines is growing more sophisticated as emailers grow more spam and sales savvy. It’s safe to say your subject line is more important than ever. Coming up with them can be fun, though, if you use some of these tips.

Statistics show that 64 percent of people will open an email because of the subject line, and nearly half of them list that as their only deciding factor. Email is powerful, and your subject line is key to unlocking that power.

To help you create successful subject lines, we’ve put together a list of unique tips. These tips aren’t your ordinary, everyday tips like “Be creative.” These five tips are meant to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Try a pop culture reference

There is nothing – we mean nothing – like a clever or punny pop culture reference. You might quote a line from a movie, reference a bit of celebrity gossip or use a song title. Now is a perfect time for this type of title because there’s a wealth of pop culture. Plus, Netflix-type services are also helping people connect with classic movies, music and TV shows. Brainstorm ideas and keep a notebook handy for particularly memorable puns you think of or come across. 

2. Hashtag it up 

Talk of trending topics and other references to social media can also attract readers. Consider drawing inspiration from weekly hashtags or recent trends. Do you use Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest? Move those principles over to your email regimen.

This email with a hashtag in its subject line shows great social media savvy. The line could appear as a Facebook or Twitter post.

3. Give and ye shall receive

Modern marketing relies on the idea of giving to your customers before you ask them to buy from you. To get people to click your emails, tell them what you’re offering – but be sure not to oversell it. Try offering a gift with purchase, discounted shipping or a free consultation. By giving something of value to your customers, they are more likely to come back for additional products or services.

4. Tell a joke

You might make them laugh with a pithy observation, some sort of joke or even just a funny anecdote. If you visit any humor sites, watch sitcoms or follow any humor feeds on social media, think about something that made you laugh and how you might translate that principle to an email subject title.

Try looking through these tips for increasing your subject line humor, too.

5. Be descriptive

If it feels forced, you’re overwhelmed, or you just can’t come up with anything, it’s not the end of the world. Just give a descriptive subject with your most important words near the front of the line. Describe a new product or give specific details about an upcoming sale.

Subject lines can be as fun to create as they are to read. With a little practice and help from the tips above, you can create some memorable subject lines that get customers to react.

To continue to find subject line inspiration, look through our list of great subject lines and see what moves you.


Sarah Tanksalvala is a freelance business, technology and lifestyle writer based in Evergreen, Colorado.


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