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Write good subject lines for your newsletters — 7 tips and examples 

A great subject line is the way to a better open rate

A subject line has a heavy role. It should be able to carry your entire newsletter and capture the recipient’s interest in a few seconds. If the text in the subject field is not catchy, the likelihood that the rest of your newsletter will be read drops — no matter how exciting, interesting, or inspiring the content.

Our inboxes are overflowing with emails every single day. Newsletters, advertisements, bills, not-so-funny jokes from an uncle, and urgent messages from the boss – all of it pours into our inboxes without end. If you want to take on all your competitors in the inbox and avoid your newsletter ending up in the wastebasket week after week, you should give your subject lines a lot of love and use the subject field’s limited number of characters in the best way.

In this article, we look at why the subject line of your newsletters and marketing emails is so important. You also get 7 tips and examples of razor-sharp subject lines that you can use as inspiration. Sharpen the pencil, fire up under the keyboard, and read on below.

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How the subject line affects your open rate

According to studies from various newsletter platforms such as Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor and HubSpot, the ideal subject line has between 30 and 50 characters. Even though the subject line of your newsletter consists of very few words, the choice of these words can make all the difference when it comes to improving the open rate of your newsletters. A survey carried out by the marketing platform HubSpot showed that as many as 65% find that the subject line of the newsletter affects the open rate. But what open rate should you strive for? We look at this in more detail below.

What is a good open rate?

Most of us anxiously wait to see the open rate every time we click send on a newsletter or marketing email. But what exactly is a good open rate? It largely depends on your industry and the size of your company. A study conducted by Mailchimp and based on businesses with at least 1000 email subscribers showed the following open rates for a selection of industries: 

  • Agriculture and food service: 23.31% 
  • Architecture and construction: 22.51% 
  • Art and artists: 26.27% 
  • Beauty and personal care: 16.65% 
  • Business and finance: 21.56% 
  • Computers and electronics: 19.29% 
  • Construction: 21.77% 
  • Consultancy: 20.13% 
  • Creative services/agency: 21.39% 
  • E-commerce: 15.68% 
  • Education and courses 23.42% 
  • Entertainment and events: 20.51% 
  • Gambling: 21.62% 
  • Health and fitness: 21.48% 
  • Hobbies: 27.74% 
  • Home and garden: 21.60% 
  • Insurance: 21.36% 
  • Legal: 22.00% 
  • Marketing and advertising: 17.38% 
  • Media and publishers: 22.15% 
  • Medical, dental and healthcare: 21.72% 
  • Music and musicians: 21.88% 
  • Non-profit: 25.17% 
  • Photo and video: 23.24% 
  • Politics: 22.94% 
  • Professional services: 21.94% 
  • PR: 21.02% 
  • Property: 19.17% 
  • Recruitment and staffing: 21.14% 
  • Religion: 27.62% 
  • Restaurant: 19.77% 
  • Retail trade: 18.39% 
  • Social networks and online communities: 21.06% 
  • Software and web apps: 21.29% 
  • Sports: 24.57% 
  • Travel and transport: 20.44% 
  • Vitamin supplements: 15.03% 

This is not the complete list. You can find the complete list here. 

The study showed that the average opening rate for all industries was 21.33%. This means that if you can achieve an open rate of 21% or above, you are doing quite well. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that email clients record open rates in diverse ways, which can lead to a misleading open rate. In addition, it is also important to keep an eye on the click-through rate in your newsletters and marketing emails, especially if you have included links and CTA buttons. However, in this article we have chosen to focus on improving the open rate with good subject lines, so more on that below. 

What is a preheader?

Before we dive into subject lines, let’s take a fast look at preheaders, which also play a crucial role in catching your readers’ eyes and clicking fingers. Below you will get a quick overview of what a preheader is and how it should complement your subject line if you want to maximise the chance of your newsletters being opened and read. 

Your preheader is a carefully selected taste sample

A preheader is the short text that appears below the subject field in your subscribers’ inbox. It adds more information and context that gives the recipient an insight into what the email contains. In other words, your preheader is a kind of taste sample that consists of a short but tasty summary of the email’s content. To ensure that your preheader can be displayed on all devices, you should aim for a length between 30 and 80 characters. 

For example, if we had sent this article in a newsletter, a combination of subject line and preheader could have looked like this: 

Subject line: Tired of low open rates?  

Preheader: Write subject lines with a solid hook – 7 tips!  

In the next section, we focus on practical tips and examples of effective subject lines that can give your open rate a boost! 

7 tips for good newsletter subject lines – with examples

Writing great subject lines requires a fair dose of creativity, strategic thinking, and the ability to accept that you won’t always hit the spot the first time, or the second time. As with other parts of a solid marketing strategy, it’s important to experiment and learn from the results. Keep experimenting until you finally understand what type of subject lines really fire up your open rate.  

Now it’s time to look at 7 specific tips – read on!  

1. Hurry up – it’s urgent! 

A subject that creates a sense of urgency can make it tempting to open a newsletter or email. This is exactly why you have probably received a lot of e-mails with subject lines that are almost glowing red with phrases like “Act now”, “Last chance for”, “Offer expires today”, “Don’t miss out…”, etc. They are used extensively because they appeal to something in our brain that absolutely does not want to miss out on something – FOMO, as it’s so beautifully called (fear of missing out). 

Imagine you have an online shop where you sell gift baskets for Mother’s Day. In the newsletter you have pictures of a few of the gift baskets and a short text about Mother’s Day, and then of course links to the category with gift baskets on your website. There are 2 weeks until Mother’s Day, and you have planned an advantageous offer for customers who order no later than one week before Mother’s Day. 

Here is a good suggestion for an effective urgent subject line for the newsletter: 

Subject line: Mother’s Day is only 2 weeks away – order today! 

Preheader: Order by Sunday at the latest and get a 30% discount on a gift basket for Mom 

2. The personal subject line

Many newsletter systems allow you to personalise your subject lines. This is done by the system, usually using a script, automatically inserting the name of the individual recipients in the subject field or in the e-mail itself. You can usually choose where the name should be placed. The same applies to B2B communication, where you get the option to insert a company name instead. This is effective because we almost always react when we either hear or see our own name. And finally, it just feels more personal when you feel that the sender is addressing you.

Let’s say you have a vegetarian restaurant. Many of those who subscribe to your newsletters are previous guests. That means that you have their name in the system and can use it in the subject line when you send a newsletter about your three new veggie burger options. For example, like this:

Subject line: See you on Saturday, Sarah? 

Preheader: Mark your calendar – you are invited to our grand veggie burger reveal

3. A subject line for the curious

Most of us are more curious than we might like to admit to ourselves. Once we’ve got a small titbit of information about something, we’d rather not miss the rest. Here we meet the brain’s best friend, FOMO, again. Therefore, it can be effective to appeal to the reader’s curiosity in the subject line.

This can be done in many ways, but the most effective way is to turn the subject line into a peephole where the recipient can only see a small part of the exciting content. For the subject line to activate the recipient’s curiosity, you must make it irresistible to find out what is hidden behind the short sentence.

For example, if you have a blog where you author articles with the latest news from the fashion industry, your curiosity-stimulating subject line could look like this:

Subject line: Discover spring’s top trends!

Preheader: Famous fashion designer reveals the season’s must-have looks 

4. A subject line that appeals to the feelings

Although of course we are always (almost) intelligent people who have things under control and do not easily let emotions take control, emotions still often influence our actions. This also applies when we talk about the subject field. A subject line that hits your readers right in the feels is often an effective subject line. Here, of course, it is important to find a good balance so that your subject line does not end up evoking a cringe feeling in the recipient.

Let’s go back to the Mother’s Day example we used above for the urgent subject line. Now it’s Dad’s turn to be pampered. This time, picture yourself owning an online shop that exclusively sells men’s grooming products. In the month leading up to Father’s Day, you have a lot of good offers on great products that are perfect as gifts for Father’s Day. In your shop, you have even created a special category with these products. You have also planned a newsletter where you tell your potential customers about the offers. Here’s an example of what an emotional subject line could look like:

Subject line: Don’t forget Dad! 

Preheader: Show Dad how much he means to you – save 25% on gifts for Father’s Day

5. Short and sweet

As we’ve covered before, you only have relatively few characters available when writing your subject lines. Many times, it may even be best to stay a bit below the maximum character limit, considering that it should be as easy and quick as possible for the reader to understand the information you’re trying to convey.

Writing short and to-the-point sentences can be a bit of a struggle, even for the most seasoned writers. An effective way to do this is to sit down and just write 10 (or more) different subject lines, then choose the three best ones. After that, start moving the words around to make the subject line as short, concise and to-the-point as possible. Remove words that don’t emphasise what you’re trying to get across and refine your subject line until you feel it’s super sharp.

If you need a little assistance, there is nothing to stop you from seeking help from an artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT or another AI writing assistant. Here, however, it is worth considering that the free AI writing programs often generate texts of a lower quality than the paid ones, especially for non-English languages, because they were initially trained on English.

When you choose one.com as your hosting provider, you always have access to a user-friendly Website Builder with a built-in AI writing assistant.

6. Emojis in the subject line — yes or 🙁

If you quickly scroll through your inbox, you’ll probably come across several examples of subject lines that contain emojis. One might be tempted to think that the brightly coloured emojis make it more attractive to click on the subject line, but in fact several studies show that this is far from definite. In a study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group in 2020, it was found that most recipients reacted negatively to subject lines with emojis. Keep in mind that in the study, emojis were used in many different ways and in different contexts, which of course affects the findings.

Some of the most important learnings from the study were that subject lines with emojis are often perceived negatively by the recipient, but at the same time it can still be more tempting to click on a subject line with an emoji because it stands out in the inbox. However, according to the study, it had more to do with the emoji’s visual value than the recipient’s interest in the information in the subject line.

Whether you should use emojis in your subject lines therefore largely depends on the type of information you are conveying, what you want to achieve, and which target group you are addressing. The best rule of thumb is to consider whether your emoji adds value or enhances the subject line in any way. If it doesn’t, you should stick to a subject line that consists of text. And remember, there is no emoji yet that can save a boring subject line.

7. A/B-testing — Let your recipients choose the subject line 

At the end of the day, it’s your subscribers who will decide if you’ve written a good subject line. Therefore, you can also use them when you need to find out what works and what doesn’t quite go down well with your audience. With an A/B test, you can test two good subject lines on a small percentage of your subscribers before sending the newsletter or marketing email to the remaining recipients.

Most newsletter systems have a built-in feature that lets you run an A/B test for a few hours (or longer) before sending the newsletter to your entire recipient list. During the time when the A/B test is active, the system compares the opening rate of two different versions of your emails. The email that has the highest open rate once the A/B test is completed will automatically be sent to the remaining recipients. By looking at the subject lines that perform best in your A/B tests, you will gradually get a good idea of what catches the attention of your subscribers.

Keep your users engaged with better subject lines

Today’s inboxes are full of competitors, all vying for users’ attention. Every single day of the year, subject lines and preheaders are written by companies, bloggers, news media and marketing agencies around the world. Your subject lines can be the way to achieve a loyal audience among your readers, users, and potential customers. Therefore, good subject lines should be part of your marketing strategy, regardless of the industry you belong to. We hope this article can help you get off to a good start and skyrocket your open rate.