• Subject to Change


When it comes to email marketing, the importance of the subject line cannot be overstated.

In 50 characters or less, you’re tasked with conveying a message that’s, at the very least, difficult to ignore.

A well-planned email marketing campaign should inform consumers of a promotional offer or a limited-time deal. The spirit of the offer can be suggested in the subject line, but it’s best to avoid using numbers and phrasing that sound salesy. “Spammy” words like “Free” and “Cash” – even when used in good faith – can get sent straight to recipients’ spam folders never to be seen let alone opened.

Consumers are turned off by salesy subject lines and there’s plenty of sales-forward language inside the email so don’t worry about closing the deal with the subject line. Embrace the simplicity of the task at hand and briefly hint at what’s to be found inside!

Brief & Concise Works Best

You already are limited to 50 characters (including spaces!) – how much more brief can you get?

While you do want to create a subject line that stands out from the rest, studies have found that attempting to use all 50 characters is ineffective. So that 50 character limit is more like a 50 character no-no. Instead, try to write short, to-the-point subject lines with 1 to 3 words for the best results.

But no shortcuts either! Excessive punctuation, numbers, and abbreviations might help you fit a longer message into the limited space but they’ll actually dissuade people from opening the email.

Not sure how to apply all these rules? Here’s an example for a car dealership:

Bad: “0% financing on 2013 sedan models until 4/18!!!”

Good: “It’s Sedan Month”


An intriguing subject line will draw consumers to open an email purely out of curiosity. Well-crafted subject lines of intrigue will hint at the contents of the email using words that strike a chord with a specific target audience.

The most important thing to remember with intrigue is that you don’t want to be intentionally misleading. By all means be vague or mysterious, but you don’t want consumers to feel duped when they open the email to find something that doesn’t relate to the subject line. If you deceive consumers, many will unsubscribe and you’ll have only achieved the shortsighted goal of increasing open rates with no longer term results.

For a liquor store:

Bad: “Re: New Year’s Eve plans”

Good: “Must be 21”


Attract your target audience by speaking specifically to them and piquing their interest. Tailor your message to the interests and demographics of the audience.

If your email list is going to consumers in a specific geographic area, they might not know you’re a local business unless you indicate that in the subject line. However, targeting can easily go too far and seem formulaic and contrived when consumers’ names and hometowns are in the subject line. Aim for targeted, not invasive. 

For a restaurant:

Bad: “John, new restaurant for you to try Downtown”

Good: “Broadway’s New Brunch Spot”

What’s Next?

Ultimately, getting people to open your email is only the first hurdle in the race to conversions. After they open, your challenges include getting them to read, click, and maybe even convert in sales on your website.

You want consumers to open your emails but you also want to create a pleasant experience so they feel engaged, interested, and stay on your email list and don’t unsubscribe. Keep your subject line catchy, your email content exciting, and your landing page tailored to the offer at hand. Juggle all these pieces and you’re on your way to more leads and more customers!

ThriveHive combines easy-to-use tools and expert guidance to help businesses stand out and get found online. Learn more about our guided marketing and advertising solutions here.

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