Did you know that email marketing has a median ROI of 122 percent, making it four times more profitable than direct mail? While this makes email marketing extremely effective, it can be hard to get consumers to open your emails.

That’s why your emails need an enticing subject line.

The subject line of an email is your one chance to get readers to open, read and take action. But, how do you write an attention-grabbing subject line that pulls people in and gets them to open your email?

Here are my tips for upgrading your email subject lines.

1. Use an email subject or headline grader.

You can’t always trust your own judgement when it comes to determining how effective an email subject is. That’s why I use email subject graders, and you should too.

Here are my favorites:

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer

This is technically a headline grader, but I use it for everything from blog post headlines over at the RevLocal blog to short-form copy and email subjects. CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzerwill tell you how your subject line will resonate with your audience, the amount of emotional and power words you’ve used and give you suggestions to improve.


You’ll have to enter your email address and some other basic information to use this, but this subject line grader is free (and it’s specific to email subject lines, where CoSchedule is a blog title grader). SubjectLine.com will grade your subject with a score from 0-100 and give you tips on how to improve!

2. Know your audience and your competition.

Competitor research is a great way to learn what the competition is doing and how you can do it better.

Subscribe to your competition’s email newsletters so that you can see what they’re saying and how they’re saying it (in both the subject and the body of the email).

While you won’t see how many people opened their emails, you will be able to see what specific words and phrases they use. You don’t want to copy their words, but use them to find a way to better communicate with your audience.

Speaking of communicating with your audience, you need to know your audience so that you can write headlines that will make them open your email.

When talking to customers, really listen to what they’re saying about your products and services. Make a mental note of the words and phrases they use as well as their questions and concerns. Use similar phrasing in your subject to make sure you are speaking their language.

3. Give them a sense of urgency.

Urgency is a hugely effective marketing tactic.

I once bought a pair of shoes because ModCloth had the quantity listed on their site. There was only one pair left in my size. The urgency hit me, and I bought some shoes I didn’t really need (but still love) because of it.

You can use urgency in your emails to remind readers they don’t have a ton of time left for a specific deal.

Think subjects like:

  • You won’t want to miss this
  • Time is running out to get your…
  • Get this deal while it lasts
  • Today only…

You don’t have to go crazy with it (and try to avoid clickbait) but don’t be afraid to make your audience aware that your offers expire.

4. Keep it between about 60 and 70 characters.

According to research by Campaign Monitor, subject lines that are between 61-70 characters tend to get opened.

Use a character counter to check the length of your email subject lines and see if you can hit that character count without sacrificing content or clarity!

5. Give them something of value, and let them know what they’ll be getting in the email’s subject line.

If you’re offering a deal, promotion or coupon, let your email subscribers know! Tell them what they’re getting in the subject line so they want to open the email.

  • 20% off this week only – download your coupon now
  • Here’s your free….
  • Come in today and receive….

Final Thoughts on Email Subject Lines

No matter how you write your subject lines, make sure the messaging matches what is in the body of your email. There’s nothing more disappointing than opening an email only to find that the subject has nothing to do with what’s actually in the email.

That’s how you lose consumer trust. Make sure your subject line is accurate or at least hinting at what’s inside the email before you add flourishes of urgency, promotions or words that stir emotion.