How to Write Compelling Email Subject Lines

by : 

Shawna Gilleland

August 29, 2016
Marketing Mondays - How to Write Compelling Email Subject Lines

What makes a person want to click open a marketing email? The answer? A compelling subject line! But, with people bombarded by email offers daily, how do you stand out? If you can’t get people to open your emails, they will never click through to your message.

Compelling subject lines grab readers’ attention, pique their curiosity, and insist they find out more. The following five subject-line types and examples are proven best performers. When used correctly, these will increase your open rates and, more importantly, your engagement rates.

1. Reason why

Give the reader a reason behind why you wrote your email. Why should they open it? What are you going to tell them that they couldn’t have found otherwise? A subject line that gives readers “the reason why” will immediately pique their interest. It is the #1 email subject-line performer:

  • 6 reasons you can’t sleep at night ... and how to fix them

  • Why do my yoga poses feel unsteady?

  • 5 reasons sleeping with crystals improves your health

2. Big numbers

Everyone loves big numbers, and we’re always curious about what other people are doing. Connect with your audience through social and numerical proof:

  • The Golden Globes gave away 10,000 of these in their goodie bags this year

  • Save $1,500 a year and boost your skin’s health with these organic beauty products

  • 10 ways to squeeze meditation into your busy schedule

3. Benefits

While the Benefit subject line may not get you the highest open rate, it will give you the highest conversion rate because it tells people exactly what they will receive. It’s not simply an explanation of the product or service, but how they personally will benefit from it:

  • Feel like a million dollars with this season’s must-have new accessory

  • Gain the confidence you need to tackle any problem

  • Improve your power stance by making this one adjustment to your yoga poses

4. Questions

When we are asked a question, especially one we don’t know the answer to, it’s difficult to walk away without learning the answer. A Question subject line tugs at our natural curiosity and drives us to click to find the answer:

  • How do you get rid of coffee stains without ruining your wardrobe and without harmful chemicals?

  • Have you heard about the latest natural wellness trend that virtually erases wrinkles?

  • Why does my yoga mat smell so bad, even after I’ve washed it?

5. Fascination

You’ve seen this type of headline on magazine stands for years. The Fascination subject line draws attention for its uniqueness. Draw inspiration here from tabloid headlines and places such as the Huffington Post, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal:

  • Bid farewell to this popular [product type, e.g., dietary supplement]

  • Ancient Egyptians used this common product as sunscreen

  • The next big trend in workout fashion is here!

But wait, there’s more!

Test your subject lines regularly. Research what headlines bloggers, magazines, and other businesses are using. Which stand out? Analyze why they grab your attention, and incorporate what you like into your own email subject lines. And, once you find the types of subject lines that resonate with you and your audience, don’t overdo it! Your readers will tune out your emails if they are too much the same. Mix up the offers you send and the subject lines you use. There is a reason for the saying, “Variety is the spice of life.”

Bonus pro tip

Combine several types of subject lines for greater impact. Use a “Question with a Big Number” subject line and test it against a subject line with only a big number. Don’t be afraid to ask others to critique your subject lines. The more input you have, the greater your chance of finding subject lines that will perform best with your audience.

Shawna Gilleland is passionate about helping small businesses market themselves effectively through process improvement methods. Finder her online at