Write great email subject lines to increase your open rate

Entice subscribers to open

The goal of email subject lines is to encourage readers to open your email and take action. Don’t let the pressure of writing the perfect subject line get to you. Finding the right words isn’t as difficult as it seems.

Open rates depend on multiple factors like collection practices, list age and the industry. The average rate ranges from 10 percent to 25 percent (at the high end of the spectrum). The team at GoDaddy analyzed thousands* of email subject lines to find those with the highest open rates and the most impact. Here’s what we learnt.

Be specific

The subject line should tell readers what they’re going to find inside.

Here’s an example that garnered an open rate of 37 percent:

Only Three Days Left for this Great Offer for [Company Name] Readers!

It’s totally clear what the email is about and the reader knows, when they open the email, they’ll get the details about the special offer. Also, note the “call to action” and a sense of urgency. However, it’s worth avoiding overwrought proclamations.

It’s definitely not OK to say, “This News Will Save Your Life!!!” They may be fun to write but if it’s not true to the email, you’ll turn off your readers.

Be true to the purpose of a subject line

The purpose is a preview of the email; a handful of words that capture the essence of the subject matter.

Here’s a winner:

Boeing expanding footprint of S.C. facilities 

That subject line got a 30-percent view rate! It taps directly into what that company’s readers are interested in.

Words with friends

I’ve always found feedback to be extremely constructive and with subject lines, getting some outside perspective is vital.

Ask your friends and colleagues what they think the subject line should be or have them edit your subject lines. Better yet, come up with a few options and ask them to come up with some themselves. Then see which ones are best. You’ll be surprised at how often this results in the perfect subject line.

Split second impressions

The first words matter! When the email is being previewed, your first few words are the one’s that will be seen so make ‘em count. Litmus has a neat tool to preview how your subject lines will appear across multiple email clients.

Here’s a subject line that grabbed my attention:

This Deal’s a Crime! The Murder Mystery Repeat Offender Deal! 

For a business that deals with murder mysteries, that’s a super strong opening that netted them a 32-percent open rate.

Content is king

Email subject lines are a major factor in generating healthy open rates. It’s the first step to engagement and as such, it’s worth looking at how your content drives your subject line rather than viewing the subject line as an afterthought.

A compelling subject line can only be built on a strong foundation of content.


Since that’s the case, make sure that your newsletter itself offers value. Thinking holistically, if you want to drive higher open rates, write content that generates great subject lines.

Who are you?

While analyzing our top performing email subject lines, I began to notice a trend. Of GoDaddy emails that had the highest open rates, 76 percent of them had either their business name or the product name mentioned in their subject lines.

That’s more than a coincidence, that’s a pro tip: the top subject line writers use either their company name, the product name or both.

This one had a view rate of 44 percent:

Nursery Flannel from Cloud 9 Organics is Now Available at [Company Name]

Utilize Google Trends for search

Google Trends for Email Subject Lines

If you’re unsure of which words are best suited to your subject line, try comparing them using Google Trends. While it’s technically a tool to help improve SEO optimization and help you understand what people are searching for on Google, the tool offers great insight (ahem) into online interests in general.

I find it’s most useful for my subject lines when I want to compare which words will be more powerful or whether to lead with a certain timely topic over another.

Want simple integration with Facebook, Google Analytics and more? Try GoDaddy Email Marketing.

* We looked at emails sent to lists between 1,000 and 100,000 contacts.

Image by: Mariusz_St via Compfight cc

Dean Levitt
Raised on a farm in South Africa, Dean moved to the United States to pursue a career in music, eventually finding his way to both Hawaii and the tech world. While growing his previous company, Mad Mimi (acquired by GoDaddy in 2014), Dean realized he had a passion for helping small businesses grow online. Dean is the CEO of Yala. Yala combines social media video ads with intelligent scheduling software making design and posting simple for small businesses.