14 Email Subject Line Best Practices for your Small Business

14 Email Subject Line Best Practices

A successful email marketing campaign needs an eye-catching, succinct and relevant subject line to grab the attention of recipients and encourage them to open the email to learn more. Professional email subject lines are often descriptive and personal, rather than generic and lackluster, which do little in compelling subscribers to open the email.

Email Subject Line Best Practices

Ensure your email marketing campaigns get off to a flying start by observing the following 14 email subject line best practices.

Make It Personalized

Rather than using generic terms such as “customer” or “client” in a subject line, opt for a more personalized approach that states the name of the recipient.

As MailChimp advises, personalize subject lines with each recipient’s name or location. Personalization is particularly effective when used in conjunction with targeted emails, such as birthdays deals and is proven to increase open rates.

Include Social Media Handles in the Subject Line

Another effective way to personalize professional email subject lines is to include the recipient’s social media handle, which helps the email stand out from the hordes of other emails that land in subscribers’ inboxes every day.

Twitter regularly sends emails with the recipient’s Twitter handle in the subject line, recognizing the positive affect it has on open rates.

Be Descriptive Rather than Boring and Bland

Another email subject line best practice is to be descriptive and interesting rather than bland and boring. Lines like “Sizzling summer deals you can’t miss out on”, would be more persuasive and striking than the likes of “Best deals for the summer”.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Make your subject lines too lengthy and they won’t have the same punchy impact as shorter, more concise professional email subject lines. That said, avoid making the subject line too vague and short. A general rule of thumb is to make a subject line between 30 – 50 characters.

Avoid Misleading Recipients

You want your recipients to be engaged with the email subject line, so they feel compelled to open the email. However, you don’t want to deliberately mislead subscribers, as using false promises can lead to recipients unsubscribing from your list. Or, worse still, making a complaint.

Use Localization

Like personalization, localization tailors an email so its relevant to a subscriber’s location. As Add This notes: “One way to improve your email open rates and target a specific audience is with localization.”

14 Email Subject Line Best Practices for your Small Business

Test the Best Keywords for Subject Line

One of the most effective email subject line practices is to test keywords and phrases to see which garner the most response from your audience.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Email subject lines are most effective when they create a sense of urgency. For example, “Don’t Miss Out on Our Christmas Promotion,” compels a customer to open an email during the seasonal period before it’s too late.

Create a Sense of Curiosity

As well as creating a sense of urgency, create a sense of curiosity that will coerce your recipients into wanting to learn more about the content of the email. That said, avoid making the subject line too ambiguous that is barely complies with your brand and products or services.

As Hub Spot warns: “Make sure the subject line, while enigmatic, still aligns with your brand. Too obscure, and it could end up being seen as spam.”

Ditch the Spam Words

Certain words that are considered spammy can decrease open rates and should be avoided at all costs. For example, email subject lines that start with “Introducing,” “Investment” or “Junk”, can be seen as spammy and discourage a recipient to open the email.

Write Subject Lines in Title Case

YesWare analyzed 115 million email subject lines and found that those in title case, where the first letter of every word is capitalized, were the most effective in increase open rates and replies.

Make Email Subject Lines Relevant and Timely

Another email subject line best practice is to ensure the subject lines are timely and relevant. For example, if your business is involved in a high-profile event or campaign, inform recipients about your involvement in this relevant and timely event in the subject line of the email.

Use Emotional Words

CoSchedule advises using three or more emotional words in a subject line to help improve open rates. Emotional words are words that act as triggers to get recipients to open an email to learn more about its content and to take action on the email. Words such as “brand new” and “breaking”, can be considered emotional words that help convince subscribers into opening an email.

Use Emojis Sparingly

Emojis can add color, vibrancy and pizazz into subject lines. According to Experian, 56% of brands that use emojis in subject lines see an increase in open rates.

However, while adding the likes of smiley faces, thumbs up and other relevant emojis to subject lines can prove an effective way to increase brand awareness and encourage subscribers to open an email, going overboard with emojis can be seen as spammy, immature and unprofessional.

Best PracticeDescription
PersonalizationUse the recipient's name or location to personalize subject lines.
Include Social Media HandlesIncorporate the recipient's social media handle to stand out.
Be Descriptive, Not BoringCraft descriptive and interesting subject lines to engage recipients.
Keep It Short and SweetAim for concise subject lines, typically between 30 - 50 characters.
Avoid Misleading RecipientsDon't use false promises or misleading language in subject lines.
Use LocalizationTailor emails to the recipient's location for increased relevance.
Test KeywordsExperiment with keywords and phrases to determine audience response.
Create a Sense of UrgencyUse urgency-inducing language to encourage immediate action.
Create a Sense of CuriositySpark curiosity without making the subject line too vague.
Ditch the Spam WordsAvoid spammy words or phrases that can discourage opens.
Write Subject Lines in Title CaseCapitalize the first letter of each word in subject lines for better open rates.
Make Email Subject Lines RelevantEnsure subject lines align with timely events or campaigns.
Use Emotional WordsInclude emotional trigger words to entice recipients to open emails.
Use Emojis SparinglyEmojis can enhance subject lines but should be used in moderation.

14 Email Subject Line Best Practices for your Small Business

Track Email Engagement Metrics

To ensure the success of your email marketing campaigns, it’s crucial to track and analyze email engagement metrics. These metrics provide valuable insights into the performance of your email subject lines and help you refine your strategies for better results. Here are some key email engagement metrics to monitor:

  • Open Rate: Measure how many recipients actually open your emails. A higher open rate indicates that your subject lines are effective in grabbing attention.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): CTR measures the percentage of recipients who click on links or calls to action within your emails. It shows the level of interest and engagement generated by your email content.
  • Conversion Rate: Track how many recipients take the desired action after opening your email, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter. This metric reflects the effectiveness of your email marketing in achieving your goals.
  • Bounce Rate: Bounce rate indicates the percentage of emails that couldn’t be delivered to recipients’ inboxes. High bounce rates can negatively impact your sender reputation and email deliverability.
  • Unsubscribe Rate: Keep an eye on the number of subscribers who opt-out of your email list. A high unsubscribe rate may signal dissatisfaction with your emails or subject lines.
  • Spam Complaint Rate: Monitoring spam complaints is essential to maintain a positive sender reputation. Too many spam complaints can lead to your emails being marked as spam by email providers.
  • A/B Testing Results: Continuously conduct A/B tests on different subject lines to determine which ones perform best. Analyze the results to refine your subject line strategies.
  • Email Engagement Trends: Look for trends in email engagement over time. Identify patterns in open rates, CTR, and conversions to adapt your email subject line tactics accordingly.

14 Email Subject Line Best Practices for your Small Business

Monitor and Adapt to Email Marketing Trends

In the ever-evolving landscape of email marketing, it’s crucial to stay informed about the latest trends and adapt your strategies accordingly. Here’s why monitoring and adapting to email marketing trends is essential:

  • Stay Competitive: Your competitors are likely exploring new email marketing tactics and techniques. By staying up-to-date with trends, you can identify opportunities to outshine your competition and capture your audience’s attention.
  • Technology Advances: Email marketing platforms and tools are continually evolving. New features, automation capabilities, and integrations can enhance your email campaigns. Staying aware of these advancements allows you to leverage technology to its fullest potential.
  • Changing Consumer Behavior: Consumer behavior and preferences shift over time. What worked in email marketing a year ago might not be as effective today. By tracking trends, you can align your strategies with how your audience interacts with email.
  • Mobile Optimization: With the majority of emails being opened on mobile devices, optimizing your emails for mobile is critical. Stay updated on mobile-friendly design trends and techniques to ensure your emails display correctly on various screen sizes.
  • Privacy Regulations: Data privacy regulations, such as GDPR and CCPA, continue to impact email marketing. Keeping abreast of these regulations and adjusting your practices accordingly is essential to avoid legal issues.
  • Content Formats: Email content formats are diversifying. Video, interactive elements, and dynamic content are becoming more prevalent in email marketing. Experimenting with these formats can make your emails more engaging.
  • Personalization Advancements: Personalization is a cornerstone of effective email marketing. As personalization technology evolves, you can refine your personalization strategies to create more tailored and relevant emails.
  • Sustainability and Ethical Practices: Sustainability and ethical considerations are gaining importance in marketing. Being aware of trends related to sustainable email practices and ethical marketing can enhance your brand’s reputation.
  • Analytics and Data Insights: New data analytics tools and techniques can provide deeper insights into your email performance. Stay updated on ways to analyze data to refine your campaigns and make data-driven decisions.
  • Emerging Channels: Keep an eye on emerging communication channels that might complement your email marketing efforts. For example, messaging apps and chatbots are becoming valuable tools for customer engagement.
Key AspectsDescription
Stay CompetitiveKeeping up with email marketing trends allows you to remain competitive by identifying new tactics and strategies to engage your audience effectively.
Technology AdvancesEvolving email marketing platforms and tools offer enhanced features and automation capabilities. Staying informed helps you leverage the latest technology for more efficient campaigns.
Changing Consumer BehaviorAs consumer preferences evolve, staying aware of trends helps you align your email marketing strategies with how your audience interacts with email, ensuring your messages remain relevant and engaging.
Mobile OptimizationGiven the prevalence of mobile email opens, staying updated on mobile-friendly design trends ensures your emails display correctly and provide a seamless experience on various devices.
Privacy RegulationsAdapting to data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA is crucial to avoid legal issues and maintain trust with subscribers. Staying informed about compliance requirements is essential for ethical email marketing.
Content FormatsEmail content is diversifying with the inclusion of video, interactive elements, and dynamic content. Experimenting with these formats can make your emails more engaging and keep them aligned with industry trends.
Personalization AdvancementsPersonalization remains vital in email marketing. As personalization technology evolves, you can refine your strategies to create more tailored and relevant emails that resonate with your audience.
Sustainability and Ethical PracticesThe importance of sustainability and ethical marketing is growing. Being aware of trends related to sustainable email practices and ethical considerations enhances your brand's reputation and customer trust.
Analytics and Data InsightsNew data analytics tools and techniques provide deeper insights into email performance. Staying updated on these methods allows you to make data-driven decisions and refine your campaigns for better results.
Emerging ChannelsKeeping an eye on emerging communication channels, such as messaging apps and chatbots, enables you to explore new avenues for customer engagement and integrate them into your email marketing efforts.

14 Email Subject Line Best Practices for your Small Business


Successful email marketing requires a multifaceted approach that incorporates various best practices and strategies. From crafting compelling subject lines to segmenting your email list and staying attuned to industry trends, there are numerous factors to consider in order to maximize the impact of your email campaigns.

Personalization and relevance remain fundamental principles for capturing the attention of your recipients, as they make your emails more engaging and meaningful. By including recipients’ names or social media handles in subject lines and tailoring content to their preferences, you can significantly increase open rates and conversions.

Descriptive and attention-grabbing subject lines are vital for standing out in crowded inboxes. Conciseness and avoidance of misleading tactics are equally important to maintain trust and engagement with your audience.

Furthermore, the strategic use of segmentation allows you to deliver targeted content to specific groups, increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversions. Regularly monitoring and adapting to email marketing trends ensures that your campaigns remain effective and align with changing consumer behaviors, technology advancements, and regulatory requirements.

In the dynamic world of email marketing, success hinges on a combination of creativity, data-driven decision-making, and a commitment to delivering value to your subscribers. By implementing the best practices outlined in this guide and staying agile in your approach, you can create email marketing campaigns that resonate with your audience, drive results, and ultimately contribute to the growth and success of your business.

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Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. She is based in the United Kingdom and since 2006, Gabrielle has been writing articles, blogs and news pieces for a diverse range of publications and sites. You can read "Gabrielle’s blog here.".