Every sender has its own audience and unique brand voice.
So instead of elaborating on how to write perfect subject lines, I thought it would be best to ask the pros what’s working for them.
I reached out to hundreds of entrepreneurs, bloggers, CMO’s and other marketing professionals and asked them to send over their top email subject lines of 2014.
Let’s see what they had to say…
Vertical Measures is a content, search, and social marketing company.
1. Why I Am No Longer President of Vertical Measures tweet this
Being direct works, especially if you send a personal message from someone on your team. This subject line is especially strong coming from a high-level executive, but you can use a first-person approach for a message from just about anyone on your team.
Subject Line Formula: “Why I Am No Longer [Title] of [Company]“
2. What a great webinar! tweet this
Your audience probably wants to hear about something great. But mostly, they don’t want to miss out on it. This subject line triggers an anxious, excited feeling and promises to tell your audience what they missed or might miss if they don’t open your email.
Subject Line Formula: “What a great [something]!
3. How Google’s Panda 4.0 may (or may not) affect you tweet this
If something happened, and it may affect your audience, this subject line is a great example of how to engage them. You can apply this to pretty much any newsworthy event or situation that may have an impact on your audience.
Subject Line Formula: “How [something] may (or may not) affect you”
Neil Patel is the Co-founder & VP of Marketing at KISSmetrics and the Co-founder of Crazy Egg. He also runs a popular online marketing blog called Quicksprout.
1. [insert first name], it’s easier than robbing a bank… tweet this
Your audience probably wants to know how to make money and doesn’t want to rob a bank to do it. The personalization and loudness of this subject line make it stand out.
Subject Line Formula: [insert first name], it’s easier than robbing a bank…
2. hey, have you seen this? tweet this
The ambiguity of this subject line makes it especially intriguing. Nobody wants to miss out on something that they haven’t seen, especially coming from a sender they trust.
Subject Line Formula: hey, have you seen this?
3. [insert first name], i have some bad news for you :( tweet this
Bad news is especially engaging when it comes from someone who usually sends good news and useful emails. Make sure you have a good reason to “scare” your audience.
Subject Line Formula: [insert first name], i have some bad news for you
Neil shared a takeaway on his top email subject lines of 2014:
If you notice all of the subject lines are lower case as if a friend was casually emailing you. I’ve found that subject lines that are lower case and casual tend to get the most opens.
Hubspot is an inbound marketing SAAS product that helps companies generate traffic, convert leads, and close sales.
Rather than sending over three specific subject lines, Hubspot shared three approaches that work great for their audience. Let’s take a look:
Subject Line Approach #1: An Offer To Help
A short, sweet offer to help has been our highest performing email subject line because it’s not about you, it’s about the recipient.
Subject Line Approach #2: A Simple Question
Nobody wants to overthink their email, so asking a concise, simple question often drives engagement and opens a productive conversation with a prospect, lead, or customer.
Subject Line Approach #3: A Very Clear Name of An Offer
People value clarity, so providing the name of a very clear offer (for example: Free Ebook: How To Do X) gets to the heart of their marketing challenge and helps them act on it quickly.
Wordstream offers online marketing tools and software products designed to make search marketing campaigns more organized and profitable.
1. Welcome to Wordstream – We Love Agencies tweet this
People are usually curious about why you love them. This subject line targets a specific segment of a general email audience – agencies. You can use a similar approach for a welcome email to one of your segmented audiences.
Subject Line Formula: Welcome to [Company] – We Love [Subscriber Segment]
2. How’s it going? tweet this
This subject line is as personal as it gets and focuses on your audience. It shows that you care. This example can work for a personal message from someone on your team or a general offer to help.
Subject Line Formula: How’s it going?
3. More Keyword Research Tips [Free Guide] tweet this
Sometimes, the best subject lines are those that provide a clear offer for your audience. If your audience values the offer, this simple approach helps them take action quickly.
Subject Line Formula: [Explanation of Offer] [Free Guide]
4. PPC + WordStream = Better Together tweet this
Use a simple formula to explain that your product or service improves a common professional activity of your audience and you should have a winner. Notice how this subject line clearly promises to make PPC more effective for the audience.
Subject Line Formula: [Professional Responsibility] + [Company] = [Benefit] Together
EntrepreneurOnFire is one of the top ranked business Podcasts in the world. It features John Lee Dumas interviewing inspiring and innovative entrepreneurs.
1. Disaster in Europe tweet this
People are drawn to extreme events. Using the word “disaster” makes this particularly engaging. The email itself explained to the audience how EonFire set up their systems to take a disaster-free, unplugged trip to Europe.
Subject Line Formula: Disaster in [Location]
2. no subject line (seriously, they left it blank) tweet this
Leaving a subject line blank is rare in email marketing. But once you build trust with your audience, a blank subject line can spark curiosity. It worked especially in this instance because the email itself explained how important it is to deliver valuable content to email subscribers.
Subject Line Formula: no subject line
3. I’m leaving, but EOFire is in good hands tweet this
If you or someone on your team that has built a strong relationship with your audience is going out of town, let your audience know. This subject line makes the audience wonder if John is leaving forever, and thankfully the email reminds them he’ll be back soon!
Subject Line Formula: I’m leaving, but [Company] is in good hands
SocialMouths is one of the top online marketing blogs on the Internet covering topics such as blogging, social media, content marketing, and email marketing.
1. 10 Facebook Ads You Should Be Running Now tweet this
If your audience should be doing something right now, they probably want to know about it right now. This subject line creates a sense of urgency with readers and gives them a reason to open your email immediately.
Subject Line Formula: [Something] You Should Be [Action] Now
2. This Little Trick Could Make A Huge Difference In Facebook tweet this
A little trick that makes a huge difference? Sounds worth reading. After all, people want the best results with the least amount of effort. Just make sure the trick actually makes a big difference for your audience, or they will lose trust in you.
Subject Line Formula: This Little Trick Could Make a Huge Difference in [Something]
3. “Organic Reach” is Dead… And now what? tweet this
This is a great way to break bad news to your audience. First, you let them know that something they used to cherish is gone. Next, you give them hope that things will get better with a promise to help.
Subject Line Formula: [Something] is Dead… And now what?
Orbit Media is a web design and development company that creates some of the most useful and compelling content marketing material on the Internet.
1. 131 Words that Increase Website Traffic tweet this
Orbit Media uses its blog headlines as subject lines. If you create articles that are useful and exciting for your audience, this approach helps your audience act quickly.
Subject Line Formula: [#] [Something] that Increase [Something]
2. The Ideal Length for Blog Posts, Tweets and Everything Else in Your Marketing tweet this
Your audience wants to know what works and this subject line makes a promise to teach them. Notice how this subject line also zooms in on specific topics of interest (blog posts and tweets) but then zooms out to “everything else” the audience might care about.
Subject Line Formula: The Ideal [Quality] for [Something Specific] and Everything Else in Your [Something]
3. Beat the Big Boys Online With Content Hubs tweet this
People want to win and this concept of beating “the Big Boys” is especially intriguing. Your audience probably wants to know how to beat the big guys. Teach them.
Subject Line Formula: Beat the Big Boys [Location] With [Something]
Zillow is one of the largest online real estate databases in the world.
The top subject lines for Zillow in 2014 are personalized and include: saved home updates, saved searches, and new listing updates on neighborhoods.
It makes sense that these deeply personalized emails perform the best – they are exactly what Zillow’s audience is looking for to help them on their real estate search.
Global Copywriting is a content marketing agency that develops content and content marketing strategies for clients all over the world.
1. Content Shock: Why The Content Marketing Party is Over tweet this
Nobody wants the party to be over. In this subject line, Global Copywriting “shocks” its audience and then promises to explain why something very dear to them is now over.
Subject Line Formula: [Something] Shock: Why The [Job Responsibility] Party is Over
2. A Not So Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Content Translation tweet this
People seem intrigued to hear the “not so funny things” that happen in life. In this case, the subject line ties in an event that the audience cares about and promises to share a particularly juicy story. Tempting…
Formula: A Not So Funny Thing Happened on the Way to [Event]
3. The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Content Marketing World Sydney tweet this
If you are writing an event recap for your audience, they probably want to hear more than the fluffy details. This subject line promises to reveal everything about the event - the good, bad, and ugly.
Formula: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of [Event]
TalentCircles is a cloud-based social recruiting platform that helps customers engage, manage, and screen job candidates.
1. 4 Ways to Hire a Seasonal and Temporary Workforce Online tweet this
Your audience might need immediate help that only matters at this very moment. This subject line invokes a sense of urgency because it helps the audience solve a “seasonal” and “temporary” problem.
Subject Line Formula: [#] Ways to [Action] a Seasonal and Temporary [What's Needed]
2. Applying SWOT Analysis in Recruitment tweet this
Your audience probably knows something that they never thought to apply to one of their job responsibilities. In this subject line, TalentCircles promises to teach its audience how to apply SWOT to recruiting.This implies that there is a small learning curve, making it a painless process to learn.
Subject Line Formula: Applying [Something Your Audience Knows] in [Job Responsibility]
3. 4 Ways to Add Content Marketing To Your Employment Branding Campaign tweet this
Your audience wants to know how to improve its campaigns. In this case, TalentCircles uses a copy-the-headline approach and offers its audience ways to incorporate a practice of interested (content marketing) into a job responsibility (branding campaign).
Subject Line Formula: [#] Ways To Add [Something] To Your [Job Responsibility] Campaign
Copywrite Matters is an educational blog and copywriting company that helps its customers and readers create engaging online content to attract new customers.
1. Want to pick my brain for 30mins? For FREE? tweet this
Your audience values what you have to say, or they wouldn’t want your emails. I’m sure they would love a chance to talk to you or someone on your team for free. This offer shows that you care and encourages your audience to build a deeper connection with you.
Subject Line Formula: Want to pick my brain for [duration]? For FREE?
2. [Exclusive discount offer] Protect your new Ergoflex memory foam mattress tweet this
This subject line introduces the audience to a special deal on a product that will enhance or complement a recent purchase. It is particularly strong because the product itself is an investment, and “protecting” it is likely important to the audience. You can use a similar approach to up-sell your customers.
Subject Line Formula: [Exclusive discount offer] [Action] your new [Product or Service]
3. Why Facebook marketing will never really work for you unless… tweet this
Don’t you hate when someone reminds you of something that isn’t working? When it comes to subject lines, this anger can be a powerful trigger. After all, your audience probably wants to know what to do to make it work.
Subject Line Formula: Why [Job Responsibility] will never really work for you unless…
AudienceBloom is a content marketing and social media marketing company recommended by some of the top marketing and technology companies in the world.
AudienceBloom sends the same email subject line every week, differentiated by issue number or date. It looks like this: AudienceBloom Top 10 – June 2014 Issue 1
If you send a recurring newsletter, this approach could work for you. Your audience will know how to find you and what to expect.
Kim Garst in the Founder and CEO of a personal branding and social media consulting company called Boom! Social.
1. 7 How To SEO Tips To Boost Your Ranking tweet this
Your audience probably wants to know relevant tips on how to get better at something they value. This subject line uses the common copy-the-headline approach and effectively communicates what’s inside the email.
Subject Line Formula: [#] How To [Something] Tips To Boost Your [Something]
2. 12 Simple Reasons To Use Twitter To Grow Your Business tweet this
If people are going to do the work, they want to know why it matters. This subject line will help the audience understand why it should use Twitter to grow its business. Sounds valuable to me.
Subject Line Formula: [#} Simple Reasons To [Action] To [Professional Goal]
3. Facebook Traffic Dead? tweet this
Kim asks her audience a very simple question that likely hits a major pain point for her audience – dwindling traffic on Facebook. If you can identify something that is a common problem for your audience and ask the right question, they will probably want your help.
Subject Line Formula: [Something Important To Audience] Dead?
The Conversion Scientist is a website conversion optimization blog that helps its audience build high-converting online businesses.
Rather than sending over their top subject lines, Brian from The Conversion Scientist shared this note:
The most telling experiment we did this year was changing the subject line for our weekly email, The Conversion Scientist. This email teases the three to five blog posts we release each week.
We went from subject lines that read “New This Week from The Conversion Scientist” to a subject line that simply copied the headline of the first story in the email. tweet this
Open rates went from 22.5% to 26.7% and Click-through rates went from 3.8% to 5.1%. We consider this a win.
What can you learn from this? If you send a recurring newsletter, try using a headline from a story within the email for the subject line instead of the same subject line every email.
Email Monday is an email marketing consulting company and email marketing blog run by email marketing expert Jordi Van Rijn.
Jordie shared this note to introduce his subject lines:
These are open / engagement focused, which doesn’t automatically translate into conversions or clicks. But email tease marketing does have the potential to do so if the quality of the content is a natural fit with the audience.
1. Get ready for fireworks! tweet this
This subject line hints that something as exciting as fireworks is coming. Your audience probably loves fireworks just as much as you do – but what they really want is to be prepared for whatever is on the way. Hopefully it is as exciting as it sounds!
Subject Line Formula: Get ready for [something exciting]!
2. Worst Advice Ever? tweet this
This subject line makes your audience wonder if they listened to the wrong piece of advice. They probably want to read on to make sure they haven’t been fooled.
Subject Line Formula: Worst Advice Ever?
3. $25.00 tweet this
Money talks. This simple subject line is exactly what you think it is – mysterious. It makes you wonder what the heck the email is all about. If you are going to use a subject line this ambiguous, make sure it really connects to your email content.
Subject Line Formula: $[dollar value]
SimpleRelevance is a technology company that helps businesses send deeply personalized email and web marketing campaigns.
Because SimpleRelevance uses such deep personalization tactics, they did not have specific subject lines to share – instead they offered subject line approaches:
For one client, each send shows the subscriber’s #1 product recommendation in the subject line. For instance, “Lover not a fighter coaster”.
For another, we include the subscriber’s name: “Bailey, New events for Chicago for 8/19/14”
Finally, for another we use the subscriber’s #1 deal recommendation: “$50 for a $250 Restaurant.com e-Gift Card“
Personalization can make a huge difference when sending email. If your audience has a personal connection to the subject line, it gives them more incentive to read your email.
BigMarker is an online platform that allows users to create, join, and host unlimited free webinars and web conferences.
1. Introducing Chip-in tweet this
This is a simple way to introduce something new to your audience. This subject line is as straightforward as it gets. If your audience cares about you, this can grab their attention.
Subject Line Formula: Introducing [Something New To Your Audience]
2. Suicide & veterans online discussion tweet this
Covering a topic that is particularly alarming such as suicide can certainly grab your audience’s attention. Highlighting a discussion centered around an engaging topic can generate opens.
Subject Line Formula: [Alarming Topic] online discussion
3. Now featured on BigMarker tweet this
Using “now featured” here gives this subject line a sense of urgency. It clearly tells the audience what they can expect in the email and makes it easy for them to take action.
Subject Line Formula: Now featured on [Website Name]
Glen Gilmore is a digital marketing and social media strategist, author, educator and attorney voted as a Forbes Top 50 “Social Media Power Influencer” for the last two years.
1. Wearable Tech Soars – Add Fashion Please! tweet this
Insert one of the most talked about trends in the industry – wearable tech – and then include a way to make it bigger or better and you have a winner.
Subject Line Formula: [Industry Topic] Soars – Add [Something] Please!
2. Nest, Uber, Fitbit Hint at the Disruption of Everything by the Internet of Everything tweet this
Mention three big companies in your industry and why they are planning to change everything and people will likely take interest.
Subject Line Formula: [Company A], [Company B], [Company C] Hint at the Disruption of Everything
3. A Human Voice and Connection Still Triumph in a Data-Driven, Hyper-Digital World Where Businesses Know What You Want Before You Do tweet this
Tap into the people vs. machines discussion and you will likely grab people’s attention. But it’s not just the topic here – this subject line is so descriptive that it makes you want more.
Subject Line Formula: A Human [Something] Still Triumph in a [Something] World
BizSugar is a social bookmarking site where small business owners and entrepreneurs share and find content about small business news and trends.
1. 80 Ways Your Business Can Use Twitter tweet this
Your audience wants to know as many ways as possible to utilize the platforms they use to achieve their professional goals. In this case, the subject line is all business, no fluff.
Subject Line Formula: [#] Ways Your Business Can Use [Platform]
2. Everything You Need To Know About Mobility! tweet this
People want to know everything they need to know about topics that they care about. In this case, the audience wants to know about mobility, and the subject line makes a clear promise.
Subject Line Formula: Everything You Need To Know About [Something]!
3. Get Financially Fit With These 6 Tips! tweet this
There is something about getting fit that encourages action. Instead of offering “6 Financial Tips” this subject line transforms the topic into something more engaging.
Subject Line Formula: Get [Some Kind Of] Fit With These [#] Tips!
DMA is the world’s leading independent organization for data-driven marketers.
1. Networking, ROI, and strategic marketing: Get it all at DMA2014 this October! tweet this
When you are hosting an event, your audience wants to know what they will get out of it. This subject line opens with explaining the benefits of the event, then introduces the actual event and when it is coming.
Subject Line Formula: [Event Benefit #1], [Event Benefit #2], and [event benefit #3]: Get it all at [Event] this [Month]!
2. Check Out #7, But Watch Out For #2 tweet this
The ambiguity here is particularly strong. Your audience probably wants to see what #7 and #2 are all about. This subject line draws you in to solve the mystery.
Subject Line Formula: Check out #[Number}, But Watch Out for #[Number]
3. Chicago, My Kind Of Town | Register Today`tweet this
Your audience likely has some kind of emotional connection to a pop culture reference when thinking of a particular city. This subject line uses a popular Frank Sinatra song title to create a nostalgic connection with the audience.
Subject Line Formula: [Event Location], [Emotional Pop Reference To Event Location] | Register Today
SoMeConnect is a Chicago-based digital agency that offers content, social, and email strategy and campaign management services.
1. “Do Your Feet Smell…Like Strawberries?” tweet this
I wish. But seriously – this subject line was for a client that was selling scented shoes. This creative twist on the product is a good example of how to think beyond the product itself.
Subject Line Formula: no formula for this one – think way outside the box
2. A Special So Secret It’s Not Even on the Menu tweet this
Your audience probably wants to know about whatever secrets you may have. Whether it’s a secret food item not on the menu or a secret page on your website, this is a great example of an enticing subject line to introduce something secretive.
Subject Line Formula: A [Something] So Secret It’s Not Even [Typical Location]
3. We host. You toast. Discover All the Event Possibilities at BIN 36! tweet this
This is a fun take on an event invite. It tells the audience that all they need to do is drink at the event, while the host does all the work. The promise is strong – your audience will discover ALL of the event possibilities by opening the email.
Subject Line Formula: We host. You toast. Discover All of the Event Possibilities at [Event]
The email subject lines that perform the best all have one thing in common – they connect with their audience. To write a subject line for your audience, it’s important to…
- Understand your email. Think about what your email is all about. What is the purpose of sending it to your audience? What are your goals with this email?
- Understand why your audience cares. Think about why your audience wants this email. Why is it valuable for them? Why do they care? How does it help them?
- Empathize with your audience. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Why do they want to open this email? How can you speak directly to their emotions?
Whether you are programming a deeply personalized subject line like Zillow or writing a spinoff of a blog headline like Orbit Media, it’s essential to understand your audience on a deep level to write high-performing email subject lines.
We don’t want the inspiration to stop here. Share your top 3 email subject lines of 2014 in the comments below!