Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Subject Line Length Doesn’t Matter (Here Is The One Thing That Does)

Packers Email
Timely emails are interesting to the right audience

Subject line length is typically something every email marketer tests.

It’s always interesting to see the results.

For some business it might seem like shorter is better. For others the longer subject lines will generate the most opens and sales.

But is there something more going on that we aren’t paying attention to with subject line tests?

It’s been staring us right in the face and once we realize what it is we’ll throw the subject line length theory right out the window.

Email Subject Lines Need to Be Interesting

It’s really that simple.

The concept of creating interesting emails and email subject lines is simple, but actually creating an interesting email is difficult. If it were easy then I wouldn’t need to write this article.

So many times you’ll see emails come through the inbox and the subject line just won’t be that interesting. You’ll scroll right over it and send it to the trash without a second though. The subject line could be 10 words or it could be two words. The length doesn’t matter. It’s all about the actual content of the subject line that matters.

The interesting factor of subject lines is what we should be testing. Try coming up with the most interesting subject lines you can and test those against your normal subject line. That is where you’ll start to learn what is interesting to your subscribers.

Here are 5 ways to make email subject lines interesting.

1. Urgency

Urgency is a big emotional driver. People respond when time is running out. You’ll often find that sending out reminder or last chance emails is a good strategy. Sometimes the reminder email out performs the original email. Urgency drives emotion and emotion drives action.

2. Fear

You can use this one if you want, but it does get people to take action. My favorite example of fear in email subject lines is from Dr. Mercola. His recent email used this subject line:

Stopped in India After Four People Died – But it’s Still Available in the US

How can you not click on that email?

Some might think it’s walking a fine moral line to use fear in email subject lines, but people respond. If you can truly help people with your products and services then there is no issue with using fear to get their attention.

3. Valuable

The most basic way to find subject line success is to offer something valuable to your subscribers. You don’t need to get tricky or cute with the subject line if your merchandise or services are on point. Simply tell the subscriber what they want to hear. Help them in some way and you’ll earn their attention.

One email I subscribe to is Golf Digest. They send out tips every week. One of their recent tips came with the subject line:

Go Forward for more power

That’s pretty simple and basic, but it speaks to something that is valuable for their subscribers. It’s a tip that is helpful and because it’s helpful it’s interesting and makes a person want to click to learn the secret of getting more power in the golf game.

4. Timely

This is similar to urgency, but there is a subtle difference. For an email to be timely it needs to hit home on a point that is top of mind for the email subscriber. This could be something that has happened in popular news or it could be a topic that people are thinking about right now.

An example is the recent subject line from the football team the Green Bay Packers. They sent out an email with this subject line:

Just Released! 2012 Green Bay Packers On-Field Hat

Packer fans are starting to get excited for training camp in a couple weeks. It’s the perfect time to release the hat and the perfect time to use a timely email subject line.

5. Call to Action

The call to action is important on your website and in email creative, but it can also work well in the email subject line. People respond when you ask them (or tell them) to do something.

Some marketers use words like “Take” or “Sign Up to Win” in email subject lines. If you follow that up with a strong item then you’ll have the person hooked.

Take 25% Off All Merchandise or Sign Up to Win Free Tickets are interesting and it gets people to take action and that’s good for your business.

Even something as simple as Your Statement is Ready. Pay Your Bill Now can be a successful email subject line. The goal is to get the person to pay. Just call them to action.

Email subject lines need to be interesting. Follow these five tips along with others you might have discovered and test it against your regular email subject lines.

It’s not about the length of your subject lines. Be interesting and you’ll see opens increase and you’ll probably see sales increase as well.

About the Author: Dayne Shuda is a contributing blogger for Fluttermail, an email provider for small business. He has worked on a variety of email marketing campaigns including email newsletters and e-commerce emails.

Suggested Reading: Refreshing News About Email Subject Lines


Scott Hardigree
Show CommentsClose Comments


  • by Andy from Benchmark Email
    Posted July 18, 2012 10:26 am 0Likes

    Asides from cringing at the photo…great post. DAAAAA BEARS!!!

  • by Dayne Shuda
    Posted July 18, 2012 5:56 pm 0Likes

    Ha :)

  • by Lynn Dalsing
    Posted July 23, 2012 1:02 pm 0Likes

    Another week, another great post from you guys that we shared in our weekly news round up!

    Dayne, this is a really interesting point. We always try to break things down into quantitative measures. Sometimes, it’s the qualitative things that count, though.

  • by evan diaz
    Posted July 26, 2012 10:28 am 0Likes

    Great article Dayne! It’s aallll about making it interesting :)

Leave a comment