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How to write a great subject line

Good subject lines make the recipient want to open your email.

Good subject lines connect with the content of your message, to ensure the recipient doesn’t feel conned when they do open your email.

In this guide, we’ll look at how to write an effective subject line that gives you the best chance possibly to cut through the noise, and the spam filter, and get your message opened by its intended recipients.

1. Focus on a goal

What is the reason you’re sending this message in the first place?

What is going to hit home and resonate with the recipient? This should be embodied by the subject line.

A well considered message forms the basis of a good subject line – so make sure you’re clear about the message you’re actually trying to send!

You might want to check out our guide on writing an actionable email first.

Here are some examples of common goals you might have for a message:

  • Welcome a new signup – to thank someone for signing up for your product and drive them to a clear next step.
  • Drive a user back to your product – to try to prevent a user from churning.
  • Encourage a user to activate a feature – encourage users to enable a specific feature so that they can see more value in your product.
  • Up-sell - show a customer features and benefits of being on a bigger pricing tier.
  • To gather feedback – either about a specific feature or about your whole business.

The subject line should be punchy and set the tone for the content to follow - see our guide to 7 SaaS welcome email examplesfor inspiration.

2. Be succinct

With subject lines, the shorter the better.

Aside from being easier and faster to read, as soon as your subject line gets too wordy, it gets cut off.

For instance in Google Mail and many email clients, there is a limit to the number of displayable characters based on the width of the window.

So if your recipient is viewing email in a narrow window, they won’t see much of your subject line.

3. 🤘Emoji up

It’s a matter of taste, but experiments show that emojis in the subject line of emails can increase open rates by up to a third.

Be careful when using emojis though – not all email clients will display emojis in the same way, and not all devices have support for all emojis – especially some of the more recently introduced emojis.

Our advice on emojis is to keep it simple – use the most obvious and well understood emojis, and avoid using more than one.

🤔 How to insert an emoji in your subject line

It’s easy to insert an emoji in the subject line of your emails with GoSquared.

When typing your subject line text, just hit : to bring up the emoji picker. We’ve selected the most common and obvious emojis you might want to use. You can also find this emoji picker in other areas of GoSquared – such as in Inbox and when writing the body of your message in Automation.

4. Personalise your subject line with Variables

Personalising the subject line of your messages can dramatically increase their open rate by addressing a message with the recipient’s first name or other attributes.

You can easily personalise your messages in GoSquared with Variables.

Variables are a powerful way to insert up-to-date details about a recipient (such as their first name, the company they’re from, or the plan they’re currently on) to personalise a message. Variables can be used in the message body, and also in the subject line of your messages.

Here are a few examples of how you can use Variables to personalise your subject lines:

  • You’re almost at the end of your trial! -> You’ve used 1,234 widgets on your trial – isn’t it time to upgrade?
  • Move to annual billing to save $ -> Want to save $321 a year?
  • How your team can run better events -> How Acme can run better events without spending a penny more
  • A present for you -> Russell, your present awaits…

How to insert a Variable in your subject line

To insert a Variable into your subject line, type {{ to bring up the Variable picker and choose what you want to insert.

Just remember, when using Variables, you need to set a “default” value so that if a property is not set for any recipient, GoSquared can put something in place of the variable. E.g. Hi {{First Name | there!}}

5. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes

Take a moment to think how you would react to any email you’re sending.

What might you be up to? Walking in the park? Riding the subway? Sitting down for dinner? Focusing on a problem at work?

What kind of subject line would make you feel inclined to open the message? If you’ve drafted one and it doesn’t have that effect, chances are your recipient will feel the same.

There is no silver bullet to finding the perfect subject line, so take these tips, try them out, and keep testing and iterating to find what works best for you!