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Newsletter subjects: The best tips for good opening rates

Discover useful tricks to optimise your subject line in only a few steps!

Author
Portrait von Cornelia Maier. | © punkt & komma
Cornelia Maier
Head of content marketing

If you take the time to read this blog article, you are among those marketers who have recognised the importance of a successful newsletter. How clever of you! Though often presumed dead and deeply shaken by GDPR regulations, newsletters are still going strong. And we know why that is: They can hardly be beaten in terms of effectivity and cost-benefit ratio.

The ongoing success of e-mail marketing is also backed by various studies. For instance, a study by Ascend2 from 2019 showed that 66 per cent of marketers rate their newsletter activities as successful, 21 per cent even as very successful. What's more, newsletters are fully owned by your company. As part of your Owned Media, they give you full control of all the content. Plus, you don't depend on the whims of algorithms, as is the case with social media.

However, enough of our rambling about good newsletters, let's start with our top tips for successful subjects! After all, they are the first hurdle that direct mailings have to overcome before they even get read ...

Newsletter tip No. 1:

The perfect length

As is often the case in online marketing: size – or rather: length – DOES matter! The same is true for the subject line of your newsletter. On the one hand, that's due to technical reasons (and the device your newsletter is read on), on the other hand there are quite "human" reasons for it, too. That's because online content only has a couple of seconds to be understood and to convince users to continue reading. In short: Say as much as you need to say to grab your target audience's attention! As for the technical aspect: Every e-mail client displays a different subject length in their users' inbox. Plus, keep in mind that there's more space for subject lines on desktop computers than there is on mobile devices.

Maximum length for subject lines in different e-mail clients:

  • Gmail: 70 characters
  • Outlook: 73 characters
  • GMX: 63 characters
  • Thunderbird: 66 characters
  • iPhone: 41 characters
  • Android: 38 characters
  • T-Online: 54 characters

Write short, catchy subject lines that make it easy for the recipient to see what your newsletter is about. We recommend a length of 40 to 60 characters. This should be enough to say what you need to say. Most newsletter tools offer a convenient preview feature that allows you to see what your subject line looks like in different e-mail clients. What's true for web copy is also true for newsletter subjects: What's important comes first. Everything else follows.

„Our tip: Use the preheader for additional information! Some e-mail clients such as Gmail, display the preheader right below the subject line, yay!“
Newsletter tip No. 2:

Make moderate use of emojis in subject lines

Depending on the context and your industry (think tourisms vs. manufacturing industry), emojis can give an additional boost to your subject line. Unicode symbols and emojis attract attention and can encourage readers to open your newsletter if you use them correctly. There is a wide range of different symbols, including everything from simple arrows → to smileys 😃 and more unusual icons such as the umbrella ☂. 

A well-placed symbol makes it even easier for your recipients to understand your subject and also adds a nice touch. However, don't go overboard with your emojis! Only use them where appropriate and make sure that they are not essential to understand a sentence. In other words: Don't use emojis to replace entire words as not every e-mail client displays special characters!

Our favourite symbols for newsletters:

  • tick ✓
  • arrows ⇒ ⇨→
  • stars ☆ ★

(And we don't mind if you copy them!)

If you would like to know more about using symbols in meta tags, check out our article on the perfect meta tags!

Newsletter tip No. 3:

Play with emotive words, superlatives & numbers

Let's be honest, we're only human, and we react to certain words just like Winnie the Pooh reacts to honey. Make use of this psychological effect in the subject line of your newsletters! Certain emotive words have the power to trigger a reaction. Highly attention-grabbing, they are something like the fairy dust of your newsletter subjects. What emotive words are we talking about and which of them have the power to boost your subject?

Examples of emotive words that work well in B2B & B2C mailings:

  • secret
  • trick
  • success
  • discount
  • save
  • simple
  • free
  • and many more!

As you can see, these words are powerful. They evoke exactly those emotions that you want readers to connect with your newsletter. We're sure there are special words that are irresistible for your target group as well!

 

And who doesn't want to be the best? Who doesn't want to get the best deal or be the first to hear about the latest news? If your newsletter offers an added value (which it should do anyway), superlatives are an effective way to increase your opening rate.

Popular superlatives in e-mail marketing:

  • the easiest way
  • the best solution
  • the fastest delivery
  • the greatest attraction
  • and many more!

And that's not all! For instance, why not make use of numbers? Numbers in subject lines not only help you to cut down on character length, they also have other advantages. For instance, they make information easier to understand in a shorter period of time. What's more, they automatically make the sender appear more professional – and that's what we want, right? Especially when it comes to prices ("25 % discount") or urgency ("Only 3 more days!"), numbers are a great way to boost your opening rate. 

Newsletter tip No. 4:

Use appropriate triggers for your target group

Who knows the target group of your company best? Exactly, you as a content marketer! This makes it easy for you to identify triggers that work particularly well with your newsletter recipients. For instance, consider the following e-mail themes:

  • Fear
    Playing with your reader's fears might sound a bit strange at first. However, it's a very emotional way of addressing your persona's problems and worries. Your company sells dietary products? So why not talk about this season's beach body?
  • Curiosity
    People have always been fascinated by secrets. We simply can't resist what's new and unknown to us. That's why it makes sense to phrase your newsletter subject in a way that your recipients simply HAVE to read on to satisfy their curiosity.
  • Advantage
    All newsletter recipients unconsciously ask themselves the same question: "What do I get from opening this newsletter?" And you can't give them a better reason than a clear advantage, for instance, a discount, a free goodie or a temporary deal.
  • Speed
    Not least thanks to Booking.com, we all know about the importance of time pressure in marketing. Limited offers or the famous "last products in stock" are perfect for creating an impact with your newsletter subjects.
Newsletter tip No. 5:

Use stylistic devices for maximum attention

It's the small things that can make the biggest difference – and that's also true for effective newsletters. Stylistic devices and catchy headlines are not just powerful tools in print journalism, they also give your e-mail marketing an extra edge.

  • Questions: A well-placed question is something like a click magnet for your newsletters. On the one hand, it immediately makes your recipients desperate for an answer, on the other hand it makes your conversation more personal and direct.
  • Requests: Calls to action are a popular technique in designing website buttons because they are a simple way of telling users what to do. They also work great in newsletter subjects, so just tell your recipients what to do (to test, to download ...) right in the subject line!
  • Punctuation marks: !, :, - or ?: Punctuation marks are a feasible way of dividing your subject line and making it more varied. However, don't use too many of them in a row!
Newsletter tip No. 6:

Personalisation rocks!

Personalisation is something like the pinnacle of newsletter marketing. However, with the right software, it's easy to personalise your newsletters and subject lines. Keep in mind that most people even expect to receive tailor-made content. After all, this makes your customers or leads feel like more than just a number. Sounds good, right? 

If you don't want to use your customer's name in the subject line for some reason (maybe because your recipient list is not complete), you can also use a little trick called "semi-personalisation". For instance, if you're a manufacturer of sports equipment, you could phrase your subject like this: "Hey skier, get a 20 % discount!" In the field of content marketing, you could say something like: "To all content marketers: These are the 10 best online sources!" This feels a lot more personal and doesn't take a lot of time.

„We recommend: Always place the recipient's name first so that it doesn't get cut off by the e-mail client!“
BONUS:

Subject examples

  • These 3 SUPs are going through the roof right now!!
  • The perfect BBQ: How to light a charcoal barbecue
  • Gabor, Tamaris, Geox: Germany's best shoe brands
  • The Christmas season has started – discover the top events!
  • Discover NOW: inexpensive island furniture for your balcony!
  • Induction pans: pollutant-free ✓ 3 years warranty ✓
  • 5 tips for perfect newsletter subjects
  • Go hairfree! Conny, discover epilators at an introductory price
  • Conny, your personal invitation

It's up to you whether you write your newsletter subject right at the beginning or at the end. Some marketers like to start with the subject to have an ongoing theme for their newsletters, others write the subject line at the end. Whether you do it right away or later, take the time to think about your newsletter subject! After all, it's a decisive factor for the success of your campaign.

As your team for content and content marketing, we're happy to help you with any questions or with proactive newsletter support, also via e-mail. Simply get in touch!

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