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Email Subject Lines: The 5 Second Countdown & 6 Tips

5Email Subject Lines: The 5 Second Countdown & 6 Tips seconds. That’s all you have to reach out a grab someone’s attention as he or she scans through email for eye-catching headlines.

50 characters. That’s all the space you have for to create a credible, tantalizing, valuable, appealing, relevant, descriptive, interesting headline for a high open rate.

Doesn’t sound like too much to ask… I mean, 50 characters is plenty of room. Granted, it’s 15 less than you’re allowed to see for titles on Google’s SERPs, but still, it shouldn’t be that hard. Right?

High Conversion, Low Open Rates and Clickable Headlines

Did you know it’s possible to have a high conversion rate (how many people click on the links within the email and buy, sign up, etc.) and a low open rate (how many people click on the headline to read the email)? It’s true! No matter how poor the headline is, you can probably get at least a 3% open rate, and those 3% may have a 80 – 90% conversion rate.

Diagnosis: The inside of your email is a lot better – more persuasive – than the outside.

There’s a lot of pressure on those poor little 50 character headlines. It’s not even 50 characters, really, because you have to count the spaces. So what can you do to beef up your email subject line and get better open rates? Here are a few tips:

1. Tell the reader what to expect

It’s not nice to tease. When readers click on a headline, they expect to read in the email what the headline promises. Think about the last headlines you read and why they grabbed your attention. Most of the time, I’ll be the headline sums up an important fact or promises something.

Example: Electronic Arts Acquires Playfish for $400 Million

Now, when you click on that link, you’ll not be surprised to find out that, my goodness, Electronic Arts spent a ton of money to buy Playfish.

2. Don’t be misleading

Sure, you want a kick-butt, grab you by the ears, interesting headline. However, don’t work so hard for it that you step over the fine line from “interest” to “misleading”. Being misleading is a good way to lose would-be loyal subscribers. In fact, studies have shown that straightforward subject lines tend to show higher open rates than creative, “interesting” ones.

3. Don’t recycle

Sure, going green and recycling is a wonderful thing… but not with emails. Don’t reuse your subject line; each one has the same five seconds to interest, impress or entertain. Each one has to stand out from the rest.

4. Make sure you don’t repeat yourself

You have a “from” line and a “subject” line. If your “From” line has your newsletter or company name, don’t include it in the subject line. The good thing about this is it clears up some of those 50 characters for better headlines.


You make think using ALL CAPS is an excellent way to gain attention. However, this is like a flashing neon sign that says “spam” to filters and people alike. Use proper capitalization.

6. Make sure your subject line isn’t cut o…

Most email marketing companies allow you to send yourself a test email. Use this feature! You don’t want to assume all of the subject line will be seen just because it’s under 50 characters.

Of course, the final tip is to always test. Another feature most companies offer is split testing. Test your headlines, test your content… and remember, you can always get better email open rates!

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Gabriella Sannino SEO & Copywriting Company

For the past fifteen years Gabriella has held positions as a consultant, web developer and creative director until she decided ...

Email Subject Lines: The 5 Second Countdown & 6 Tips

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