6 Mistakes to Avoid on Email Subject Lines

Email filters are a lot tougher these days. In the past you could get away with just about anything in the subject line but these days, even if you’re emailing your own mother, your emails are more likely to end up in the Spam folder if you don’t watch out. Here are six mistakes to avoid on email subject lines so your emails get past those filters and have a better chance of being opened.

email subject lines

Using Only One Word: Using one word in the subject line, like “Hi” or “Hey” or “Open” will land you in the spam file for sure. And if you do make it beyond the filters most people are going to Spam it out anyway. That one word subject line is a sure sign that you’re either too lazy to put any effort into making a connection or you’re trying to mislead the receiver into thinking you’re a friend. Either way, they’re not going to open it.

Asking For Something: “Wanna exchange links?” or “I need your help” are good examples I’m sure you’ve seen dozens of times in your inbox. Do you open them? Of course not. You can tell strait off these people want something from you and you already have enough on your plate. If you want people to open your emails you have to answer that important question: WIIFM? Instead of asking for something, let them know what you’ll do for them in the subject line of your email.

Using Misleading Words: I think email marketers who use “reply” or “here’s the link you requested” or other misleading statements that make it appear you’re already best buddies are the most despicable creatures on Earth. It’s one thing to try to trick me into opening emails by telling me you have a great deal or you need my help, but pretending to be a friend or a member of my family is as low as you can go. If that’s the best they can do they might as well get off the Internet.

Using Words That Look Like Spam. Most filters are set to recognize keywords like the following: free, money, giveaway, gift, survey, and other words that are frequently used in scams. If you want your email to travel safely past the filters you should avoid using these words. Most email service providers will flag these words before you even send, warning you that your subject line will potentially be flagged as spam.

Sensationalism: Hurry! There’s only one day left! This bargain will disappear forever! You’re the only one we’re going to let in the door! Poppycock! You know it and so do I. That email is being sent to millions of people all over the world and you’ve been sending it for weeks. The subject line sounds like it comes from a spammer so if you’re lucky enough to move past the filters no one’s going to open anyway.

Begging For Attention: Please open immediately, Urgent, Important Information… If it’s so important and so urgent, take the time to craft a subject line that tells me what it is and why I should open your email. Otherwise, I have enough other urgent matters to attend to. I don’t need one more.

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Sté Kerwer
Article written by Sté Kerwer (1993 Posts)
Bonjour from a french guy. My name is Sté Kerwer and Dukeo is my blog. I do most of the heavy lifting in here but from time to time, you may see some guest posts. To receive updates from Dukeo, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.
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6 Comments (Add one)

  1. Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz)

    You are so right about these tips! I try to be extremely concise in my email subject lines… if for no other reason than because I’m exceptionally wordy in the message itself, & the subject line provides a nice summary of what I’m discussing. I wish more people did this, so I’d have a clear idea of what I’m opening — whether it’s time sensitive or just for the sake of FYI or amusement.

    Of course, this may be a problem of the past in the coming years. I read somewhere recently that colleges are no longer issuing email addresses to their students because apparently email is a thing of the past. I think we all missed that memo, however, as most people I know still use email for their main source of digital communication.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      A lot of marketers get it wrong and try to trick people into opening their emails. In the long run they are only hurting themselves as they end up being categorized as bullshiters.

  2. Art Williams
    Art Williams

    I especially agree with 1,2,4 and 5. Over the last couple of days I’ve been doing some ‘crash clensing’ of my email list because I’m really getting tired of the same crap. People telling me that I NEED to do this and that….just doesn’t sit right with me after seeing it again and again.

    And especially in the internet marketing community, which includes social media, I’m noticing too many people just blindly assume that they know something I don’t or that my day won’t be complete unless I hear about a new product their “friend” (yeah….bullshit!) just came out with that’s going to be a ‘real game-changer’.

    Education is forever, isn’t it?

    1. Sté Kerwer

      From my point of view, here is how things work in this industry: big guys like me are doing real live tests to see what works, then share the results of our experiments; small guys just copy/paste what’s being said by the big guys without doing any testing because: 1/ they don’t have the money to run tests, 2/ they don’t have the experience to run tests.

  3. Darby Allan
    Darby Allan

    You’ve missed the one that gets me wound up and that’s when there is nothing at all in the subject line. Even if it gets past junk mail it will end in trash. If you can’t be bothered to alert me on contents then I can’t be bothered to read it.

    1. Sté Kerwer

      Some people really try every possible trick to get you to open their emails ;)

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