How to write newsletter subject lines that get results

By Hannah Moss

The delete reflex

How many times have you received an email newsletter, read the subject line and deleted it without reading the content?

My guess is a lot! We seem to be bombarded with email newsletters and marketing emails that we never read. Whenever we buy something online, signup for a free download, or even indicate a preference for a product or service, we usually get signed up to a mailing list.

Some of these mass emails may actually be of interest to us, but we find them so overwhelming that we often automatically hit Delete without even reading them. I know I’m guilty of this myself.

Sometimes I unsubscribe, but sometimes I can’t quite bring myself to. What if there’s an amazing offer one day that I miss? Or a product or piece of information I really need? So I stay subscribed to the list and just keep hitting delete after a quick scan of the content. Or even after simply reading the subject line.

Newsletter subject lines are king

If no-one opens your email then it really doesn’t matter what you’re offering, how well you write the rest of the copy or how your email template or photos look. So what makes people open your email? You’ve guessed it – the subject line.

Your newsletter subject line is the most important part of your email by far, so it deserves some careful attention. Our advice: spend more time on your subject lines!

How do I write a good newsletter subject line?

According to Mailchimp, “When it comes to email marketing, the best subject lines tell what’s inside instead of sell what’s inside.”

The best subject lines are usually short and concise, describe what’s inside the email, and provide the reader with an instant reason to open it. As with any content writing, you should always keep your audience in mind. You should also test your keywords for maximum engagement from your subscribers.

Here are our top tips for writing awesome email subject lines:

  • Keep it personal: you can use merge tags such as first or last name to personalise your subject line. Mailchimp uses the tags *|FNAME|* and *|LNAME|* which can be found on the Setup page of a campaign. Mailchimp research suggests that using a city name in your subject line is even better.
  • Change it up: it’s best to use a different subject line for every email you send. For example, you don’t want to send out a newsletter that always has the subject “The Green Gardener Monthly Newsletter”. Even if you get a high open rate at first, this is likely to decrease over time. Remember: your subscribers need to know something about what’s in the email, otherwise they won’t open it.
  • Short and sweet: the shorter the better when it comes to subject lines. Your readers are probably scanning through their emails to decide which ones are worth opening. You need to grab their attention quickly, so it’s best to stick to a maximum of 50 characters.
  • Promotion, promotion, promotion! Sending promotional emails is a good way to grab your readers’ attention and reconnect with inactive subscribers. You could try running a competition or giveaway, sending a poll or survey, and even offering a free gift as an incentive for completing the poll.

For more advice on writing good subject lines, check out our post How to write killer headlines for your blog. There’s lots of overlap and you should pick up some useful tips for writing headlines generally.

How Mailchimp can help with newsletter subject lines

Mailchimp is simply awesome when it comes to email marketing. It’s free, easy to set up and super simple to use. If you don’t believe me, check out our post 5 reasons why you should use Mailchimp for your email marketing. There’s even a free video tutorial showing you how easy it is to set up a Mailchimp account.

Mailchimp wants you to get the best results from your email campaigns, so it has lots of tools to help you with your newsletter subject lines:


As mentioned above, Mailchimp allows you to use merge tags to personalise your newsletter subject lines. You can also add an attention grabbing emoticon – just hit the emoji icon in the ‘Email subject’ field of the Setup page to access Mailchimp’s emojis.

Subject line researcher

Mailchimp allows you to research your keywords and phrases to see which ones have a better open rate, based on the entire Mailchimp user base. Click on the ‘How do I write a good subject line?’ link beneath the ‘Email subject’ field and then select ‘Subject line researcher’ in the popup box. If your keywords don’t perform highly enough, Mailchimp will suggest suitable alternatives.

Recent subject line performance

You can also select ‘Recent subject line performance’ in the same popup box. This will show you the open rates of some of your recent campaigns, so you know how popular your previous subject lines were with your specific audience.

A/B split testing

If you’re not sure about your subject lines, or you have different versions and you’re not sure which one to choose, Mailchimp allows you to split test them. This means you can test your actual subscribers to see which subject lines they prefer.

You can send up to 3 versions of your email campaign with different subject lines to randomly selected parts of your list. Mailchimp will then record the open rates and send the campaign with the best results to the remainder of your list.

To access this feature, go to Campaigns, click ‘Create Campaign’ in the top right and select ‘A/B testing campaign’. Then follow the instructions as Mailchimp guides you through the setup process.

Example of a successful newsletter subject line

If you’ve read this far then you’re really interested in making sure your email marketing is a success. You might be wondering “This all sounds great, but how do I put it into action and what kind of results can I expect?” We’d like to share a real world example of a successful email subject line that we recently created for one of our clients.

The email campaign was to launch a new online shop for a yoga studio in London. The subject line was “Too cool for school?” with a smiley face, as you can see in the screengrab below:

screengrab of email inbox


The subject line worked well, as it had a good open rate and a really good click-through rate for an audience that wasn’t expecting to receive an email about clothing. In this case, we created a sense of intrigue rather than explaining to people what was in the email. Notice how the lines that appear after the subject line actually do this, but not the subject line itself. You can see the campaign results in the screengrab below:

screengrab of email results

On the day the email went out, our clients made an impressive number of sales. Our job was to get people to visit the online shop and we did just that!

How Wildheart can help

If you’d like help with your email marketing, including writing successful newsletter subject lines, Wildheart offers a comprehensive Email Marketing Package that covers the enitre process.

Let us dissolve your marketing headaches so you can get back to doing what you’re good at while your business grows.

See how we’ve helped our clients

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