Home » Why Your Email Subject Lines Suck & What To Do About It

Why Your Email Subject Lines Suck & What To Do About It

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Yea, yea, yea we all know about subject lines…

…or do you?

The simple fact of the mater is, if no one gives a you know what about your subject line, there’s no way they are actually going to open the email.

Ouch, that hurts.

But, it’s true.

Chances are, you’re not seeing amazing open rates with your email marketing efforts to start. Marketers and brands have been struggling trying to break open that 3-5% open rate average we always hear about.

The number one way to do it?

You guessed it, fix your subject lines.

So the question is, why are you still sending out emails with subject lines that suck?

It’s time to fix that. Right now.

Here are 10 reasons why your subject lines suck. Learn from even one of these and you’ll see better results with your email open rates.

Let’s go.

# 1. Really Long Subject Lines

It’s amazing that there are people who look so deeply into data they can figure out the ideal number of characters for a subject line.

Thankfully, they’re out there. By the way, the number is 50 around characters, about 6-10 words.

In fact, a study by ShowMeLeads looked at over 260 million emails and found the subject lines that fell in the 6-10 word range had an open rate of 21%.

Compare that to the 14-16% open rate of emails that were shorter and longer, respectively.

So, if you are blowing out subject lines that are 15-25 words long, figure out a few ways to trim those down.

# 2. Repetitive Subject Lines

Yes, it is always good to alert your readers that your subject lines are from you, but that doesn’t mean sending the exact same subject line every single time.

It might work for the first email or two…

…but after that, you’re just going to get ignored, avoided, or deleted.

Is it any surprise? You’ve literally given your readers zero incentive to actually open the email, and the fact of the matter is when people see the same thing over and over with no reward, they just de-commit and move on.

Check out this study from MailChimp and how the open rate of a subject line that just repeats the same thing over and over sinks like a stone.

# 3. No Personalization

I bet you are way more likely to open an email if it feels personal, I know I am. So why aren’t you doing that for your own email list?

Now, personalization doesn’t just mean inserting the old: “Hey [Name]…” into your subject line. It’s a lot more that that, especially if you’re segmenting your list.

Here is where you can pull in some of your targeting and try out a re-marketing campaign or two. Look at areas where you can pull at the heart strings of someone by appealing directly to them and their likes.

That means looking at location, interests and hobbies just to name a few.

# 4. Not Enough Thought on Subject Lines

Raise your hand if you do this…

…write your autoreponder and then at the last minute bang out a headline in 30 seconds.


And then you wonder why your emails might not be getting opened? Most people think the content of their emails is the most important thing.

And while content is important, no one is ever going to read it if they don’t actually open the email.

One of the greats of advertising, David Ogilvy, said this about headlines:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

Think of the headline as your subject line. Don’t just jot something down with no forethought, get that right and you’ll have a much better chance of getting the open.

# 5. You Are Boring

I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but have you ever given thought to the idea that your subject lines are just really boring?

Between friends, spam, work, and newsletters people get hundreds of emails a day in their inbox. And for those who only check it once or twice a day, you’ve got to make sure your email stands out from the crowd.

If it doesn’t, well be prepared to be sent to trash with the other 99 that stink.

In my last post about email subject lines I highlighted one that worked really well for me:

Now, the last thing you’ll ever call that headline is boring. If you saw that sitting in your inbox, I bet you’d click it, just to see what the hell the email was even going to say.

Sometimes in marketing, weird works.

# 6. You’re Giving it All Away

Come on now, everyone likes a little bit of a tease. So why are you giving away everything your subscriber needs to know about your email in the subject line?

Instead, try working on raising the curiosity level of your email list. There are tons of reasons to do this, but here are two:

  1. When people are curious, they want to know more. So it means they are more likely to want to find out the answer. That means more clicks.
  2. When people who are curious are given an answer for their curiosity, it releases good feelings. The means they start getting mentally trained psychologically to open your emails because of the reward.


Having an open loop, cliffhanger or tease in your email marketing strategy is only going to help. If you are already using those tactics inside your emails, why not try them in your subject lines too?

# 7. You’re Sending Spam

You know what sucks? Thinking you’re doing everything right and then realizing your emails aren’t even getting opened.

Upon further investigation, you find that you’re emails have been flagged for spam.


Looks like you weren’t doing everything right after all. How can your emails get dinged? The answer is pretty easy, you’re using spam trigger words in your subject lines.

Here are a few examples of words you should stop using immediately:

  • F r e e
  • $$$
  • No investment
  • Eliminate debt
  • Get paid
  • Spam
  • 100% Free

You get the point, right?

Don’t ruin a perfectly good email by attaching an incredibly spammy subject line to it.

Not only is it a sure way to get your emails flagged by your email service provider but a great way to alienate your email list. Both of these are pretty bad.

# 8. You’re Not Asking Questions

One of the best ways to connect with your email list is to get them talking about themselves. The most common way to do that is to start asking questions.

And that doesn’t just mean inside the emails themselves. That also means in the subject lines too.

Using a question in your subject line is a classic strategy that plays off psychology. The question makes people stop and think first and then click to respond because they want to know the answer.

When done the right way, a question subject line can be a pretty powerful tool to increasing the number of clicks you’ll see in your email marketing campaigns.

Try it out.

# 9. Spelling and Grammar Errors

I almost didn’t put this one because it should be so obvious, but really? You spend time spell checking your actual email don’t you, so why aren’t you giving the same tender loving care to your subject lines?

A subject line with blatant spelling and grammar issues is a fast track to spam or the trash can, whatever your reader is feeling at the moment.

The easy fix?

You guessed it, actually reading through your subject lines and making sure they are not blasting out poor spelling and grammar…

…with your name (or your brand’s name) attached to it.

# 10. You’re Not Keeping Mobile in Mind

Did you know that 53% of emails are opened first on mobile devices? That’s according to this study by Litmus. Now, we both know those numbers are only going to rise in the short term.

So, if you aren’t taking those mobile numbers into account and optimizing your subject lines for those devices, you could be screwed before you’ve even begun.

We all know that subject lines read differently on mobile. For example, with most devices the part of the email that is going to be highlighted the most on a mobile device is the “From Line” not the subject line itself.

So, even though it’s good email marketing practice to make sure your from line features your name or your brand’s name clearly, with mobile devices it’s more important than ever.

Like I said at the start of this post, if you fix even one of these subject line mistakes, you’re autoresponder campaign is going to be a lot better right from the jump.

But, we both know you can do a lot better than that.

Let’s face it, email marketing brings in huge returns on investment, remember this stat from Experian:

“For every $1 spent, $44.25 is the average return on email marketing investment.”

So, what better way to start cashing in on your email marketing than to learn from my article, the 5 mighty mistakes of email marketing and autoresponders.

In it, you’re going to learn a lot more than just the mistakes you’ve been making with your subject lines. You seriously do not want to miss out…

…or you could seriously be missing out.

Click here to start reading today.

On this page, you’ll discover how to convert more leads with email autoresponders. If you’ve spent your online career listening to tha gurus… these emails will challenge you, inspire you, probably even PISS YOU OFF…

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