What Do You Put In The Subject Of An Email?

What Do You Put In The Subject Of An Email?

From putting the value front and center to using your sense of humor, here are 13 answers to the question, “What are the most effective things to put in an email subject line that inspire opening and action?”

  • Value
  • Numbers
  • Power Words
  • Personalization
  • “Alert”
  • Localization
  • A Question
  • Urgency
  • A Review Request
  • A Specific Call-to-Action (CTA)
  • Emojis
  • A Solution
  • Humor


The subject line should convey the importance of the email to the recipient. The recipient should be able to understand why they should open the email. Employ phrases like “free,” “exclusive,” or “limited-time offer” to emphasize value. Providing value in the subject line can entice the recipient to take action and open the email.

Gerrid Smith, Chief Marketing Officer, Joy Organics


I’ve tried it and it works great because using numbers in the subject line can catch the recipient’s attention and make the email stand out in their inbox. For example, “10 Strategies to Save Money” or “3 Sleep Tips.” In addition, using a number in the subject line can give the reader an idea of what to expect in the email.

Kenny Kline, President and Financial Lead, BarBend

Power Words

I believe that using strong words in the subject line can catch the recipient’s attention and make them more inclined to open the email. Power words elicit emotion and generate a sense of urgency or excitement.

“Discover,” “Proven,” “Limited,” “Breaking,” and “Secret” are examples of power words. When you use powerful words in the subject line, the recipient may feel as if they are missing out if they do not read the email.

Max Whiteside, SEO and Content Lead, Breaking Muscle


We use a personalized subject line that includes the recipient’s name and a relevant topic. According to research, personalized subject lines can increase email open rates and engagement. 

By including the recipient’s name in the subject line, we can show that the email is personalized for them rather than a generic mass email. Including a relevant topic also helps pique the recipient’s interest and encourages them to open the email to learn more.

For instance, instead of using a generic subject line like “Important Update,” we use a personalized subject line like “John, Your Feedback on Our New Product Design,” which is more inspiring and more effective in encouraging opens and action. This subject line includes the recipient’s name and a relevant topic that they may be interested in.

Johannes Larsson, Founder and CEO, JohannesLarsson.com


Adding “alert” to your email subject creates a sense of urgency. This easily catches the recipient’s attention and makes them more inclined to open the email. It is also important to keep subject lines short and clear, and they should allow the recipient to know what they can expect and make them want to know the contents of the message.

Michelle Siy, Content Writer, Oliver Wicks


I believe that using localization in the subject line can make the email feel more relevant to the recipient. This can involve including the recipient’s city or state in the subject line, as well as terms relevant to the recipient’s area. 

For example, “Get Ready for Fall in New York City” or “The Best Tacos in Austin.” Localization can make the recipient feel as if the email is personalized to their interests, increasing the likelihood that they will open it.

Andrew Priobrazhenskyi, CEO and Director, Discount Reactor

A Question

I’ve found that one thing you can put in the subject of an email that inspires opens and action to be taken is a question.

I think people like to be asked questions because it makes them feel like their opinion matters and that they’re being listened to. It also gives them a chance to show off their knowledge or expertise, which can make them feel good about themselves. And of course, if they answer your question, they get the satisfaction of helping someone who might need it—and that feels good too!

Rengie Wisper, Marketing Manager, Check CPS


Any specific phrase you may include to inspire action in an email subject should be concise and relevant to the topic at hand. Using a call-to-action such as “Act Now,” “Limited Time Offer,” or “Last Chance” can help motivate the reader to open the message and take the desired action. 

Word choice is an important factor when crafting an email subject because overly long, boring, or vague subjects may be overlooked by the reader. Furthermore, using words related to urgency, scarcity, or excitement can help capture the reader’s attention and motivate them to take action.

Victor Mathieux, Co-founder and CEO, Miracle Brand

A Review Request

Asking email recipients to leave a review is one surefire way to get more emails opened. People love sharing their opinions about things. For customers who just bought a product, the timing is perfect for them to share their honest feedback with others, for example. Providing a reward system, like points for a review, can further boost engagement too.

Alexandre Robicquet, Co-founder and CEO, Crossing Minds

A Specific Call-to-Action (CTA)

Using a call-to-action (CTA) that is obvious and specific to the reader’s needs or wants is one of the best subject lines for motivating action. Because it provides a clear CTA (joining the group) and speaks to the recipient’s desire to make a difference, a subject line like “Join our group and start making a difference today” can motivate action. 

Also, the use of terms like “today” conveys urgency and immediacy, which may inspire the recipient to act. An effective subject line should be brief, precise, and catered to the target audience. The advantages of taking action should be emphasized, and the next steps should be made obvious. You can improve your email’s chances of being opened, read, and responded to by doing this.

Dayna Carlin, Director of Marketing and Sales, NovoPath


Emojis, when used appropriately, can be an easy win for boosting open rates. The aim of a subject line is always to grab the recipient’s attention, and even the most click-inducing copy can sometimes be overlooked. An emoji, on the other hand, instantly makes your email stand out, making it a lot more likely for your subject line to be acknowledged and allowing your copy the opportunity to encourage engagement. One especially effective use of emojis in subject lines is to consistently use one that is associated with your brand. 

Take Morning Brew, for example. This newsletter includes a coffee emoji at the start of every subject line. This emoji usage is obviously relevant, but as this is a frequent newsletter, it builds brand loyalty. The pitfall of emojis is, of course, over-usage, or using an irrelevant choice. Make sure you choose one that either relates to the content within the email or can be used consistently in line with your branding.

Joe Cowman, Head of SEO, FATJOE

A Solution

Everyone loves a solution to their problems, issues, needs, or wants, and if your email’s subject line promises this, you’re bound to open the email and act on it. This is the formula I invariably put to use, whether it’s my personal and professional emails or the email marketing campaigns I lead. 

With scores of emails making their way into people’s inboxes each day, the ones that directly offer a timely solution to a current problem invariably gain precedence over others. This email immediately conveys value and gives the receiver enough reason to click on it and learn more.

Ariav Cohen, VP of Marketing and Sales, Proprep


I believe that including humor in the subject line can help the email stand out in the recipient’s inbox. A subject line that makes the receiver grin or chuckle might form a favorable association with the sender and increase the likelihood that they will open subsequent emails. Yet, I believe it is critical to use humor sparingly so as not to insult the recipient.

Tiffany Hafler, Marketing Manager, FORTIS Medical Billing Professionals

Is It Legal to Buy Email Lists?

From damaging your reputation to violating rules for email marketers, here are eight answers to the question, “Is it legal to buy email lists?”

  • Results in Complaints and Unsubscribes
  • Legal but Not Ethical
  • Depends on Where and What You Do With It
  • Use Inbound Marketing Instead
  • It’s Not Worth the Risk
  • Nothing Good Will Come From It
  • Check Data Protection Laws First
  • Might Violate the Can-Spam Act

Results in Complaints and Unsubscribes 

In many countries, email marketing laws require that individuals have explicitly given their consent to receive emails from a company. This means that companies cannot simply purchase email lists from third-party providers and start sending emails to those addresses. 

Buying email lists can also result in a high number of complaints and unsubscribes, which can harm a company’s sender reputation and lead to email deliverability issues in the future. It’s important to note that email lists are often full of outdated or inaccurate email addresses, which can cause bounced emails and other delivery issues. 

Instead of buying email lists, companies should focus on building their own email list organically by offering valuable content and incentives for people to sign up for their email lists. This approach ensures that the individuals on the email list have given their explicit consent to receive emails and are more likely to be engaged with the company’s content and offers.

Mike Schmidt, Civil Trial Law Specialist, Personal Injury Trial Law Specialist, and Civil Trial Specialist, Schmidt & Clark

Legal but Not Ethical

Buying email lists is just a bad idea all around. While it’s not actually illegal to buy email lists, marketing to an audience that never consented to your emails allows them to take legal action. 

In fact, you’re likely to annoy people who never asked to hear from you in the first place, which can actually damage your reputation and turn people off from your business. 

Plus, these lists are often outdated or inaccurate, which means you’re wasting your time and money sending emails to people who may not even exist anymore.

Jess Rodley, Director of Operations, Dialed Labs

Depends on Where and What You Do With the Lists

Can you buy and sell email lists in the US? Sure, there isn’t any law prohibiting that. In the rest of the world, you run into significantly more issues because of GDPR, especially if you try to send marketing emails to the list that you’ve bought. 

That is super illegal and can land you in a lot of hot water. Overall, these days I would caution against buying email lists as they are largely more trouble than they’re worth unless you’re doing something rather niche only in a non-GDPR country.

Dragos Badea, CEO, Yarooms

Use Inbound Marketing Instead

If you’re asking, “Is it legal to buy email lists?” you’re asking the wrong question. What you’re really trying to get at is, “How can I grow my audience and connect with leads that will buy?” 

So, the answer there is to use inbound marketing. By sharing content with your audience, you can rank more highly in search engine listings and build a loyal audience who already knows who you are BEFORE you email them. So, they’re much more likely to respond instead of marking you as spam and moving on to the next email. Build your list, don’t buy your list.

Matthew Stibbe, CEO, Articulate Marketing

It’s not Worth the Risk

After spending years as a marketer, I’ve seen many people tempted by the ease of buying an email list. Yes, it is legal to do so; however, any gain from such a list is likely to be short-lived. 

Without solid proof of the validity and value of the list, most emails will end up in a person’s trash. From my experience, it’s always best to build your own email list from scratch using quality content and promotions and offer valuable information to potential customers—that’s when you’ll see actual progress with your email marketing campaigns.

Lorien Strydom, Executive Country Manager, Financer.com

Nothing Good Will Come From It

No, it is not legal to buy email lists, and it puts your business at risk. It can lead to spam complaints, loss of reputation, and even legal action. Not only is it illegal to buy email lists, but it’s also bad for your business. 

You risk sending out emails to people who haven’t given you permission and don’t want to hear from you. Instead of buying an email list, I’d suggest focusing on building your own. 

Use content marketing and social media to draw in people who are interested in what you offer and are more likely to engage with your brand.

Shaun Connell, Founder, Writing Tips Institute

Check Data Protection Laws First

In many countries, buying email lists is legal, but it is important to note that the legality of purchasing email lists can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances involved. 

Sometimes, the purchase of email lists may violate privacy and data protection laws, particularly if the individuals on the list have not given their consent for their personal information to be used for marketing. In addition, sending marketing emails to individuals who have not given their consent may also violate anti-spam laws.

Dan Johnson, Business Development and Sales Manager, Pearl Scan

Might Violate the Can-Spam Act

The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, which is extremely comprehensive, offers email users protection and stipulates rules for email marketers in the United States. 

The CAN-SPAM Act imposes stringent restrictions on unwanted emails, although it does not outright forbid the purchase of email lists. You could incur fines of more than $43,000 for violations. Be aware that you can experience similar problems with the CASL Act and the GDPR if you send emails the same way in Canada or Europe.

Inga Broerman, VP of Marketing, BluLogix

Make Your Own Social Media Icons for your Emails

It’s actually pretty easy to make your own Mailchimp social media icons for your email campaigns.

Here is exactly what I do:

  1. You first need to make your colored icons. I use Flaticon.com. You’ll sign up for a free account and then search “Instagram,” for example, and pick the icon you want to use.
  2. From there you can click EDIT ICON and you will choose the exact color you would like your icon to be. Enter your brand’s HEX colors at this step.
  3. Download a PNG file of your colored icon. I usually do 32px size.
  4. Then you will go into Mailchimp and head to your Content Studio > My Files. Upload the images of your new custom-color social icons.
  5. You will then click on the actual file in Mailchimp and then click “View Details” and then click COPY URL. This is the URL you will need for your coding.

Now the easy part!

  1. Now head to your email campaign and you will drag in a “Code Block” wherever you want your icons.
  2. PASTE IN THIS CODE and we will soon put in that link you just copied.
<style type="text/css">
.social { font-family: 'Lucida Sans Serif', sans-serif; size: 10px; }
.social img { width:35px; height: auto; }
.social a {text-decoration: none;}
.social a:hover { color: #ffffff; }
.social ul { list-style-type: none; margin-right:40px; text-align: center; }
.social li { display: inline-block; margin: 10px; }
<div class="social">
    <li><a href="https://www.twitter.com/emilyryantweets" target="_blank"><img src="https://mcusercontent.com/73b7dc46becfe523a3c6cbd58/images/ce277f61-a3df-ffd9-6fc0-a0756260241d.png"></a></li>
    <li><a href="https://instagram.com/emilyryanlikes" target="_blank"><img src="https://mcusercontent.com/73b7dc46becfe523a3c6cbd58/images/0e498196-ce63-f6eb-509f-ea1173064000.png"></a></li>


You can edit the code above and put in YOUR social media handles for each button (you see here – emilyryantweets and emilyryanlikes) – REPLACE with your handles.

And then PASTE in that URL you copied of your first social icons where you see the link “mcusercontent” – Make sure you paste between the quotes.

You’ll need to go back to your Content > My Files in Mailchimp and upload your other icons and grab those other links and repeat this for each.

That’s it! You should have pretty, custom-colored icons now!

Any questions? Let me know! You can email me at hello (at) westfield-creative (dot) com.