8 newsletter subject lines that aren’t just “October newsletter”

Email newsletters are having their day in the sun.

In fact, the Neilson Norman Group did some compelling research that showed that people preferred getting company-oriented information in email newsletter form versus hearing from them on Facebook. Sorry, Facebook.

And companies are riding the email newsletter wave, as further research shows that 83% marketers for B2B companies use them.

But newsletters are just one type of email marketing—how can you increase your newsletter’s open rate by differentiating it from other types of marketing email?

The answer: subject lines.

Crafting compelling email newsletter subject lines

While email newsletters can be used to sell a product or service, they are more focused on the following:

  • Informing readers of industry or company news
  • Reinforcing your company’s reputation
  • Building a relationship with your audience
  • Highlighting the usefulness of products and services

An intriguing subject line is even more critical for these emails, which is why you should never use the word “newsletter” in the subject line.

You want your audience to know there’s a treasure trove of good information, just a click away. You don’t want them to think, “Oh, another newsletter.”

Let’s examine what makes an outstanding subject line.

The hallmark of a great subject line

Great subject lines have certain attributes that help pique a recipient’s interest enough to get them to open the email — and that’s the goal.

Let’s look at some of the characteristics of phenomenal subject lines.

1. They’re personal.

Personalization in emails is key. In fact, personalization is shown to increase conversions by 10% and click-through rates by a whopping 14%.

Using personalization in the subject line is one of the easiest ways to get your recipient to take notice, and it’s simple as doing this:

  • Jersey Mike’s Subs: Lisa, earn double points today only.
  • Pizza Hut: Bob, try our new treat.
  • Guess: Lindsey, check out these hand-picked looks.

Simply write a good subject line and insert the recipient’s name where it makes sense.

2. They’re urgent.

Urgency is powerful, but you have to exercise restraint so your subject lines don’t come across like a ShamWOW infomercial (“Act now, before they’re gone!).

That being said, urgency can encourage those opening clicks, as long as you’ve taken the time to tone down your language and phrase things creatively—like these do:

  • Jaybird: Last chance to save big this holiday.
  • Pizza Hut: Tonight only. Save $5 on your order.
  • Sephora: Last day: Pick your 5 faves.
  • Converse: Ending in 24 hours: 25% off sitewide.
  • HP: Time is running out…Save up to $300.
  • Rapha: Your savings code expires today.

All of these subject lines manage to convey the “Act now!” message in a way that’s palatable. Also, don’t overuse these or you’ll risk toning down the excitement.


3. They’re mysterious.

Subject lines that are mysterious can pique curiosity, and that’s a good thing — as long as what you’re delivering is in line with your brand.

Check out this one from Digital Marketer:

“Good news for people who love bad news . . .”

Who wouldn’t be intrigued by that one? Don’t overdo these, though. Using these kinds of subject lines in every email will wear down subscribers.

Also, beware of using obscure topics that don’t really dovetail with your industry or image, which could be seen as spam.

4. They’re relevant.

Normally, if you’ve subscribed to a list, you’re interested in timely, relevant news pertaining to that company or industry. Here are a few sample subject lines for some niche markets:

For a hiking enthusiast8 Travel Tips for Hiking Pike’s Peak

For a digital marketerHow Slack Generates 100,000,000 Website Visitors Per Month

Using topics that are trending or headline news from a niche industry in your subject lines cannot only encourage recipients to click and read on—they’ll also establish you or your brand as a content authority.

5. They contain an offer.

Who doesn’t love an offer? You can craft email subject lines that include this tempting morsel but be careful to deliver what you promise.

Also, don’t use the words, “free” or “rich” in your subject lines—those may land you in the spam folder.

How about these?

  • Sephora: You’re invited: 10% off for Beauty Insiders.
  • IKEA: Save with this week’s flyer.
  • TopShop: Shop now. Save big.
  • Rapha: Complimentary gift wrap on all purchases.

Notice how Rapha conveys their gift wrap is free without using the “F” word? This proves that you can get your point across without resorting to typical marketing-speak.

6. They’re short.

Return Path researched over 2 million emails to uncover the perfect subject line length. The results?
Most subject lines came in at around 41 to 50 characters and 61- to 70-character lines had the best read rates.

The rate dropped significantly for those over 100 characters, though, so pay attention to every word you use.

7. They use “power words.”

“Power words” are words that can be used to persuade or trigger the response or emotion you desire. These words can touch upon a reader’s emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or analytical sides.

Here are some examples of powerful words to use in your next subject lines.


  • Astonishing
  • Banned
  • Priceless
  • Confidential
  • Unexplained


  • Certified
  • Dependable
  • Lifetime
  • Worldwide
  • According to
  • No risk


  • Easy
  • Cheat-sheet
  • Downloadable
  • Formula
  • On-demand
  • No problem

There are, of course, words to elicit the right emotion in your audience, whether it’s appealing to their curiosity, their hopes, or needs.

If you’ve properly segmented your audience, finding the right power word should be a breeze.

8. They allude to scarcity.

Nothing makes people get moving like good old Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).
What would you think if you read:

“Only 10 spots left before the Millionaire Moneymaker course closes.”

If you were interested in making lots of money, you might just have to click.

Crafting a subject line, which alludes that not acting quickly might just cause your recipient to miss out on something really amazing, is a great way to improve your open rate.

Wrap up

Subject lines are critical for getting your email newsletter seen, opened, and read. While there are many ways to craft effective subject lines, using the word “newsletter” within the subject is never advised.

You’re offering not just a newsletter, but a well-defined goldmine of relevant content your subscriber needs to access.

Calling it a “newsletter” up front takes away from the effectiveness of whichever of the techniques we’ve listed you’ve decided to employ.

So, gather up your power words and choose the technique that makes the most sense for your audience, then watch the open rates skyrocket!

About the Author

Lane Harbin is a senior content marketing manager at Emma. When she’s not geeking out over email marketing, she enjoys binge-listening to podcasts, catching up on the latest tech news, and constantly rearranging her living room.

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