The 5 Most Common Email Subject Line Mistakes to Avoid

And What To Do About It...

The 5 Most Common Subject Line Mistakes to Avoid

So you’ve just put your finishing touches on that latest blog post, new YouTube video that you know is going to really help all those people on your list, your audience, though upon checking your open rates on your email service provider account, you’re quietly devastated at your low open rates. It hurts doesn’t it!


Where are the best subject lines? In your inbox! What makes you click on an email to open it?


Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said, “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.”


Like a headline for a blog post or news article, the subject line for your email needs to capture people’s attention and convince them to open your message. A subject line can make or break the performance of your email, so it’s important to spend extra time crafting one that’s memorable and effective.


Good subject lines get to the point, create a sense of urgency and are relevant to the subscriber, but it’s easy to make mistakes when writing them. Committing these subject line sins can drastically reduce your open rates, but avoiding them is easy if you know what to look for.


Here are five of the most common mistakes people make when writing email subject lines, as well as tips to improve them and boost your open rates.



1. Using ALL CAPS or too much punctuation(!!)

Imagine receiving an email with a subject line like this in your inbox: GET 70% OFF YOUR NEXT PURCHASE RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Chances are you would take one of three actions: ignore it, delete it, or mark it as spam.




It can come across as though you are yelling, which can have a negative impact on your email performance. So you should use capitalisation and punctuation cautiously. 


Occasionally adding phrases like “Free” or “Act Now” have been shown to improve open rates, but I recommend using them sparingly to avoid diluting their impact. 


On a similar note, be sure to avoid using too much punctuation. You have limited real estate for your subject line, and multiple exclamation marks can come across as spammy. Special characters such as * % & # and ^,  have been known to trigger spam filters, so be sure to use them sparingly as well.


Now that we’ve gone over the punctuation mistakes to avoid in your subject line, you may be wondering which characters leads to more open rates.


The answer? Question marks, exclamation points and periods. 


Subject lines with exclamation points can expect an open rate that’s one to 20 percent higher than average – just as long as you don’t use them in every message.


While this can vary depending on your industry, your audience, and the content of your messages, I recommend testing multiple subject lines to see which forms of punctuation your subscribers are more likely to respond to.


By using simple language, asking a question, and using proper punctuation in her subject line, you’re able to pique the reader’s interest and entice them to read your message.


Exclamation points, periods, and question marks are all part of a healthy email marketing strategy, so don’t be afraid to mix up the punctuation you use in your subject lines.

2. Using Spammy Words

Adding certain trigger words to your subject line can activate a recipient’s spam filter, even if the message you’re sending is legitimate.


To prevent this from happening, avoid symbols like “$$$,” “100% free,” “cash off,” “cheap,” “weight loss,” and “serious cash”. Even if your email makes it into the inbox, it can come across as spammy to your subscribers.


To ensure your readers take your emails seriously, choose the language of your subject line carefully by avoiding some of the trigger words and symbols listed above.


Finding the right verbiage for your subject line can be tough, especially with the sophisticated spam filters out today. HubSpot put together an exhaustive list of email trigger words to avoid when composing your subject line, so reference it before sending your next message.


While there are plenty of recommendations for words to avoid in subject lines, there’s no hard and fast rule for ones to include; what works for one industry may not work for another. Be sure to try different variations of words to see what resonates best.


I also recommend focusing on specific words that tie back to the content in your email.


The subject line tells you exactly what you’ll get by opening up the email. And by focusing on that, it eliminates the risk of including words that might appear spammy.


3. Making It Too Long

Consider the environment in which your subscribers are reading your emails. Chances are, they’re on-the-go or quickly scanning their inboxes between work meetings.


Since you have only seconds to capture their attention, you want to make sure your subject lines aren’t wordy or redundant.


Long subject lines look spammy and get lost in cluttered inboxes, especially if readers are using mobile devices.


One favorite rule of thumb is  to keep subject lines no longer than 50 characters. To do so, aim to get your message across as quickly as possible and cut any unnecessary terms or phrases.


As important as it is to get your message across quickly and clearly, make sure it expresses a complete thought and offers value to the reader – you don’t want to write a subject line that’s too short, either. Avoid one-word subject lines and strive to be helpful and relevant to your subscriber.


Try building a message around a numbered list and including the word “secrets,” As a result, this subject line is easily readable and irresistibly clickable!


4. Writing misleading content

Let’s say you send an email with the following subject: Get an exclusive 50% discount on our entire inventory!


But when the reader opens the email, it’s a pitch to sign up for a webinar or free online class.


Not only is this tactic dishonest, it also tends to backfire. No one likes to be deceived, especially when they receive an email that promises one thing and delivers another. You might get people to open your email initially, but this alienates subscribers and can hurt your open rates and spam rates in the long run.


If your subscribers lose trust in your emails, they’re more inclined to ignore future emails and mark you as spam.


To build and maintain trust between you and your subscriber, make sure to align the content of your email and your subject line.


Also avoid subject lines that include RE: or FW:


These tend to trick the reader into thinking the email was part of another conversation, which doesn’t leave a positive feeling with subscribers.


Not including this text also gives you more room to work with in your subject line, which can be used to convey helpful and relevant information instead.


5. Including spelling or grammatical errors

Subject lines (or any other content in your email) with typos, misspelled words, and misplaced punctuation look unprofessional and can hurt your open rates.


Emails are an opportunity to establish your brand as a helpful source of information. Subject lines with spelling or syntax errors make a bad first impression, and undermine your ability to establish trust with your subscribers.


To optimise your email open rates, be sure to review your emails for grammar and spelling prior to hitting send. No one will take the time to read your email if the subject line is loaded with grammar mistakes, but basic copy editing can prevent these errors from slipping through the cracks.


Crafting subject lines that sweep subscribers off their feet…


The subject line is one of email’s most important components, so it’s important to get it right before you send your emails. And by avoiding the mistakes above, you’ll be well on your way towards improving your email engagement.


Do you have any subject line best practices that weren’t listed in this post?


I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!




Remember to subscribe to this podcast and check out the [FREE] AdWords Video Training Series.


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Phil Adair

Hot Clicks Pay-Per-Click Online Marketing

Suite 12, 5th Floor, Dymocks Building

428 George Street, Sydney 2000, NSW, Australia  


I’m a huge fan of connecting on social media. If you’re on these social networks, then let’s follow each other: 





How To Get Stuff Done – Even When You’re Completely Overwhelmed!

Productivity Tips & Trips To Keep You On Track

Google AdWords with HotClicks Pay Per Click Online Marketing Sydney Web Psychology

Today’s post is all about the struggles of an internet marketer. Why we do what we do…. And how to maintain those productivity levels.


When we become dissatisfied change has to happen.


Luckily, I never miss the days I used to work in the office. I had great times with my colleagues, but those days feel well behind me, and I feel perfectly comfortable working alone now. There are a few things I’m glad I no longer have to be part of.  


As a full-time online marketer, I spend most of the day communicating with others by email or on online chat. I barely speak to anyone on the phone or face to face that I might forget my own voice one of these days…


But not everyone is like me. Those who are extroverts often crave for hangouts, and a lot of my fellow online entrepreneurs deliberately make time to meet up with friends for lunch to keep their sanity. And I do agree.


You need to have real conversations daily (not necessarily verbally), to ensure you’re not turning into a weirdo. 


I love working out – without my beach running surfing and gym exercise, I would definitely go crazy. If you don’t normally move around much, just getting out of the house to walk for 15 minutes should help circulate more oxygen in your blood stream, and release serotonin to motivate yourself.


Serotonin is something that your body naturally produces. They help you motivate big time, too.


Working from home means you can work whatever way you want. You can work in pyjamas, or on your bed with your laptop without creating a work environment. Sounds good, right? But there’s no motivation factor in that kind of “no boundary” working lifestyle.


Patience is the key to success particularly in online business. Being patient does not mean you have to be agitated or frustrated. Everyone has to fail at some point to be successful, and has to learn from mistakes.


Be patient and stay focused on your goals – that’s the way to motivate yourself for business.


How to avoid becoming paralyzed by too many ideas


If you are a creative, you most likely the type that has so many ideas.


While it may seem like a blessing, it often feels like a curse and that you aren’t actually moving or taking action. You feel scattered, confused and overwhelmed.


I am no stranger to the overwhelming sensation that too many ideas can bring.


I have loved this journey of starting my business so far, however sometimes I feel paralyzed and pulled too many directions. While it is an exciting place to be, it is best to develop a process to help tame those ideas, and avoid becoming paralyzed.


Here are a few ways to tame those ideas:


Keep a running list. Your notes are just for you, so don’t allow negativity to creep in! Be bold in your future goals.


If I get really invested in an idea up front, I like to get as specific as I can in the brainstorming phase. You can also reference these notes anytime you have a sudden hit of inspiration.


Don’t act too fast!


Though your new idea to open up a shop, start an e-course, or offer a new service seems great up front, I encourage you to take a bit of time to meditate on your new idea.


You want to give yourself enough time to do the research and develop a strategy to implement your new idea.


During this time, you can really hone in on the details of this project, as well as develop a marketing plan for it. This doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it helps to be strategic in building excitement over your new product/service/idea!


If you run your own business, chances are, you’re completely overwhelmed pretty much all the time. I know I am. 


Because no matter much you get done, it seems like your to-do list just grows longer and longer. There are blog posts to write, emails to respond to, social media posts to schedule, products to create.


You need to be organized, not overwhelmed.


Most overwhelm comes from feeling like you have so much to do that you can’t do it all. When your to-do list is swirling around in your head, it can feel like everything you need to get done gets bigger and more urgent by the minute.


The solution? Get your to-do list out of your head and onto paper.


Action, not anxiety!


Have you ever had one of those days where you feel super busy and stressed, but when you look back over your day, you don’t even know what you got done?


I get so caught up in feeling stressed about everything I have to do that I don’t actually do any of it.


I’ll have a project to start that feels so big and overwhelming that I never start it.


And then, like something out of a horror movie, the more I put off the project, the bigger and more overwhelming it becomes.


It’s a vicious cycle that only has one solution: action.


Just the simple act of starting- something, anything- helps you build the inertia you need to keep going. 


So when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, look at the list you made and just start. 


Progress, not perfection.


I struggle with this one every damn day and I know I’m not alone here. As creative entrepreneurs, we put our souls into our work, so of course everything we do should be perfect, right? Wrong.


Sometimes (ok, most of the time) perfection isn’t about quality work, it’s about ego. At least it is for me. I want my work to be perfect because I want to be perfect. Which is obviously impossible (not to mention insane.)


And when we get like that, when we obsess over formatting, or reread the same email seven times, or strain our eyes making sure our blog graphic is centered– it keeps us from doing the real, important work that we’re meant to do.


Choose progress, not perfection.


The next time you’re stuck in that obsessive cycle of making sure it’s absolutely perfect, ask yourself: Does this actually need to be perfect? Or does it just need to be done?


Some things do need to be perfect. When I’m proofreading a document before it goes to print for a client, then yes, it needs to be perfect. But if I’m honest with myself, the majority of my work doesn’t require that level of flawlessness, and I doubt much of yours does either.


So yes, it’s important that we care, deeply, about putting out quality work. But it’s worth the reminder: just because it’s not perfect, doesn’t mean it’s not good enough. 


And as I said last week: Progress = Happiness


What are your best productivity Tips and Tricks? What works for you?


Remember to subscribe to my podcast and check out the [FREE] AdWords Video Training Series below.


Get Instant Access Here >>


7 Absolutely Killer Tips For Google AdWords & Why They Crush The Competition




How to Build an Email List FAST – 7 Simple Methods You Can Use for FREE

Download The eBook Now:


Download here >>



Listen to my Podcast here >>




Phil Adair

Hot Clicks Pay-Per-Click Online Marketing

Suite 12, 5th Floor, Dymocks Building

428 George Street, Sydney 2000, NSW, Australia  


I’m a huge fan of connecting on social media. If you’re on these social networks, then let’s follow each other: