3 Guidelines to Mobile Subject Lines

The world of email marketing is like a jungle – the quick survive and being short can be an advantage.

If recent statistics are anything to go by, smartphones are quickly becoming the stars of the show with 47% of emails being opened on mobile devices alone.

Two of the most popular email clients, Gmail and Yahoo!, have a 68% open rate on smartphone and tablet! Facts like these can’t be ignored. If you aren’t optimizing your email marketing campaign for mobile devices, you’re missing out on business.

Subject lines are the first line of offense when trying to attract customers. It’s the first thing a prospective client notices when they open their inbox. So it’s fair to say that your subject line should make a good impression, in essence, your subject line is your first and best attempt at grabbing a reader’s attention away from cat videos.

There are plenty of articles on subject lines and how to get the most out of them, but what about on mobile phones? The subject line has very limited space to perform its job – it’s kind of like forcing a tiger to fight in a birdcage. These simple guidelines that you can follow today will equip you with the tools you need to survive the mobile jungle.

1. Keeping it Brief – The 2-2-2 Principle

The principle that would be on the first page of Mobile Email for Beginners. The first 2 stands for the two seconds of attention you get from a prospective reader, the second 2 represents the first two words of your subject line that grab the reader’s attention and the final 2 stands for the ‘to’ in ‘today’ – as in the relevance the subject line has to the reader today. Catchy isn’t it?

2. In a Land of Ambiguity, Relevancy is King

A study by the fine folks at Alchemyworx states that while longer, ambiguous subject lines do have higher open rates (especially on desktop), they don’t have a higher ‘click to buy rate’ – in fact they most likely have a higher ‘annoyed consumer rate.’

It’s not all bad news though! They also found that shorter, more concise subject lines that are transparent about the contents of the email (such as ‘50% off Nike’) find more success with a 60% of opens turning into click to buys! This information is perfect for the mobile marketer as longer subject lines simply do not translate well on smaller screens. Keep it real, relevant and short.

3. Curiosity Creates Clicks

Know your objective. Unless you’re sending out chain letters, your emails have a point. In addition, no one is going to open your email if no-one cares about your objective. How do you get people to care you ask? You create curiosity.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but that was only because the owner was too busy buying stuff online. The perfect kind of curiosity is the type that isn’t ambiguous yet still requires the reader to act. A great way to do this is to provide provocative adjectives about a topic in the mail itself. For example, if you want to sell cat toys a good subject line would be “Unique Toy for Whiskers.” The adjective in the subject line begs the reader to inquire about what is so unique about the toy for their cat.

Long Live the King

Now that you have these guidelines, there’s nothing stopping you from becoming the king of the mobile jungle! I’d love to hear what you have to say about mobile marketing, so drop a comment, speak your mind, let the world know and… don’t forget to feed your cat.


  • Author: maryka.burger

  • Maryka has worked across multiple industries ranging from hard news journalism to digital tech companies and advertising. She is an expert at building online presence, and offers a wealth of knowledge on digital marketing, social media and automation trends to agencies and digital start-ups.