ARTICLE • 5 min

Coming up with a Compelling Email Survey Subject Line

Our attention spans are ever-declining. Multiple text messages, emails, work chatroom messages, news alerts, etc reaching our consciousness through multiple devices each hour of the day.

To juggle this continuous stream of information, people adapt by skimming messages and reacting only to the notifications that capture their attention.

For your email survey to capture the attention of its intended recipients, the right email subject line will make all the difference.

Encouraging your survey recipients to open your email survey in their inbox is the first step to them taking part in your survey. So, we ought to spend some time coming up with a great subject line.

This article will provide some tips on how to come up with a great email subject line for your survey.

1. Avoid spam trigger words

Avoid using words that will be picked up by spam filters. Examples are words like “Free” or “Amazing”.

2. Get straight to the point

Don’t be cryptic, vague or try to get too creative with your email subject line. An email subject line that is on-point is more likely to be opened. For example, a study published previously by found that specific email subject lines resulted in 541 percent more opens than creative ones.

Your subject line should provide everything your recipient needs to know about your survey, and what you need from them.

3. Keep things brief

A short email subject line that is also informative has been shown to get higher open rates. For example, has indicated that a subject line of six to 10 words tends to yield a 21 percent open rate; whereas one with 16 to 20 words yields 12 percent.

4. Personalize to stand out

Studies have shown that personalization in subject lines can increase email open rates by over 60 percent.

For example:

James, how did we do in the recent mentoring workshop activity?

A personalized email will make your survey feel more like a personal invitation, and your recipient will feel special in this regard. It will also help you stand out from other more generic survey invitation messages.

5. Use emojis

Another way to make your email survey stand out is to incorporate emoji images into your subject line.  Emojis have a great way of capturing attention, and adds to the warm and friendly tone  you want to maintain when asking people to complete your survey.

For example:

👋  James, do you have 2 minutes to complete our survey?

6. Send at the right time

Knowing when to send your email survey is an important factor to whether recipients will engage.

Based on research, the best times to send emails tend to be during:

  • Late mornings 10 – 11am: People are more likely to pause from their morning rush during this time to check their emails
  • Afternoons after lunch: Studies have shown that emails are most likely to be opened just after lunch, around 1 – 2pm
  • Evenings: People tend to check their emails before going to bed, and are more likely to be in the headspace to respond or act on an email survey

Avoid sending your email survey during the night when people are likely to be asleep, or first thing in the morning. As people wake up to an inbox full of emails, they are more likely to skim and park email messages rather than take the time to engage. Once your email is parked, it is unlikely that it will be revisited as newer emails start coming through.

7. Test and learn

Sending email surveys as an iterative process, one that should be part of a continuous refinement and improvement process. Therefore, if an email subject line or cover letter did not seem to yield high open and/or response rates, keep tweaking until you unlock that magic formula.

Further Reading:

What makes a good survey design

Your survey cover letter template

Do all surveys need a consent form?

Dr Clara Ong
Cofounder and Social Impact Expert @ Socialsuite
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