Survey Email Subject Lines

Philip Cleave
April 9, 2024
Person creating an email subject survey line

When it comes to survey distribution, email is still up there as one of the most popular ways to get your survey out. This is especially true for business audiences, where email offers one of the quickest, most affordable and convenient ways of getting their feedback.

However, having decided to go with the email survey distribution channel, it doesn’t stop there. Although, you will now be using the most favoured communications channel among business recipients, you still need them to open your email, if they are to take your survey. And that means identifying ways of maximising their engagement with you. This is where your email subject line comes in, as the second most important factor in an email’s success after the sender’s name.

How subject lines influence open rates

As we’ve just touched on, the senders name is the initial area that most email recipients look at, with trust in the sender critical to whether they choose to read on.  In fact, up to 64% of recipients are more likely to open an email if they immediately recognise and trust the sender’s name. The influence of the email subject line isn’t far behind either, with nearly 50% of recipients citing the subject line as critical in their decision to open an email or not. So, it’s definitely something you need to get right.

From the number and type of words you use, to your phrasing and the sense of excitement and urgency you can generate with your recipient. There are many factors to do with subject lines for survey emails that can influence your open rates and whether recipients proceed with clicking on your survey link.

Get it right and you can achieve a healthy open rate.

So, what is a good open rate?

Given that the industry average is around 25%, anything above this figure can be considered to be a decent open rate.

The better your email open rate, the higher your survey response rate is likely to be. This is important, as there’s a general consensus that the larger your sample size or volume of survey responses, as it’s otherwise known, the more reliable your results. So, achieving as strong an open rate as you can, will put you on the best pathway for achieving this.

To help achieve this, you could consider creating and testing a variety of email subject lines. By employing A/B testing, it could help you to identify your most popular and best performing email survey subject lines, so you have a better idea of what works best moving forwards.

However, before you can do this you need to be able to create some interesting and engaging subject lines for survey emails. So, this is what we’re going to look at next.

How to write effective survey subject lines

When it comes to writing compelling email survey subject lines, there is a lot to consider. To get you started with your own survey invitations, here are some key points you need to be thinking about.


Including fewer words in your subject line is a good place to begin. And you’ll connect with recipients much faster, if you can make it concise, straight to the point and easy to understand.

Other reasons for keeping it short include the growing number of users opening emails on their mobile devices. To ensure you can meet the requirements of app notifications, make sure your survey subject lines are no longer than around 50-60 characters in length.


It might sound obvious but the clearer you can make your subject lines, the better.

Also be careful not to unwittingly put some of your audience off from responding. For example, if you were running a satisfaction survey of customers using your streaming services, you might be tempted to angle your subject line so that it was focused more towards your happier customers. However, as result you may fail to get an accurate picture of your customer satisfaction levels.

Example (without clarity): “Frequent users, we need your input”

Example (with clarity): “Share your user experiences with us”


Consider including something that lets recipients know that there’s a finite timeline on your survey, otherwise they may not respond.

Like many of us, when we receive an email, we’ll think about responding and plan to get back to it later, but typically end up never responding. However, if we see that there’s not much time left to respond, we’ll be more likely to reply to a request. See also: the best time to send a survey.

Posing a question

Putting a question into your subject line can be a good way of getting your respondent’s attention.

The great thing about including questions, is that as well as for general surveys, they can be an effective way of getting feedback from recipients who may have made past purchases. You could time automated product surveys, to send after the subscriber has had a reasonable period of time to experience the item. It’s something that that the company Amazon, does very effectively.

Be direct – sometimes the best way is to be totally direct in your communications, telling recipients to take your survey.

However, to make the most impact, you still need to be creative in how you do this. Think about personalising your subject line or including some kind of incentive to boost its potential.

Example “Take our quick survey and earn 10% off.”

Focus purely on the benefits

Depending on the nature of your survey, you may decide to remove the word ‘survey’ from your subject line altogether, focusing solely on the benefits to incentivise recipients to respond.

For example, to get recipients to complete longer surveys, you might decide to offer them a bigger incentive such as 25% off a one-time purchase. Although, this figure might seem quite high, remember to factor in the value of a customer’s time and feedback to you.

Where possible, make it personal

According to research from Accenture, 75% of customers are more likely to respond to brands that recognise them by name or remember key information about them such as a recent purchase. So, if you can, it pays to make your subject lines a bit more personal in tone to increase your engagement.

Should you use emojis?

Emojis can be a double-edged sword in email subject lines. On one hand, they're excellent for grabbing attention and conveying emotions or ideas quickly. On the other, they can sometimes appear unprofessional or be misinterpreted by different cultures or demographics. Furthermore, not all email clients render emojis in the same way, which could lead to a confusing display of characters for some of your audience.

While they can increase open rates when used appropriately, it’s vital to consider your audience and the context of your survey before deciding to include emojis in your subject lines.

Integration with survey design and content

The coherence between your subject line and the survey content is crucial. Misleading or mismatched email subject lines for surveys not only lead to lower completion rates but can also harm your brand's integrity. Ensure that your subject line accurately reflects the tone and subject matter of your survey. This consistency helps set the right expectations for your recipients, leading to higher engagement and more meaningful feedback.

Example email subject lines for surveys

Having outlined some of the key points you need to be thinking about before writing your email survey subject line, it's now time to look at some examples.

Every survey and audience are different. However, if you can mix at least 3 or 4 of the above ideas into one subject line it's likely to be more interesting and engaging for your recipients.

Example 1

"Hi, John Smith, how are you liking your Rover boots?"

Let's say you were a retailer of outdoor wear and wanted to measure the satisfaction levels of your customers recent purchase experience. A subject line with similar wording to the above is likely to be compelling to the reader, as it ticks a number of the boxes we've outlined.

Firstly, it's very personal, as it uses the customer's name and information about their most recent purchase. It's also clear, straight to the point and relatively short, at under 60 characters in length. Finally, because it's also asking a question it's more likely to get the users attention.

Example 2

"Hi, John Smith. Can we talk?"

You might want to go more creative still, with a subject line along the lines of the above.

It's still personal, using the recipient's name and again very direct in its style. It's also short, at under 30 characters in length. And the fact that the question is written in a way that you might start a conversation with a friend, it really gets your attention too.

Additional considerations

Email clients and display limitations

An often overlooked aspect of crafting email subject lines for surveys is understanding how they are displayed across different email clients (such as Gmail, Outlook, etc.) and devices (mobiles, tablets, desktops). The visible character limit can vary significantly, impacting how your message is conveyed. For instance, mobile devices generally show fewer characters of a subject line than desktop email clients.

This variation underscores the importance of placing the most compelling part of your message at the beginning of the subject line. Regular testing across platforms ensures that your subject lines are clear and impactful, regardless of how or where your audience is viewing them.

Legal and ethical considerations

Privacy and consent

In the realm of email surveys, the importance of privacy and consent cannot be overstated. Adherence to privacy laws like the GDPR in the EU is not just a legal obligation; it's a matter of trust between you and your recipients. Ensure that you have explicit consent to send surveys to your email list and be transparent about how you intend to use the data collected. This not only safeguards you legally but also enhances your reputation as a respectful and trustworthy entity.

Avoiding spam triggers

One of the biggest hurdles in email marketing is avoiding the spam folder. Crafting email subject lines for surveys that avoid spam triggers is essential. This includes steering clear of overused sales phrases, excessive use of capitals or exclamation marks, and ensuring your email is sent from a reputable IP address. A trustworthy sender reputation, combined with thoughtful and engaging subject lines, significantly reduces the risk of your survey emails being marked as spam.

Analysing and learning from your data

Open rate and conversion analytics

Beyond merely tracking which subject lines get the most opens, it's essential to analyse how those opens convert into completed surveys. This deeper level of analysis helps you understand the true effectiveness of your subject lines, not just in attracting attention, but in compelling action. Observing trends over time, and adjusting your strategy accordingly, can lead to significant improvements in your survey response rates.

Segmented analysis

Utilising segmented analysis allows you to tailor your approach to different segments of your audience more effectively. By understanding which subject lines resonate with particular demographics or user behaviours, you can craft more personalised and engaging emails. This targeted approach not only improves open rates but also the quality and relevance of the feedback you receive.

Personalisation and A/B testing

Delving into advanced personalisation techniques, such as referencing past interactions or acknowledging personal milestones, can significantly enhance the engagement levels of your survey emails. Furthermore, employing rigorous A/B testing methods—focusing on one variable at a time and using significant sample sizes—enables you to refine your subject lines to perfection. This iterative process is key to discovering what truly resonates with your audience and achieving the best possible survey response rates.

Wrapping up

Ultimately, you need your subject line to encourage as many recipients as possible to open your email and complete your survey. So, it needs to be as engaging as you can make it.

However, you need to be patient, as along with mixing up ideas and A/B testing, it can take time to identify a winning subject line. But if you can achieve this, you’ll be well on you way to striking an ideal balance between interested and engaged customers and survey data that you can really work with.

Get the best tools to drive survey success

Improving response rates is just one aspect of getting the insight you require. You also need to be using the right survey tools if you’re to maximise the effectiveness of your data collection and analysis, and your overall success.

Find out more

Author's note: this blog was originally published September 2021 and updated April 2024

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