How To Write Email Survey Subject Lines That Get Opened

Are you planning to email a survey, but writing the subject line is holding you back? Do you fear that any email subject lines you’d come up with would fail to engage your audience? I’m not surprised. 35% of recipients open emails based on the subject line alone, after all. So, it’s safe to assume the success of your email survey and its response rate depend on your ability to write catchy subject lines.

email subject lines for surveys, post image

Why survey email subject lines affect the response rate so much

You already know how many recipients open an email based on its subject line alone.

But there’s more.

The subject line is also the second most important factor in an email’s success, right after the sender’s name.

Graph showing reasons why people open email

What’s more, 69% of people use the email’s subject line to quickly identify spam.

They skim it, looking for words that would trigger their internal alarm. And if they find any, they bin the message right away.

(Worth to note that spam filters analyze subject lines in a similar way also.)

Hell, even the length of your subject line could put a recipient off your message. Particularly, if you include too many words.

Retention Science discovered that subject lines with fewer than 10 words perform better. The longer ones, however, seem to scare many recipients off.

Still, intimidating as this piece of insight might be, it gets even more frightening when you analyze its effect on your campaign.

So, let’s assume you’re sending an email survey to 1000 potential respondents. In this example, let’s also assume that you wrote a weak subject line for it.

Based on the data above, we could estimate that only 530 to 310 recipients would open your message.

With a long subject line, that number might drop to 120 opens, and so on.

Let’s consider the response rate next.

Given our expertise here at Survicate, it is safe to say that the average email survey response rate is between 10 to 30%. Therefore, with a weak survey subject line, you could expect only a maximum of between 93 and 159 responses from 1000 emails.

Hardly impressive, right?

(Disclaimer: The above are basic calculations for illustrative purposes. We’ve only run the numbers by different subject lines and email open rates statistics quoted in this post. However, we didn’t take any other open rate factors into consideration. But as said, our goal is only to suggest a potential effect a subject line might have on your survey.)

Earlier in this guide, we promised to show you two things: factors that engage recipients, and subject line elements that increase the open rate.

So, let’s go through them in turn and see how they could help boost your survey open rate.

Factors that engage survey email recipients

1. Urgency

Urgency targets our deeply rooted behavior. As it turns out, when pressed for time, we suspend logic and take immediate action.

In a subject line, urgency helps motivate recipients to decide about reading your email.

To create a sense of urgency, add words that communicate the time restrictions of your survey. Here are the most effective ones:

graph showing the most effective words to decide about open emails


  • “ Urgent: Have we solved your problem? ”
  • “ One more day left to inspire the new [PRODUCT] ”

2. Personalization

Research studies agree that personalized subject lines perform better. Even including a recipient’s name in the subject line could increase the open rate by up to 50%.

Here are other ways to personalize the subject line:

  • Use the word “you”. We often use it as a substitute for someone’s name. i.e., “ Survey – Could You Help? ”
  • Address the recipient directly. I.e., “ A quick favor? ”
  • Reference something relevant to the user, like their recent purchase. “ You bought an iPad from us. How do you like it so far? ”

3. Incentives

If your company offers an incentive – money, gifts, or swag – for completing a survey, you could reference it in the subject line too.

Incentive-driven subject lines draw attention and convince a person to open the email.

However, worth noting is that they can also attract an irrelevant audience. Use with caution.


  • “ Share Your Feedback. Get Extra Purchase Points. ”
  • “ Deal? You get a t-shirt, we get your feedback. ”

4. Relevance

An average worker receives about 120 emails per day. Even if the statistic exaggerates this number a bit, we can still agree that we’re overburdened with messages.

Which also suggests that to get opened, your email survey must stand out in a recipient’s inbox first.

Another way to do it, apart from urgency or personalization, is by making it relevant to the recipient.

1. Stimulate the recipient’s emotions. Urgency, for example, prompts them to respond faster. But you could also make a person feel:

  • Curious (i.e. “ How did we do? ”);
  • Excited (i.e. “ It’s your call! ”);
  • Special (i.e. “ Make yourself heard! ”)

2. Reference something relevant to their lifestyle. For example, associate the survey with a cause your target audience believes in. For example, promise to donate a specific amount to a cause for every survey filled.

Example: “ Tell us what you’ll think and we’ll donate to [CHARITY] on your behalf ”

How to write strong survey email subject lines that get opened

1. Clarity

A test by Marketing Sherpa made it clear – clarity-based email subject lines work better. Much better, in fact.

In the test, such subject lines generated a whopping 541% higher response.

But for survey subject lines, clarity goes beyond just making it clear what the message is about.

Your subject line also mustn’t interfere with your research goals. For example, asking “ Tell us why our support is awesome ”, tells a recipient how to respond. As a result, you might never discover where your support efforts fall short.

Similarly, when assessing the quality of your service, you may also feel tempted to write a subject line that focuses on happy customers only. But in doing so, you might fail to receive the full spectrum of customer satisfaction.

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

Example (with clarity): “ Share your travel experience with us ”

2. Asking Questions

Question-based subject lines help engage email recipients on so many levels.

For one, they help attract our attention. We’re wired to spot questions, after all.

But also, they get a story started in a recipient’s head. And in doing so, will draw them closer to your message.

However, to achieve such an effect, your question must include your survey’s topic AND the recipient’s emotions.

Example: “ How do you use [PRODUCT]? ”

3. Humor

Humor can turn an ordinary subject line into one that sparks a person’s interest.

You can write funny subject lines in many ways. Here are some examples:

  • Take a funny twist at the object of your research. “ Our heads hurt but we still can’t crack it. Help? ”
  • Replace certain words with emoji. They can spruce an email line and make it stand out even among tens of other messages. “ The? is in the details, but we can’t find any. Help! ”

4. Brevity

Including fewer words in the subject line helps to connect with a recipient faster. Why? Because you don’t force them to read and analyze a long sentence. And in doing so, you can stimulate their emotional response faster.

Example (long): “ We can’t figure out how to improve the [PRODUCT]. Can you help? ”

Example (short): “ We’re not smart enough. Help improve [PRODUCT] ”

5. Precision

We admit – you may not be able to use any of the strategies above. Brand guidelines, company policies, and many other factors might prevent you from using humor, emoji, or urgency.

But nothing’s lost. You can also engage respondents by writing a subject line that introduces your survey. In this approach, you focus on connecting with recipients by making it clear who seeks their opinion and about what.

Worth to mention: You can combine this approach with some of what we described above.


  • “ [Company] wants to hear from its customers. ”
  • “ Customer support feedback – [Company] ”
  • “ We’re looking for new product suggestions. Have any? ”

Get even more opens and positive responses than your initial outreach email with follow up email subject line

How to send effective email surveys

Email survey subject lines help you convince a potential participant to open your email. We’ve shown you plenty of ways to do that in this post.

But you also need to persuade them to take the survey, right?

And that’s no small feat. Luckily, there’s an incredibly powerful way to do that:

Like this:

first survey question embedded in the email message – for best email subject lines for sales

You see, when you send someone a link to the survey, you have to rely on an accompanying copy to entice them to act.

But when you ask for their opinion right away, you can get them curious. They begin to wonder what other insights you might be asking for. Or, what other opinions they will be able to share.

Either of which will spark them to act. At least better than any explainer copy.

Interested in learning more? Take a look at our survey design checklist to set yourself up for success!

How to send surveys by email

Email survey can be sent from inboxes like Gmail or integrated with e-mail marketing software or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools like:

Quite useful for collecting feedback from users and customers, right?

Free-to-Use Content Rating Survey Template

Free plan available. 100 free survey responses included every month!

Lucjan Kierczak

Head of Marketing at Survicate.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get our best content delivered to your inbox once a month.