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Are you planning to email a survey, but writing the subject line holds 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. So, it's safe to assume the success of your email survey, and its response rate depends on your ability to write catchy subject lines.

Why Survey Email Subject Lines Affect Response Rate

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

But there's more:

  1. The subject line is also the second most crucial factor in an email's success, right after the sender's name. 
  2. 69% of people use the email's subject line to identify spam quickly. They skim it, looking for words that trigger their internal alarm. And if they find any, they bin the message right away. (Also spam filters analyze subject lines in a similar way.)
Reasons for opening an email: sneder name, subject line, offer, intro paragraph.
Source: Superoffice

3. The length of your subject line can put a recipient off your message. 

4. According to Retention Science, subject lines with fewer than 10 words perform better than those on the long side.  

Daunting as this piece of insight might be, it feels even more intimidating when you consider its effect on your entire campaign. 

So, let's imagine you're sending an email survey to 1000 potential respondents. 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. 

Now, let's consider the response rate. Based on our expertise here at Survicate, it is safe to say that the average email survey response rate is between 10 to 30%. So, with a weak survey subject line, you can expect only a maximum of between 93 and 159 survey responses from 1000 emails. 

Hardly impressive, right? 

Let's now take a closer look at the factors that engage recipients and the subject line elements that increase the email open rate. We'll go through them to see how they can help boost your survey open rate. 

Factors That Engage Email Survey Recipients

1. Urgency

Urgency is about triggering our deeply rooted mechanisms. For example, when pressed for time, we instinctively 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:

Words that imply time sensitivity: urgent, breaking, important, alert
Source: Mailchimp


  • "Urgent: Have we solved your problem?"
  • "One more day left to subscribe to [a webinar]."

2. Personalization

Research studies agree that personalized subject lines perform best. Even including a recipient's name in the subject line can 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 - e.g., "Jon, could you help... ?"
  • Address the recipient directly: "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 vouchersfor completing a survey, you should also reference it in the subject line. 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 number is a bit over the top, we can still agree that we're snowed under with messages. What it means is that your email survey must first stand out in a recipient's inbox to get opened. 

Another way to do it, apart from urgency or personalization, is by making it relevant to the recipient. You'll create a sense of relevancy if you:

1. Trigger emotions.

Make them feel:

  • Curious - by asking "How did we do?"
  • Excited - with "It's your call!"
  • Unique by encouraging: "Get yourself heard!"

2. Reference something relevant to their lifestyle

Associate the survey with a cause your target audience believes in. Promise to donate a specific amount to a charity for every survey filled. For example: "Tell us what you think, and we'll donate to [a name of a charity] on your behalf." 

How To Write Effective Email Survey Subject Lines

1. With Clarity

A test by Marketing Sherpa left no doubts: 

Clarity-based email subject lines work best. Such subject lines generated a whopping 541% higher response in the test. 

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, by asking: "Tell us why our support is awesome", you tell a recipient how to respond. As a result, you might never discover where your support efforts fall short. 

Similarly, when assessing your service quality, 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.

An example of a clear subject line:: "Jon, you're a frequent traveler. We need your input!" 

An example of a vague subject line: "Share your travel experience with us."

2. By Asking Questions

Question-based subject lines help engage email recipients on so many levels: 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, they 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 [a product]?"

3. Why Not Spice Things Up 🌶

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. Will you help?"
  • Replace certain words with emojis. They can spruce an email line and make it stand out even among tens of other messages. "The 😈 is in the detail, but we can't find any. Help!"

4. Keep It Brief

Including fewer words in the subject line helps 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 more quickly. 

A long subject line: "We can't figure out how to improve [a product]. Can you help?" 

A short and sweet one: "We're not smart enough. Help improve [a product]!"

5. Be Precise

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. Focus on connecting with recipients by clarifying who seeks their opinion and why. Worth to mention: You can combine this approach with some of what we described above.


  • "[A company] wants to hear from its customers." 
  • "Customer support feedback – [a company]"
  • "We're looking for new product suggestions. Have any?"

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

How To Send Successful 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 a compelling way to do that:

Survicate's content rating survey sent by email
Survicate's content rating survey sent by email

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 thoughts they will be able to share. Either of which will spark them to act.

Are you interested in learning more? Let's 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 email marketing software or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools like:

Quite helpful in collecting customer and user feedback, right?

Survicate is a handy tool that connects with all the tools mentioned above and enables businesses to easily collect customer feedback and have a clearer view of the health of their business.

Try the tool now - sign up for free or choose a pricing trier that better suits your needs.

to learn all about the Smartlook integration