How to write subject lines that get your emails opened

Someone in a Facebook Group I belong to recently asked me for advice on how to write subject lines that will entice more subscribers to open her emails.

Oooooh, that’s such a great question.

First off, I want to say that there’s no magic formula to writing a successful subject line. It all depends on whom you’re talking to, what their interests and priorities are, and what your relationship is with them.

That said, there are some general guidelines you can follow to create subject lines that are more likely to generate higher open rates.

Here are my top 7 tips:

attractive young indian woman looking at the laptop screen

1. KEEP IT SHORT

Subject lines that are 35 characters or less tend to get opened more. For example:

Uh-oh, your subscription is expiring

Where to drink beer right now

Hey

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE AND DIRECT

The meaning should be easily understandable at a glance. For example:

SPRING SALE – 50% off everything

FREE EMAIL WEBINAR – here’s your invite

NAME, meet me in Italy

3. AVOID SOUNDING SALESY OR FAKE

I love this quote from Mailchimp: “The best subject lines tell what’s inside, and the worst subject
lines sell what’s inside.”

Here are some examples to avoid:

NAME, you won’t believe this

Make $1297/day with this proven profit system

Crush the competition with this one simple marketing trick

4. USE NUMBERS, IF POSSIBLE

Studies show that subject lines with numbers tend to attract more attention and clicks. For example:

5 simple ways to de-clutter your life

Book TWO 60-minute massages for $97

Get 50% off your next 3 lessons

5. ASK A QUESTION

People often click through to learn more about what the answer entails. For example:

Do you make these 5 common writing mistakes?

NAME, did you get your invitation?

Are your emails optimized for mobile?

6. ADD A SENSE OF URGENCY

If your message is time- or quantity-sensitive, let people know so they can understand how they will benefit from acting NOW.

For example:

50% off sale – only 24 hours left!

Free email webinar – 9 spots left

Get a signed copy of YOUR BOOK – only 20 available

7. GET PERSONAL

Try to ensure that your subject line speaks to your audience’s personality, likes and dislikes, and personal experience with your business.

For example:

What’s your hidden superpower, NAME?

What your favourite Disney princess says about you

Re: your recent purchase of my book

Also: you might want to try merging the subscriber’s first name into the subject line, as I did in the first example above, as studies show over and over that adding the subscriber’s name can get a higher response. So it’s something to think about, at least.

Of course there are always exceptions to these rules — and you can’t always follow ALL of the rules ALL of the time — so it pays to experiment with the guidelines above and see what works specifically for YOU and your list.

 Now, in terms of specific words to use…

There are a number of lists of “proven power words” that historically have been shown to get a higher response. Here’s a link to one:

58 Online Copywriting Power Words & Phrases

As you can see, the list includes intriguing, engaging words such as:

  • Amazing
  • Extraordinary
  • Ultimate
  • Hot
  • Latest
  • Proven

As well as action/solution oriented words such as:

  • Improve
  • Discover
  • Win
  • Profit
  • Understand
  • Create

You might find that some of these words will boost the effectiveness of your subject lines. But you won’t know for sure until you test.

The most important thing is to be REAL (and test your results over time)

The best subject lines are those that grab attention, convey personality, and give people a strong reason to click — while still sounding like they come from a real person.

That’s a lot to ask a few short words to do!

Before you succumb to “subject line paralysis” (where you avoid sending out an email because you can’t think of the “perfect” subject line to use), I suggest you go with whatever subject line appeals the most to YOU — and track your results over time.

It’s the best way to see if you can identify any trends on what types of subject line get the best response from your particular audience.

And remember, a lower open rate is not the end of the world. You can always mail people again!

If you try something new and see a drop in your open rate, chalk it up to experience and see what it reveals in terms of what NOT to do the next time you send out an email.

So don’t forget to have fun. Life is too short not to enjoy yourself. Even (or especially) when you’re emailing your list. 🙂

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