Back to Stories
How to get people to open your e-mails: subject lines
  • Sep 7, 2020
  • 2 minutes

How to get people to open your e-mails: subject lines

Is there a secret technique to get people to open your emails? Yes, kind of. Common sense.

  1. Descriptive. Tell - don't sell them on - what is the subject of your email. If your e-mail is a newsletter, use the name and issue in your subject line, every time. If you are doing a special promotion, tell your readers. If it is a "dedicated" e-mail from a sponsor, let them know that in the subject line. The difference between open rates for subject lines that "tell" versus those that sell can be huge. Studies indicate open rates of 60% to 87% for the "boring" informative subject lines versus 1% to 14% for the "breathy" sales-y subject lines.
  2. Separate Opt-ins for Commercial E-Mails. If you send or plan to send promotional emails in addition to a regular newsletter, give people the choice to receive them with a separate opt-in. Explain that this is how you can afford to offer your regular newsletter without subscription fees. Then, if people have opted to receive "special offers and promotions," tailor your subject lines accordingly - "10% Off E-Coupon Inside." But, if they've signed up to receive a newsletter only, respect that. Tell them what's inside and patiently build a relationship.
  3. From: and Subject: Synergy. Make your From: and subject lines work together to maximize those precious 45-60 spaces you have in a subject line. Your contacts have opted to receive e-mail from a specific person or company with a name that should be recognizable. Use it. The power of name recognition makes a significant difference in your open rates.
  4. Spammy Subject Lines. Avoid spam traps and filters by limiting the use of all capital letters, eschewing exclamation marks, and watching what words you use. To be safe, run your e-mail through spam checking filter before sending it out. Many e-mail service providers have such a program built-in. Such programs check your From and Subject lines, plus the entire e-mail message, for potential problems.
  5. Testing. Test your subject lines. No matter how small or large your list is, test at least a couple of different subject lines 48 hours before your full broadcast goes out. Try it out on trusted friends or co-workers, otherwise use a random small sampling of your list. For example, test with 1% of your list -- 100 out of 10,000. Even if you have a standard subject line for your newsletter, it's a good idea to test a new twist every six months or so. Better yet, enlist your readers in voting for the new "title" for your newsletter subject line.
  6. Benefits. Ideally, you'll include a benefit in your subject line. If at all possible, make your subject line intriguing. For example, "Discover proven strategies for greater open rates."
  7. Expectations. Set expectations during the opt-in for what readers will find in your regular content and style. Then honor that by providing value to your readers in every email. When you provide consistent quality and value to your readers, they'll spot your From: and Subject: lines and open your email right away to see what surprises await them within.

Recommended instructors

Find instructors for your goals & budget.