How to Write Email Subject Lines That Boost Your Open Rates

Write Email Subject Lines That Get Opened

It’s one metric we consistently watch and try to improve: email open rates. There’s good reason for it, too. If your subscribers aren’t opening your emails, then they can’t read about:

  • Your upcoming product launch
  • Your latest must-have tool discovery
  • That epic blog post you just wrote

The trouble is, you only have about two seconds to entice a reader to open your email and you have to do it in the context of an increasingly crowded inbox.

That’s a pretty tall order, even for seasoned copywriters, but there are some tricks you can use.


Be Ambiguous

If you’ve been on Facebook lately, you’ve no doubt seen those “click bait” headlines that say things like, “She adds this to a box of Wheat Thins and I’m drooling!” The reason headlines like that work is because we can’t help but want to know what “this” is that she’s adding to her Wheat Thins. Is it sugar? Salt? Peanut butter? We imagine the possibilities, but in the end, we have to find out, so we click.

You can employ the same technique in your email subject lines. Just substitute the word “this” for the actual thing you’re writing about, and you’ve got instant enticement.


Use Numbers

A lot of the elements that make a great blog post title also work for email subject lines and so, here’s another strategy for creating must-read content: numbers.

“100 Free Tools to Launch & Build Your Business”

“3 Unlikely Ways to Close the Sale”

“5 Social Media Platforms You Shouldn’t Be Ignoring”

The reason numbers work so well in subject lines is because we are ego-centric and curious. We simply must know if we already use those three ways to close the sale. We will either walk away feeling good for being a marketing maven, or we will have learned something. Both are compelling reasons to open an email.


Use Power Words

Just as with all writing, choosing power words is far more effective than settling for their weaker counterparts. Imagine these two subject lines appear in your inbox. Which are you more likely to open:

“WordPress Makes Better Looking Websites for Non-Designers”


“Create a Gorgeous Website—Even if You’re Not a Designer”

While both subjects offer the same information, the first is weak, while the second is far more compelling.


Introduce Scarcity/Urgency

Communicating scarcity (“Only 2 spots left!”) or urgency (“Promo ends today!”) in a subject line works incredibly well because it tells your readers that they really need to act pronto. In the same way that it triggers the FOMO reflex in the social media space, employing the scarcity tactic in your email subject lines can boost your open rates by as much as 22%.

A word of caution though – use this tactic too often and you run the risk of experiencing email list fatigue so be selective and be sure the offer is of true value to your readers.


When it comes to email subjects, there are a few more tips to keep in mind if you want to up your open rates:

  • Keep it short. No more than 10 words at the very most, and fewer if you can.
  • Use personalization. Occasional use of your reader’s first name can be a powerful technique.
  • Make sure your emails read well on a mobile device. 47% of all emails are now opened on a mobile device!

Here’s the bottom line: 

If you want your emails to be opened, read and clicked, paying attention to your subject lines is the single most important thing you can do for your email marketing campaigns.

You need to systematically use your autoresponder’s A/B testing functionality to establish which subject lines styles work best for your audience (and the different segments within that audience).

Test your subject lines … long or short, emoji or no emoji, personalize or generic, question or statement, this word or that … then, take what you learn and keep tweaking those subject lines till you find that sweet spot.