Email Subject Lines People Can’t Help But Open

Last Updated: May 10, 2022

Email Subject Lines People Can't Help But Open

Have you ever wondered what makes someone choose to open one email and ignore another? Or maybe you’ve thought that if you had an email with the perfect subject line, people wouldn’t be able to resist opening it. Heck, maybe you tried and failed and now you’re stuck wondering where to even begin. We’re happy to say that this post is here to help you figure out how to get your subscribers to actually open your email. And yes, it all comes down to the perfect subject line.

Email Subject Lines People Can’t Help But Open

Did you know that 47% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone? At the same time, 68% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. That’s pretty crazy. But it does make an email’s subject lines incredibly important. Let’s take a look at why…

The Purpose of Email Subject Lines

A good email subject line is like a good landing page headline. Without one, your audience just isn’t going to feel inclined to read the rest of your content. If your subject line isn’t enticing, your subscribers won’t bother to open your email – period. And if they don’t open your email, your campaign is essentially toast. Why? Because they don’t know about your new products or the blog post you just wrote. You’ve reached a dead end.

A proper email subject line persuades readers to open your email. Plus it gets them excited about what you are offering. And if you use the right language, it can even compel them to click through.

So, how many people actually click through their emails?

Even though 72% of people say they prefer email over other channels it DOESN’T mean that they’ll open every email you send them. In fact, when you take a look at the recent open rate data from MailChimp, you might think that NO ONE opens emails from brands at all. Shocking, but true.

In most industries, 1 in 5 people (20%) who receive an email from a brand will actually open it. Let me repeat that… TWENTY PERCENT. That’s insane. Especially when you consider that some brands see open rates as low as 14%!

You need to be able to convince the other 4 out of 5 people to actually read your email. This is where a perfectly constructed and insanely compelling subject line really comes into play.

What Makes A Good Subject Line?

If you take a moment to scour the internet for “good email subject lines” you’ll come across a plethora of advice. Some people think that you shouldn’t start your subject lines with “How To”, while others disagree. Other people think that adding a funny, mysterious, or one-word lines are what get people to open. It all varies. And honestly, it’s all about finding what works for you and your brand’s niche.

Your Guide To Hardworking Email Subject Lines

When you strip away the advice and get down to the bare bones, there are several nuggets of advice that appear time and time again. Here are some headlines that will convince the other 80% to actually click through to your email.

1. “How To”

It might seem boring, but the “How To” subject line is a classic. If you’re looking for an effective headline, this one is for you. But you need to make sure that you offer your prospect a powerful guarantee: they need to actually learn something from your email.

You want to make sure that you actually fulfill that “how to” promise. Because if you don’t they definitely won’t open any future emails from you.

2. Self-Interest

It isn’t just the words “How To” that makes an email clickable. What makes people want to open emails like that is because it appeals to our inherent self-interest. When it comes down to it, people strive to be better. We want to learn how to improve things in our lives that we feel we’re failing at. It’s this core-desire that motivates us to open emails that can help us do just that.

It’s best to seriously think about your brand and what you can offer your prospects. Use your niche to your advantage and help them learn something.

Examples of Self-Interest Subject Lines

  • How To Find the Cheapest Airfare
  • Get New Clients by Capitalizing on Opportunities
  • How To Grow Your Brand in Less Than 15 Minutes
  • Can you guess your top spending categories last week?
  • 4 Ridiculously Easy Ways to Instantly Earn More as a Freelance Writer
  • 21 Social Media Templates To Help You Create A Strategy For Epic Growth

3. The “Quick & Easy Fix” Approach

Newsflash: people can be extremely lazy. I didn’t need to tell you that though, did I? It should come as no surprise that our brains are wired to find the highest return for the lowest investment. We don’t want to work at something for months or years to get what we want. What we really want is a shortcut.

It’s because of this desire for a quick & easy fix that makes phrases like “in 15 minutes” incredibly appealing. We want to know the secret to success with as little effort as possible. We’re positive that once we know these small bits of information, we’ll see a significant positive impact in our lives. And most importantly, we’ll be able to see them immediately.

Examples of Quick & Easy Subject Lines

  • Four Steps To Reinventing Your Life
  • Last-Minute Gifts to Send Mom Instantly
  • How to Calm Your Content Anxiety in 5 Simple Steps
  • One Skill that Will Take Your Writing from Good to Great
  • 4 Simple Tweaks to Convert More Subscribers On Your Blog
  • The Simplest Motivational Technique May Also Be The Best
You might have noticed a recurring theme here… it never hurts to play off of the following:
  • “One skill…”
  • “Simple tweaks…”
  • “Simplest technique”
  • “Easy ways”
  • “Four steps”

4. Scarcity

When it comes to marketing, scarcity is something that plays upon our fear of missing out on something. Yes, the fear of missing out IS a real thing. Don’t believe me? You can learn more about FOMO over here. People don’t want to miss anything. Whether it’s a fun event, a valuable resource, or a good deal.

Examples of Scarcity Subject Lines

  • Saturday & Sunday – 20% off home decor.
  • Ending soon: Save 40% all clearance items.
  • Last days! Enter for a chance to win a $100 gift card.
  • Today Only – All teachers get a free latte when they show their ID.

Whenever you use scarcity tactic, you need to make sure you don’t come across as too sales-y. Certain words and phrases that marketers use to convey a limited-time discount can trigger email spam filters, and get your message sent straight to the junk folder. Which no one wants.

5. Play Up the Comparison

I’m gonna let you in on a powerful secret, psychology can be a marketer’s best friend. Especially when it comes to writing the perfect email subject lines. According to Psychology Today:

“Social comparison theory states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others. As a result, we are constantly making self and other evaluations across a variety of domains (for example, attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success). Most of us have the social skills and impulse control to keep our envy and social comparisons quiet, but our true feelings may come out in subtle ways.”

When you consider this theory, it comes as no surprise that subject lines with “See how you measure up” and “can you relate?” are incredibly hard to resist opening.

6. Appeal To Their Curiosity

Curiosity is an extremely valuable marketing tool as well. Honestly, I think it’s right up there with FOMO. When people are curious, it often drives them to take action. Even if the “curiosity gap is closing”. However, curiosity shouldn’t be completely taken off your tactics list. For example, Copyhacker Joanna Wiebe uses this approach to generate 927% more signups on a pricing page.

The trick is to use this tactic responsibly AND sparingly. If you do it correctly, it can produce similarly powerful results when it comes to email clickthroughs.

Examples of GOOD Curiosity Subject Lines

  • What a rabbit can teach you about achieving the writer’s life
  • Everyone in the media industry should know what we know…
  • Age-Old Cleaning Advice That Will Cost You Less Money and Time
  • Two Wrongs That Prove You Aren’t Doing Content Marketing Right

As I said, you need to be careful when it comes to these types of subject lines. When you use them incorrectly, you can leave your subscribers bewildered.

Examples of BAD Curiosity Subject Lines

  • Can You Deal with These?
  • Did you hear the story about…
  • This week’s most popular homes are…
  • Does Your Copy Pass The ‘Forehead Slap’ Test?

It’s important to remember that your subscribers have limited time on their hands. If they don’t know what your email subject line is about they aren’t going to bother opening it. It’ll get ignored and sent straight to the trash.

7. Ask Questions

I know this is obvious, but if you use the right questions you can engage readers. Especially when you combine them with one of the headline types listed above. When you do this, they become even more powerful.

Examples of Question Subject Lines

  • Will this be your defining moment?
  • Want to work from home and make more money?
  • Do you want to save more money each month?

8. Show Your Authority

Authority is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to driving conversions on landing pages. So why not use it your email subject lines? You just might be able to compel your readers to click through. For example, you can cite an interview with a well-known person within your niche and see what happens.

9. Don’t Be Afraid To Take A Straightforward Approach

When you can offer something valuable, it’s best to just come right out and say it. Maybe you just finished compiling a year-long report on the state of your niche. Or perhaps you finished some templates that your email subscribers can use to better than marketing campaigns. Whatever it is, let them know!

If it’s something truly valuable, you don’t need to add in curiosity or authority in the subject line. A straightforward one, like the ones listed below, will work wonders.

Examples of Straightforward Subject Lines

  • Easily Plan Your Marketing Campaigns
  • Check out our 2019 Social Media Report
  • 10 Steps To Bounce-Proof Your Website
  • Emails That Make Leads Want Even More
  • Our Multi-Channel Social Media Marketing Plan
  • How optimization should actually grow your business

10. Exclusivity Is Your Friend

Are your subscribers part of an exclusive club? If so, it’s best to remind them. People love feeling special – even in their inboxes. Whenever you make them feel like they’re in on something that only a few others are a part of, it encourages them to click through to your promotional email.

Examples of Exclusivity Subject Lines

  • These insider prices are for Members Only.
  • Members save $20 off their next $40 purchase.
  • It’s our Private Shopping Event – and you’re invited!
  • Exclusive Offer: Play for FREE each weekend in November.

11. Try A Case Study

There are two reasons as to why people enjoy case studies:

  1. They give proof that a technique or strategy actually works
  2. They often offer a step-by-step process that readers can use to achieve the same results.

Whenever you create a case study that combines actual proof with self-interests, you need to make it known in your subject lines. Maybe you can share how you went from a regular blogger to one that blogs for a living. Don’t forget to throw in some statistics and ways in which your readers can do the same.

12. Share News

News subject lines take advantage of our inherent desire to be in the loop. Even if you don’t follow mainstream news outlets, chances are you stay up-to-date on topics of your interest. This could be through reading a particular blog or regularly listening to a podcast.

Whenever you have news to share, even if it’s about your industry or your own product, let your subscribers know by putting it in the subject line.

Examples of News Subject Lines

  • Instagram Now Has Live Video and Why Brands Should Pay Attention
  • Montessori Announces A New Educational Collaboration
  • Programmatic TV ad spending will more than double this year.

What’s your next email subject line?

What are your favorite email subject line strategies that we listed? Have you ever tried any of the ones above? If so, let us know how it performed in the comments below, so we can discuss!

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