email subject lines

How to write Powerful Email subject lines for Killer Open Rates


How to write Powerful Email subject lines for Killer Open Rates


Writing on email marketing is something which I love, because email marketing has accounted for 90% of the revenue which I have earned in last 1 year. So it is extremely valuable.

Not only is it cheaper than traditional modes of marketing, it is also more effective since you are communicating directly with your target audience.

However, most Internet marketers face a common struggle – getting people to actually open the e-mail in their inbox. It is a very relevant concern for you since you will get paid only when the recipients will open the email and click on the link in the email.

To use this seemingly simple email marketing effectively, it is not only important to create an impactful email with strong content, but also an equally compelling email subject lines that ensures that the recipient actually opens the email. So if you fail to hit the bulls eye with the email subject line, the email content is no good since no one will end up reading it.

Like any type of marketing, there can be many permutations and combinations of what you write and how you write to the receiver. The key for you is to accomplish the following from your email marketing campaign:

  1. Getting more clicks in mails
  2. Getting more open rates
  3. Less number of sent mails bouncing back
  4. Less number of users unsubscribing from mails (complaints rate)

All these 4 aspects are really important for your email marketing success. Though, I will keep this article limited to its objective i.e ‘Getting more Open Rates’ with Powerful Email Subject Lines.

Having said this, in this article I will help you on how to accomplish this with ease. There are various aspects to this and we have listed them below.

An average person is said to spend only 8 seconds on an e-mail, so just think of how long you have to convince him to open that mail simply by reading your subject line!! Probably less than 2 seconds!!

Case Study – $690 Million

The most successful internet marketing campaign in recent times was done by US President Barack Obama for his presidential election in 2008 and 2012. The major focus was on social media and internet marketing with e-mail marketing proved out to be the most effective form of fundraising for them.

Believe this – his fundraising mails raised a whopping $690 million with a particular subject line that attracted $2.6 million on its own. This is the power of a strong subject line.

[Simple Takeaway – An email’s subject line purpose is to get maximum opens. Maximum Opens + Strong content = Maximum Revenue]


4 Types of Subject Lines

I will breakdown various types of subject lines into 4 broad categories:

Type 1 – Blind subjects

Blind subject lines are those that do not have any connection with the main e-mail. This is just a subject that has the power to deliver a shock and awe moment to the reader, which makes him curious and compels him to open the e-mail.

Your mail goal here is to make consumers curious. It is this curiosity that gnaws them internally and compels them to open your mail. Sometimes, even controversial subject lines work for you, as they are successful in getting the reader’s attention.

Negative email subject lines also have a higher open rate. Here are some examples of well written negative email subject lines

  • This is how your bank cheats you”
  • “This is how your doctor fleeces you”
  • “Stupid people earn more than you”

Once he/ she opens the mail, you can give a short introduction about why you have given them such a subject and then mention how your mail connects with the call to action/ click button/ clickable link mentioned.

Type 2 – Highlighting benefits

Your subject lines should clearly specify the benefit that the recipient would get if he reads your mail. This is most suitable when you are confident that you’re sending the mail to the right target group who would be interested in your product/mail for sure.
But remember, this kind of a subject line works like a double edged sword. If your mail reaches a person who is not interested in the product, you could get blocked by him/her instantly!

Writing email subject lines like:

  • 50% discount on shoes”
  • “10 days to lose your weight”
  • ” 5 easy steps to control your finances”

These are examples of how email subject lines can help catch the reader’s attention and prod them to open the mail.


Type 3 – Urgency

Subject lines that call on you to act immediately due to a certain deadline or a pressing target are classified under these.

These subject lines are most suitable for someone who has not been responding or opening your mails for quite some time or to ensure that some stock clearance can be done immediately.

The message, though, is crystal clear that the offers and the conditions mentioned in the mail are time bound and cannot be expected after a certain period of time.

Email Subject Lines like:

  • Offer limited for 24 hours only”
  • “First 100 products selling @ 70% discount”
  • “VIP offer for 2 days”

These are email subject lines that usually get the reader to act immediately and open the email.

A word of caution here… Do not send a mail about an offer that is not limited for the period you claim it to be. Sending fake claims is the last thing you want to do and it is sure to get you blocked. Also, when you send out offers, be doubly sure that the person who receives would have some interest in it. If you do not follow these ground rules, you are bound to increase your complaint rate.


Type 4 – Credibility

By adding a proof of credibility, you just made your mail an authentically marketed product that people will not hesitate to open.

To do so, you can use such phrases to the subject line:

  • “As seen on TV”
  • “As seen on XYZ TV show”
  • “Best product as per MTV, Voted No. 1 cosmetic company by XYZ).

By adding a stamp of approval to your product or company in the email, you are legitimizing it. People will know that they are getting a product/service that has been successful and has received numerous citations for its benefits. This is one of the best email subject lines to use, but getting a credible person/ organization to endorse can be difficult.


Additional tips

In addition to the types of subject lines mentioned above, here are some additional guidelines that can help you nail the perfect subject line that can assure you of a higher mail open rate:

  1. Never use just one subject type mentioned above. Use a mixture of them. Make a schedule of the type you will use on each day to avoid over usage of a certain type. Using just one type will lead to a high complaint rate soon.
  1. Personalize your subject. Try to use the receiver’s name in the mail and subject. A higher level of personalization translates into a greater rate of mails being opened. All the major Email Service Providers have Personalization options available. (See my review of Aweber or Getresponse)
  1. Try to choose an appropriate time to send a mail. The results will differ, but it has been observed that a mail which reaches an inbox when the person is about to start his day/ start after a break gets more attention than other mails already in his inbox. Therefore sending a mail between 9:30 – 11 AM, and post lunch, between 2 – 2:30 PM, increases the probability of your mail getting opened. In case the recipient is in another time zone, try to schedule the mail accordingly.
  2. Try to use words like free, percent, reminder, etc as rarely as possible. These should be used rarely when you want to bump up your mail open rates or to sell some limited edition products quickly.


  1. Keep your email subject lines precise. Try finishing your subject line in 3 – 5 words (to fit subject lines in Mobile browser)


  1. Use controversial email subject lines to grab attention. They are bound to stand out in a crowded inbox and urge the recipient to open the mail. (But not very frequently)


  1. Use a mildly negative subject. They are proven to get more open rates.


  1. The first line of your mail must co-relate to the subject. We mean that this line should be even before Hi!! The preview part of any mail service lets users see the first few words and if this is not engaging like the subject, they may just delete it.


  1. Test your email subject lines before sending them out to your mailing list. This ensures you do not spend too many resources on a subject line that may not work.


  1. Include a call to action button in your email subject lines. An interested reader may not want to go through the mail, but may prefer to go to the link directly. As your final goal is of the reader clicking on the action button, this is an important point for you.


  1. While signing off, use your own name or one that sounds credible at least. Who trusts some nameless, faceless person? A human name makes it easier to trust and it is definitely getting you more reads. The @noreply mails are far too many and it’s the first thing that prompts a user to delete your mail.


  1. Using numbers gives a strong definitive meaning to your subject and they actually can hold on to wandering eyes, which gets the mail read. Use this for sure!!


While concluding this post, I would just like to highlight a fact that is overlooked many times. The articles and blog posts that you read online usually stem from the experiences of the internet marketers who have written them. Since the experiences could vary from person to person, it is important to see how these strategies fit in your situation and apply them accordingly. So you can get the best results from your email marketing efforts and maximize your gains.

P.S – I will credit all my Success + Learnings of Email Marketing to a Course called Email Domination by Anthony Morrison. If you wish to Learn to do Email Marketing in a proper way then you should also enrol in the course and learn.


Leave your Comments below if you liked the Content 🙂

Saurabh Bhatnagar

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