The Three Key Elements of Irresistible Email Subject Lines

Email is back.

Despite repeated proclamations of its extinction, rumors of the death of email marketing have been greatly exaggerated — especially since email and social media are a powerful combination. You might not reach the average college freshman, but for slightly older types (you know, the ones with the money), email is still the way to go in many lucrative mainstream niches.

You must first, of course, get your emails read. And it all starts with the subject line.

Email subject lines are a form of headline. They perform the same function as a headline by attracting attention and getting your email content a chance to be read.

So, headline fundamentals still apply. But the context is different, with the email space having its own funky little quirks that need to be accounted for.

Here’s the good news — email also implies a special relationship with the reader; a relationship that will get more of your messages read, even with subject lines that wouldn’t work in other headline contexts. Let’s take a look back at headline fundamentals, the specifics that apply to subject lines, and the “secret sauce” that makes email your top conversion channel.

1. The Fundamentals:

When you’re writing your next subject line, run it through this checklist, based on the Four “U” Approach to headline writing:

  • Useful: Is the promised message valuable to the reader?
  • Ultra-specific: Does the reader know what’s being promised?
  • Unique: Is the promised message compelling and remarkable?
  • Urgent: Does the reader feel the need to read now?

When you’re trying to get someone to take valuable time and invest it in your message, a subject line that properly incorporates all four of these elements can’t miss. And yet, execution in the email context can be tricky, so let’s drill down into subject-line specifics for greater clarity.

2. The Specifics:

Beyond headline fundamentals, these are the things to specifically focus on with email subject lines:

  • Identify yourself: Over time, the most compelling thing about an email message should be that it’s from you. Even before then, your recipient needs to know at a glance that you’re a trusted source. Either make it crystal clear by smart use of your “From” field, or start every subject line with the same identifier.
  • Useful and specific first: Of the four “U” fundamentals, focus on useful and ultra-specific, even if you have to ignore unique and urgent. There are plenty of others who work at unique and urgent with every subject line — we call them spammers. Don’t cross the line into subject lines that are perceived as garbage. But do throw in a bit of a tease.
  • Urgent when it’s useful: When every message from you is urgent, none is. Use urgency when it’s actually useful, such as when there’s a real deadline or compelling reason to act now. If you’re running your email marketing based on value and great offers, people don’t want to miss out and need to know how much time they have.
  • Rely on spam checking software: We all know that certain words trigger spam filters, but there’s a lot of confusion out there about which words are the problem. Is it okay to use the word “free” in a subject line? Actually, yes. All reputable email services provide spam checking software as part of the service or as an add-on. Craft your messages with compelling language, let the software do its job, and adjust when you have to.
  • Shorter is better: Subject line real estate is valuable, so the more compact your subject line, the better. Don’t forget useful and ultra-specific, but try to compress the fundamentals into the most powerful promise possible.

3. The Secret Sauce:

Getting someone to trust you with their email address is not easy. Twelve years ago when I started in email publishing, people would sign up for anything remotely interesting.

No longer.

But if you do gain that initial trust, and more importantly, confirm and grow it, you can write pretty lame subject lines and people will still read your messages. Just as with that ditzy friend from high school who nonetheless always has something interesting to say, trust and substance matter most.

Don’t get me wrong, writing great subject lines combined with the more intimate relationship email represents is much more effective. And you have to get your initial messages read to establish the relationship in the first place. Regardless, your open rates will improve based on the quality of your subject line.

But there’s something special in this jaded digital age about being invited into someone’s email inbox. You just have to over-deliver on the value to ensure you’re a treasured guest who gets invited back.

The inbox can be a stressful place. How do you make it brighter?

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Google+.

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Comments

  1. Emails cannot be dead. They are still the strongest form of communication. Anyway, these tips are great. It’s often difficult to get my emails read by the recipient. It’s really difficult.

    Off-topic: I liked the picture attached. :D

    • With as many emails as land in my inbox everyday, there is no way I could believe that email was ever dead. It is difficult to get emails read, thanks to so much spam and viruses.

    • Emails will never be dead even though we all get swamped by so many emails on a daily or even hourly basis.

      Some of the best performing email subject lines actually come from my best performing adwords headlines.

      I keep a huge archive of emails so I can get ideas anytime. Best of all, I swipe whatever I can from this blog.

      Love the 4Us, it’s so easy to recall.

  2. Hey Brian,

    That post you did “Writing Headlines That Get Results” is one of those post that I continually re-visit very often. It is getting more challenging to get those emails open. The key that I’m seeing is what you said, “gain that initial trust”

    Thanks for bringing this topic out!
    Josh

  3. “The inbox can be a stressful place. How do you make it brighter? ”

    That’s a beautiful quote, right there !

    I am still struggling with emailing people on the subscription level. I have always have the fear that I sound like spamming people, and that’s something I hate like hell.

    Brian, this post has clarified my eyes yet once again !
    Thanx for rocking so hard !

  4. I started blogging by sending out emails. By the constant server failures and rejections (I was spamming… he he) I opened up my first ‘free’ blog. After that I really started learning but did realize that emails with proper headlines got read more,…. the same is true about blog posts, books, anything really that has a good title.

  5. Hi
    This is what called a great post.Identifying our self is most important thing to do.I am just posting a post by today how to test what kind of blogger you are to help people know themselves better.

    Thanks For Sharing Awesome Post
    -Abhishek

  6. Wow! This post is Awesome Brain,

    I am hearing about the 4-U’s for the first time and they are things that don’t reflect in my emails at all ;).

    I will also work on that of urgency, it works!

    Relationship is the key, once you could get your subscribers to trust you every other things will be easy.

    Thanks a lot for the great post,
    -Onibalusi

  7. Great post as usual, Brian. I’d love to see a half-dozen or so samples of some of your favorite subject lines–both ones you’ve used and ones you’ve read.

  8. I read awhile ago that social media has overtaken email as the number one thing people spend their online time on. I believe the stat was 17% of online time is spent on social media. However, I don’t think that takes into account the fact that most people read their emails first thing everyday. To me, that makes them extremely powerful. Before the day is cluttered, and there’s too much to do, people read what’s in their inbox.

    That’s why I love this post, as it teaches how to make sure your email is one of the ones given time to. Thanks for such great tips that will for sure lead to much more successful email blasts.
    -Rebecca

    • That may be, too, because social media is more time-consuming. (Unless your email inbox looks like mine, and I hope it does not.) But as you say, the context matters a lot. Email is still the tool that for many people represents “things I need to take action on today.” Which makes it a really good place to put a promotion.

      • Another plus for email –

        It’s nice having your offer under the deal of the day from Amazon and the order confirmation from iTunes. The inbox is where people shop

    • Rebecca, I blogged about the Nielsen research here, which also said that email was far and away the number one activity on mobile devices. The biggest change is not our use of email, but where we access it.

  9. Great tips, thanks! I have seen a bit of a resurgence, not in email marketing but in the attention it is getting for surviving its rumored downfall. :)

    I love email marketing, both as a marketer and a reader. These are great tips because the subject line is so important. I will definitely use your U’s in the future.

  10. When I first started my email list a few months ago, I thought, “oh no – another set of copy rules to follow. I just got a hang of seo and now I’m avoiding spam filters”.

    The low open rates also distressed me. All of these people double-opted in. Why are only a fraction opening it?

    Now I love sending the emails. What changed? I’ve seen myself get more comfortable sending them, and I’ve seen my response rates increase. I’m much more playful and personal in the emails than I am on the blog, and I think people like that

    My #1 tip? Get people to open with a subject line that builds “mystery”. Yes, Brian says be specific but I’ve seen higher rates with my subject lines being vague. I wrote “up all night” in one subject that was an email about how I stayed up late passionately writing a log post about passion. I saw a great response from that.

    • Hashim, sounds like you’ve earned that trust. Those are exactly the type of subject lines that you can start using with email that would likely never work in another context.

      Until then, even a specific subject lines have to tease a bit. They know something valuable is coming, but they don’t know how or what you’re going to tell them. The headline of this post is an example.

  11. I like the point about identifying yourself.

    It’s true, I treat emails from people I recognize different than those that seem to come from an unknown source. I may not read something right away, but at least if I know who it is from and why it is there it won’t get the spam button.

    The spammers do a good job sometimes at creating curiosity but that only seems to work due to the huge volume they send out. They will send out all sorts of curiosity creating subject lines and only a few will hit at just the right time to get opened or noticed. What might work with the right timing is not going to work a lot of the time.

    I’ll work on the useful and specific like you suggest first.

  12. Blog titles can be larger than email titles.

    Bloggers use Subscribe to comments plugins, sending posts to emails.

    Interesting!

  13. Brian,

    This continues your argument that each piece, each line of copy, has a critical job to do. The job of the subject line is to get the first line read or, at least, get the email opened. Just like the job of the headline is to get the first line read and so on.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that despite the effort I now invest in headlines (thanks in big part to Copyblogger), I haven’t been as diligent with subject lines.

    Until now.

  14. Peggy Campbell :

    According to our team, then … your own subject line for this blog should have been … “You’ll be irresistible!” :-)

  15. An interesting way to practice subject lines (and email marketing in general) is to use email marketing software to handle email subscriptions for your blog updates, but to mail your list manually every time you have something new on your blog instead of having your RSS feed automatically push your posts to subscriber inboxes.

    This might not be a good fit for an outlet like Copyblogger that posts very frequently and consistently because it would be way too much work.

    But if you’re publishing less frequently…say once a week, it lets you practice creating subject lines and short messages that get clickthroughs. It also gets your subscribers used to seeing hand crafted emails from you in their inbox.

    The only risk you run is some people might not click over to the blog and your post doesn’t get read when it might otherwise have if you had sent it automatically in its entirety.

    I’ve noticed Dave Navarro does this to let people know about new blog posts.

    Just remember that people signed up for your blog updates and not a bunch of offers and pitches.

    • Mark, great point. With our general blog feed, we let it go out as is, subject line and all. The better the title, the better the open rate, without fail.

      With the IMfSP newsletter, everything is custom crafted for the email space. I’ve seen many people take the custom approach for both new blog posts and for newsletter and promotions, and it’s definitely worth considering.

  16. Very useful reminder… Unique is the one I find the most important. How many emails are we getting with a subject line “follow-up”, “thank you”, “minutes of meetings”. These ones get ignored.

  17. So where can you learn that ABC’s of creating an email list, getting people to opt-in, creating interesting content, etc? All I know is that Aweber is a good one.

    Perry Marshall has really good seminars, but what about for a beginner trying to do this stuff himself on a shoestring budget?

    • Raza, we cover all of that for free in our Internet Marketing for Smart People email course. Check it out.

      • Thanks… now why don’t I see big e-commerce sites using email marketing as aggressively as affiliate sites. You visit an affiliate site and you get a pop-up offering some kind of free report in exchange for my email. If I’m engaged enough, I’ll willingly give up my email.

        Does this technique work for e-commerce stores? I notice you guys don’t have pop-ups here on on Copyblogger. What’s the best way for an e-commerce store to harvest email addresses without being obnoxious.

  18. Wow…is email Old-School now or am I just getting old ;)

    Your post brought up a question I’ve been wrestling with – what role does email play on my content ladder? For now, I use email to add more value to my blog posts. This way, subscribers are more likely to open the emails because they want to dive deeper into the particular topic.

    Still need to write great subject lines though. I’m sure I’ll be referencing this post often PLUS the ones in the Magnetic Headlines series :)

  19. I like your 4-U’s.

    I wish someone would invent a way to evaluate your post BEFORE you send it. To think all that work might end up being labeled as spam is exhausting. To think no one opens and reads the email is just as devastating.

    In some ways dissecting each part of the post reminds me of high school, when you would go through 25 outfits to wear under your coat at the football game. I think you’re point about “YOU” –identify yourself, you know your audience and they know you makes all the difference.

  20. Brian..

    These tips are great.. thanks for breaking it doing using the four U’s – I think you summed it up with this line

    “You just have to over-deliver on the value…”

    When you’ve already built enough trust and credibility with your subscribers, they’ll open it when it’s form you – I strongly believe that.

    great info
    talk soon
    Hector Cuevas

  21. Brian,

    Love the 4-U’s. Clear and specific and very helpful.

    And I think your #3 about trust is critical (and often overlooked). Since email is sent to people with whom we already have a relationship, it’s both more effective than just posting a comment somewhere, and easier to abuse by potentially breaking the trust.

    Thanks as always for getting me thinking.

    Michael

  22. Thanks for the post. Email will never “die”–it;s the most personal form of internet communication. And trust is always going to be key. Without trust, email is viewed as spam. Thanks for your focusing observations.

  23. In his Guest Blogging Course http://guestblogging.com/ Jon Morrow shares some great “Headline Hacks.” If you’re not in that course it’s worth it just for the headline PDF.

    Subject lines that increase open rates are more about keeping it simple than being sly or tricky.

    Often I get the highest opens and interaction that lean toward curiosity or straight forward telling…

    1. “NAMS5″ – what’s that? No one really knew, so the open rate was up there. Like Hashim said above, the “mystery” generates the click.

    2. “4 articles, 7 updates.” Four articles promised non-pitch content, so it lowers the barriers.

    3. “From:” Once people trust you then your name becomes the greatest subject line. And that’s one of our goals, right? To be so known and anticipated by our community that they ignore all other emails but the one with your name.

    Who’s against… “Hey, love your emails. I’ve unsubscribed from almost every newsletter but yours.”

    None of us. We’d all love to be that valuable to our people.

    Thanks for a great article Brian!

  24. Great article Brian! I posted something similar on my site a while back. In my opinion, I’d have to say the “From” field trumps the subject line every time – i never open any email because of what the subject line reads, I always want to know who it came from first. With as many emails as we get, and as little time we have, we have to be choosey with who’d email we open. Thanks again!

  25. Brian –

    Nothing gets me as pumped as a blogger advocating for email marketing. I tend to read posts like these through a very critical lens. I guess part of me feels this need to defend my industry (ha ha). I started to get a bit nervous as you began talking about the importance of a good subject line. I was worried that you would stop there.

    Then, I read this: “But if you do gain that initial trust, and more importantly, confirm and grow it, you can write pretty lame subject lines and people will still read your emails.” Bingo. I also tell people that while the subject line is important, who the email is from is critical to getting an open. Why? As you said, it’s about trust.

    As it turns out, Loren McDonald wrote an article for MediaPost’s Email Insider today titled, “Does the Subject Line Matter Anymore?”” – http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=134461 (nice URL, huh?) It’s worth the read as Loren is not only an excellent writer, but he knows his stuff. I LOVE this line, “But I propose that if your email program needs a “killer” subject line on each and every message to succeed, you have larger issues to tackle.”

    Love to hear your thoughts, Brian. Looking forward to saying hi at Blogworld again this year.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

    • Hey DJ, good to see you here!

      I think you, and Loren, are dead on. Let me explain why I approached this topic the way I did.

      The secret sauce comes after trust. And trust comes after attention. Assuming you can write titles with no obvious and specific beneficial promise *before* anyone knows you or trusts you is not only ineffective, it’s arrogant.

      The problem I see is that people look at someone like Seth Godin, who writes empirically vague blog titles, and thinks “That’s how I should do it.” No you shouldn’t, because you’re not Seth Godin. Not even close.

      Seth has earned attention and trust in spades. He’s also one of the most authoritative marketing minds around.

      You have to earn attention, authority, and trust before you can write any ol’ subject line or blog title you like and still have people invest attention with you. The good news is, it’s not that hard to do if you really focus on consistently delivering value to your readers first and foremost.

      • Brian,

        While I like a lot of your points in the post, I agree with Chad below that in fact the From Name is ultimately more important. The From Name is the brand that is trusted and sought out – or ignored if you fail to deliver value over time.

        The Copyblogger newsletter in fact gets it totally wrong, IMHO. I started subscribing a few weeks ago, and then received an email from someone name Sonia Simone. I have no idea who this person is. I did not sign up for the “Sonia Simone” newsletter – I signed up for the Copyblogger newsletter.

        Secondly, the use of brackets at the beginning of a subject line, as Copyblogger does [Smart People] was in vogue about 5 years ago, but most people have moved away from that as it wastes valuable real estate. The From Name should convey any necessary sub branding. Further, I have no idea what “Smart People” refers to – it adds no value, it gives me no insight as to why I should open the email.

        While you may have thoroughly trained your subscribers over time to recognize these two approaches, I’m betting if you used “Copyblogger” as your From Name and dropped the “[Smart People]” – you’d actually see higher engagement.

        That said, I love the site and content. Keep up the great work.

        And thanks for the call out DJ Waldow!

        • Loren, thanks for contributing.

          First point, there are plenty of email publications I subscribe to (like SilverPop), which I only read based on the subject matter. To suggest that the “from” line is the only relevant indicator is to ignore reality — people pay attention at various levels, and it’s largely topical. In that scenario, the subject line rules. And it’s more common than the pure affinity a few enjoy.

          As for your other suggestions – pure gold. I’ll be chatting with Sonia about this. It’s so easy to get caught up in what you think works when you don’t have an educated outside viewpoint.

          I should send you a check, right? ;)

          • Brian –

            I figure I should get a cut of that check since I brought Loren over here, right? Ha ha.

            In all seriousness, I love the conversation here in the comments. LOVE. I know you are an Aweber client – I’m with Blue Sky Factory and Loren is at Silverpop – but I can speak for both of us when I say that Loren and I love this stuff. We’d be happy to talk email marketing “best practices” with you any day of the week. I learn a ton for this blog every single day.

            Imagine if we joined forces…

            DJ Waldow
            Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
            @djwaldow

            P.S. I happen to agree /w Loren on most of his comments above. The fact that I’ve met Sonia before (& engage w/ her on Twitter) helped earn the trust. Also, I think we’d all agree that subject line + a trusted/recognized from name is really the golden ticket.

          • Brian,

            No check necessary, your response is payment enough. :-)

            As DJ Waldow referenced above, my Email Insider column today was on subject lines – “Does the Subject Line Matter Anymore?

            My main point is that I think we put way too much emphasis on subject lines, for most companies. Ultimately it is the brand and the value from the emails over time that drive whether you get 15% open rates or 40% on a consistent basis.

            Individual subject lines can move the needle up or down, but what you are looking for is that the emails provide consistent value so that I will want to open the emails regardless of subject line.

            That said, good subject lines certainly don’t hurt. :-)

        • Loren – great points and I agree with most of them. But I actually like the idea of having the [Smart People] in the subject line, as long as it’s from “Copyblogger”, because it differentiates that email from other Copyblogger emails such as blog posts notifications and whatnot.

          If you subscribed for a special sequence of emails – these may be more important to you than the standard Copyblogger emails.

          The company I work for sends out plenty of promotional emails on a wide range of events as well as newsletters and such. I’ve found the open rates increase significantly on a segmented list (people who have subscribed for the event) if I start the subject line with the event title and then continuing with the normal subject line..

          • Chad,

            Ya, that is a tough one. Though I’ve been reading Copyblogger posts for a long time, I only opted into the newsletter a few weeks ago….and not really aware that I am going to get multiple types of emails. Going to go back and look at the Welcome Email and see how those expectations were communicated and managed.

            One approach is to differentiate email streams, as you say with the use of brackets at the front of the subject line, but another approach is that if the emails are that different they should probably have separate opt-in options for the subscriber and hence separate “from brands.” (This can be done through a simple preference center.)

            So “from” could be:
            – Copyblogger News
            – Copyblogger Blog Alert
            – etc.

            There is no right or wrong approach for everyone, in the end put yourself in the recipient’s head – what makes most obvious sense to them…and that will probably get you close to the right answer.

    • On an earlier point that Brian made, I was about to confess that I often file IMFSP emails away to read later!

      Second confession – I do search these emails out when I feel like I need them!

      For anyone building trust with their audience BEFORE they sign up, I suggest going with the mysterious subject lines..

  26. Awesome article Brian. Seriously. I printed it off, three-hole punched it, and put it in my “email” binder. It’s that good.

    With that said, the one line that just drives me nuts is “You must first, of course, get your emails read. And it all starts with the subject line.”

    I believe it all starts with the “From” field. That field is, by far, more important than the subject line. Building up trust, delivering great content every time, and NEVER spamming will make your “from” field shine.

    I know you touched on it during the article and I get the sense that you agree… but I’m stubborn and I just had to bring it up ;)

  27. And don’t forget that the first line of your email (or a portion thereof) often shows in previews, such as in Gmail.

    Best to do a test email to your Gmail (or other) to view how it looks. I still see goofy first line (and Subject) accidents from very established marketers.

    • Really good point about the first line. Not every reader previews email, but many do, and you want the header and the first line to work well together (as well as your subject header working alone if needed).

      We also have to be realistic that HTML mail is going to look goofy in *something*. AOL, Yahoo, etc. tend to do really bizarre things with format, and Outlook actually has some weird eccentricities also.

      • Hi Sonia,

        I must disagree with you about the emails looking goofy. With good email design, your emailing will look as you intended it in different email clients. The only one that should have goofy looking emails would be by Walt Disney. :)

        Email rendering can be tested within your email platform or with a rendering tool like http://www.limusapp.com.

    • A lot of companies are seeing great results by using what has become referred to as “pre-header text” I line of copy that is your core call-to-action with a link at the very top of your email. Before any logs, images or administrative links, etc.

      This ensures that the core CTA can be seen on Blackberrys, in Gmail snippets, preview panes, when images are blocked, etc…Anecdotally, a couple of respected companies recently mentioned that moving to the use of pre-header text has increased conversion rates several percentage points.

  28. I like to use the “huh?” factor when I am creating my subject lines. In that really tiny space my favorite way is to take something from obscure current events and then add a benefit to the reader.

    For example, my newsletter subject line today was “5 Ways to Get Customers Lining Up Like a Chinese Traffic Jam”

    I don’t do this every day, because it would get stale, but this seems to work very well for me. It all depends on the humor level and background of your audience.

    I like to use infotainment as much as possible, because, like Brian says, people are really tired of a full in-box and need a lot of value from you if you expect to get that thing opened.

    I am back and forth about using names in the subject line. They don’t have much effect positive or negative. I think it’s because people never do that in their personal emails, so you KNOW its a business sending you something.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  29. A great read, golden insight.

    I have been debating whether to contact some Resort Manager via email and now with this informative guide, I will definitely do it.

  30. You know what it’s like when you see a 1,000 piece puzzle piled on your kitchen table and you can’t wait to get started?

    And then you get going and for a while you make awesome progress and then you slow down a bit because it got confusing, or you couldn’t find what you wanted and didn’t know how to figure it out.

    After a bit the kids get in and do some, the neighbor stops by and they add a bit and you do some more…

    Little by little when you stand up from the puzzle-hunch position and unscrew your face, you realize that there really is a bigger picture and that all the parts do fit together, you just need to know which bit goes where, and sometimes you could use some help.

    Sounds an awful lot like blogging to me. Happily all you guys are so smart and know what the picture should look like, so telling me where and how to place each piece of this puzzle is unbelievably valuable.

    Yeah – another skill to learn, and more information to help me do it. Phew. Thanks for the help. Again.

  31. Brian,

    Nice follow up to the previous headlines post, because they are are similar but definitely different animals.

    In my case, at the moment any way, most of my e-mails to my list are just my blog posts because I have had people sign up for specific post subjects via e-mail. I’ll be expanding what I send as I bring finish some products I’m developing, etc. But right now, it’s just the post and some contact info.

    Is it better, do you think, to remain consistent by having my subject line provide the title of the post or is there wisdom in mixing it up with a more polished subject line referring to the post?

    (Or is it smarter to improve my post titles so they work as both headlines and subject lines?… Hmmm.. Never mind.)

  32. Well written. I love the content you guys are bringing.
    I have found what you are saying absolutely correct. The more value I bring at the start the more people read my emails.
    So if I start the relationship off with great information that helps them, they are more than likely to give me some grace when I write something that is not that great…
    Hey I failed school so that happens a little too often haha :)
    James

  33. yep, the subject is a tricky one

    i find that the balance between alluring and honest is a fine line

  34. This article had some really great points. Getting your emails read is a very important marketing strategy. The 4-U approach is a great idea and one I will be trying. I’d like to suggest another article that provides insight into the power of email and other marketing tools.
    “Eight Rules for Marketing a New Product”
    http://www.greenbuzzagency.com/eight-rules-for-marketing-a-new-product

  35. I’m always trying to get my emails right, but it’s hard and you make it sound fairly easy. I believe that the hard part is that all email is based upon trust, when you send an email and the receiver don’t trust you enough… it doesn’t matter how good your email is (well, it helps you build the trust).

    For instance, when I receive your newsletter I know what that it’s going to be awesome, no matter the topic.

  36. The more emails I send, the better the open rate. Skip a week and it drops by about 15%.

    Markus Trauernicht

  37. Those are great suggestions, but the hard part is including all the elements in the subject line and still making it short enough to have impact.

  38. A good headline is 90% of the battle. You have only one line to get their attention. You got to make it good.

  39. Some great advice here Brian. We’ve found that there has been quite an upturn in the number of people using our email marketing services recently- basically because people’s budgets are tight and email offers the most cost effective way of reaching a wide audience. Getting the right headline is a fundamental part to making the whole thing work though, and something most clients get wrong. I’ll be sending a copy of these tips to all my clients! :-) Many thanks for posting.

  40. I love this topic. I have avoided emails for at least 4 years and now I see it as necessary. Still need to grow a list, but I am working on that too. I get MANY from various people often and I find your mention of TRUST as the #1 reason “I” read others email. Of course, I look forward to getting them from Copyblogger everyday because I love everything I read…Truly. I also love to read EVERY email from Tyler Perry…no fluff just plan common sense and I love it. Most importantly these emails are important to me because they “connect” with my space and desires. Yes, the headlines for others at least captures me to open them, but the trust for the person’s name definitely comes first. I love you guys. THANK YOU!

  41. First let me say that this is a really popular blog. Its crazy how many tweets this post got. Anyway great info about email marketing. It can never die because email is a very popular form of communication..

  42. I chuckled when you said that the people with money are the ones that use email. How true! My customer demographic is 45-60 year olds. That age group definitely uses email and I have found drip email campaigns (sent out every 20 days for a year) to be highly effective. Just enough to remind them we are still here without seeming too spammy.

    • That’s a really interesting frequency! That’s an important point, getting to their in-box enough to remember who you are, without becoming an annoyance.

  43. Thanks for the reminder. I try and look at my subjects as a reader would. Would the subject line be one that would compel ME to open it, or would I just delete it unread? If I would open it then likely my readers would.

  44. It’s the essence of effervescence.

    Bubbling up to the top seems like magic until you reveal the man behind the curtain (or we have a bottle of your secret sauce.)

    Getting my email read at work used to just be something I could count on … 100%. Now, I guess everybody’s network has exceeded their monkeysphere.

    Now I have to use the ultimate short-cut and not only whip out rapport skills 101, but I have to dig deep and go straight for the values jugular. Connecting at values is always the short-cut.

    It’s a bit more work, but I do find that just even having that lens makes things a whole lot easier. With some careful aim (plus a dash of dastardly luck), I find I can land in a unique spot in their mind … and stick Jerry Garcia style.

  45. I don’t think that e-mail can ever be dead.

  46. This goes back to a solid old maxim: ‘Have something worthwhile to say or don’t say it.’ Not bad guidance from our grandmothers as well as our new age ‘net gurus.

  47. e-mail will never die and the thoughts of it’s demise are not well thought out.

    Same for search. Every so often people talk about the demise of search – to be replaced by facebook searches, twitted info, etc. I say bullbeep.

    Email will be the equivalent of printing something on paper. All the rest, twitter, IM, facebook, etc. ,will be like voice conversations.

  48. Email still works because it such an immediate connection for people. So yes, the trick is to make the subject compelling enough so they’ll want to click on the email.

  49. Hi Brian,

    Email is here to stay! I always love reading about ways for your emails to get read. Your 4 U’s are amazing! Will definitely keep them in mind. Great emails always have something new, fresh and interesting to offer but the challenge is always writing great email headlines! Thanks for all the great tips!

  50. Is CopyBlogger running on Thesis or Genesis? I am confused when I see the intro that CopyBlogger runs on Genesis while this theme is Thesis?

    Thanks for great article and subject lines means headline and it is very important to all of us

  51. Found your site and I love it. Thanks for all the great advice and insights. I’ve got you bookmarked now.

  52. G’Day Brian,
    I’ve often wondered why the gurus don’t place more emphasis on the importance of the subject line in getting an email opened.
    It seems to me that it’s probably even more important than the headline in the email itself.
    Thanks for your most helpful tips.

    Regards

    Leon

  53. We would agree that Email Marketing is important and often overlooked. It rounds out an effective marketing and outreach strategy.

    With the very many 3rd party email services available more brands should be making the commitment to stay connected through this medium.

  54. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for taking your valuable time to write such a informative and great article. I totally agree that email subject lines are of much essence for newsletters and email marketing and I have learn this by practical and financial experience.

    Thanks once again.

  55. Brian,

    Great read. Thank you.

    Re: “shorter is better” –
    How many words is an ideal number in subject line?

    • Evelyn,

      There is no right answer on the number of characters in a subject line. This has been written about exhaustively, analyzed many times and the best rule is this:
      – To make sure that your core message of your subject line is at the front of the subject line. This ensures that if it is cut off in mobile devices, other clients that the recipient will get the essence of it.
      – That said, research from AlchemyWorx suggests that very long subject lines work well, short subject lines work well – but there is a range of medium ones (if I recall correctly) that work not as well. But this is just one study…

      So, I would focus less on the length and more on the power of the words/characters within say the first 40-50 characters – because that is what most people (except Blackberrys and other mobile devices will render) are certain to see…but then not be afraid to go very long, like 100 characters if your content will support it.

  56. Very informative article, thank you! Another tactic I use in the email subject lines (when appropriate) pre-test a subject line by emailing it to a select group of recipients. That way, you’ll have a better understanding of how a larger group of recipients will respond when opening your email.

  57. Thanks Brian. I am about to send out an email to about 10k right now and I couldn’t have had better timing with finding this.

  58. @Brian, I’m in the process of setting up email subscribers and will soon looking into email marketing. This is very helpful. Thank you so much.

  59. Loving the post – it’s so useful to find good resources on email marketing especially when they remind us of the real key basics we should be covering in our email marketing. Thank you : )

    Came across another one through their daily Twitter tips (@pure360 i think) – check out http://www.pure360emailmarketing.co.uk/email-marketing-resources-archive-insights for some cool guides. Also liked their blog, it’s pretty varied but an easy read…

  60. Really useful stuff – I do believe that e-mail is still important, if you know the sender of the e-mail you’re bound to read the content, otherwise the subject line is where we decide “read” or “rather not”.
    cheers

  61. nice article…emails are still a good marketing tool…but you have to be little careful while using it…thanks for your tips..

  62. I re-read this post very carefully before sending out my latest email blast. In less than 24 hours, I have an open rate of 23% (sent to more than 1,500 addresses.) I am very happy! Thanks for the great advice.

  63. That’s a great subject you covered here and very useful.

    I also think email will never die..we all have come to use it so much some of us would ‘die’ without it!!

  64. Great topic. Emails are very important, and subject lines are key. They must be clear & compelling, or people won’t open them.

  65. Just wanted to say, it’s all good really.

  66. Let me try two cases based on Brian’s insights.

    Subject Line #1: Why over Sleep when Less Prolongs Life?
    Health stuff…

    Subject Line #2: You don’t Need to be Smart just but Know How to Learn!
    Learning stuff (smart learning …)

    What do you think?

  67. Thanks Brian – as always a great read with practical and useful advice that one can use right away. Subject lines seem to be an aspect of email marketing that will always cause marketers hours of anxiousness and testing. Thanks for making it a bit easier!

  68. Email subject are really great ways to making messages read. I have opened and read spam messages because the Headlines were too good to be spam. good post!

  69. WOW, this is brilliant. I have noticed this is one of the current major problems for both businesses AND bloggers. Very good post and keep up the good work! I’ll be visiting soon again :)

  70. Great advice especially for “newbies” to email marketing and positive reinforcement for those of us doing this for a few years.

    The key is to break through the clutter and get our subscribers to open the email and offering these tips up can only help everyone here. Thanks on behal of those writing and reading them. Cheers,

  71. I need to start email marketing soon…

    So much good info, especially from your blog, but so little time for everything :/

    Thank You.

  72. I don’t read everything in my Inbox. Most of them just end up in the trash bin. And your advice are definitely ones that I would actually read. This is a really good article on email subject lines. Very direct to the point.

  73. I think that saying that email marketing is dead is crazy. I have a real estate company and newsletters are very powerful and keeps our previous customers up to date what apartments is on the market. Thanks for a great post

  74. With open rates so key aggregating traffic, it’s amazing how little emphasis is placed on email subject lines. There is no substitute for great copy.

  75. When prospects get your email marketing message, they make a quick decision to save or delete. How can you convince a busy prospect that your message is worthy of their attention?
    When prospects get your e-mail marketing message, they make a quick decision, usually in a couple of seconds, to open or delete it based largely on the subject line. But given the glut of promotional e-mail today, how can you convince a busy prospect — in just a few words — that your message is worthy of attention?

  76. Well I truly enjoyed studying it. This information provided by you is very effective for correct planning.

  77. As usual, sage advice.

    Lately, I’ve become immune to sensational headlines as online publishing is using any and all tactics to get your attention. On occasion, I’ve actually been disappointed with being misled by the headline. In once case, I got so tired of misleading headlines, I called it out with a comment to the author. I simply asked what editorial guidelines are in place. The author replied with a question to my question asking what I meant. His second mistake!

    I closed that exchange by simply posting a comment to the author that I am his reader (customer), not his editor, and that I was providing feedback (which in my mind should have been taken as valuable feedback). Now I think twice about reading the articles from the same author.

    Email titles are the same as headlines as Brian pointed out. Sensational but misleading titles can do more harm than good.

  78. Regarding the “rely on spam checking software”, I am not so sure it can be anticipated or assumed what spam checking software will do. It is getting more and more sophisticated, and there are options for the user to configure rules and the degree of stringency. “And adjust when you have to” doesn’t work if I don’t know if my messages were received in the recipient’s inbox.

  79. I agree that you have to gain the trust of your readers and THEN slap on the secret sauce for the real treat! More and more I find myself in ‘email hell’ as my inbox is inundated with SO many people trying to catch my eye with snappy subjects and then sell me something.

    My toolbox is filled with ‘rules’ which I apply to send these offenders to junk mail or purgatory trash, whichever I’m in the mood for at that particular moment! Conversely, that too, is a large fear for me–having this same rule applied to my emails. So, I can slap out a great email newsletter but, the subject title will take me twice as long to create as I want one that I believe won’t be offensive, yet capture the reader’s attention–and not find its way to the trash bin!

    Excellent post!

  80. David above is correct. The Sensational headline makes many of us all numb now. There is simply too much now. I find a personal simple byline works best. Something like ” John I have a few ideas you should consider” as a headline of subject line. Much better than ” Great IDEA WILL MAKE MILLIONS”. Any rate the more personal you can become and relevant to their interest the better you are .