Hey …

Email Marketing 101

How’s that for a headline?

If you saw the news out of the Obama camp yesterday, “Hey” was the most successful email subject line of a very data-driven and oddly personal email campaign for fundraising. By all accounts (especially election results), Obama’s digital strategy was a wild success.

So, I decided to try that headline with this post. I’ll be able to easily see how it does based on email open rates and traffic levels, plus other metrics like social sharing and commenting.

And, despite violating every bit of headline and subject line advice we’ve ever given you, it just might work. The reason why may surprise you, though.

I’ll be sure to let you know the results. But let’s add two points of perspective to this presidential headline approach.

Point One: You’re Not Barack Obama

The first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the news was that the “from line” advocates will soon be out in force. These are people who say that all that matters is who an email is from, not what it’s about.

To which I would say, “Of course. Especially if you’re the President of the United States. You know, the most powerful man in the free world.”

You, my friend, are a beautiful and unique snowflake. But you ain’t Barack Obama.

The whole idea of content marketing is to become the likable expert. To become someone who is known, liked, and trusted. You want to earn the right to attention based just on who you are.

The problem I have with those who say the “from line” is more important than the subject line is not necessarily that they’re wrong. It’s because they ignore the path to getting there in the first place.

Before you can rely on people paying attention to you because you are important, you have to become important to them. Unless you’re already well known, that means your headlines and subject lines have to be specifically focused on what’s topically important to your audience.

Here’s why today’s headline might work anyway.

Obama’s subject line was contextually weird. Let’s face it, the President of the United States sending you a message with the subject line “Hey” is unexpected and unique. It might even be a tad creepy, which only increases the inherent urgency to open it.

Likewise, receiving an email or post in your RSS feed from Copyblogger with the subject line “Hey” is also unexpected and unique within the context of what we usually do. It lacks specificity, yet manages to become urgent due to the contextual novelty.

If you really want to bake your noodle, factor in the effect of the article graphic on “click through cues” when readers look for it or see it first in certain digital reading environments. And what about the effect of the opening line in preview?

I’ll leave you to wrestle with those.

Overall, if this post does well, these factors will be why, combined with our own “from line” earned trust. But I still wouldn’t change our headline style, because the exception can only occur in this context because of the rule, not in spite of it.

But wait, there’s more.

Point Two: Specificity Wins Bigger Over Time

Here’s a rough approximation of a recent email exchange between our CFO, Sean Jackson, and me:

Sean: Hey, did you know Quantcast shows that we get more traffic than Seth Godin and Chris Brogan?

Me: So?

Sean: We should tell people!

Me: Sure, let’s alienate our mentor and friend by gloating about traffic.

Sean: Um, never mind.

I’m sharing this with you not to humble brag, but to illustrate a point. Seth and Brogan are consistently pointed to as people who have succeeded despite writing vague, non-specific titles.

Copyblogger.com alone gets more traffic than those two popular online marketing sites because we write intentionally engaging, specific titles to match intentionally engaging content (quality content is what all three sites do). This, despite the fact that we have the youngest website of the three.

Now, traffic in itself means very little if it isn’t driving your business goals forward. For us, maximizing our targeted traffic has allowed us to build an audience that built a software company with over 100,000 customers. This came essentially from nothing but content, and, importantly, the titles we chose for that content.

Well, that and a bunch of brilliant software developers. None of whom would speak to me if I hadn’t built an audience first. But I digress.

Simple A/B testing will show you the power of specificity when getting people to respond. A simpler method for us is to watch a piece of otherwise excellent content tank in open rates and social sharing simply because we missed the mark with the headline.

Plus, search engines need to know what your content is about in order to rank you, no matter how well loved you or the piece of content is. Titles remain a big part of that … not only for ranking, but also for click through rates by the people searching.

Seth is the consummate example of the power of the “from line.” People (including Sonia and me) will read anything Seth writes. He’s the online marketing equivalent of the President of the United States.

Would Seth get even more traffic and engagement if he wrote more specific headlines? Yes.

Chris Brogan and I discuss his headlines just about every time we chat. Best as I can tell, Chris knows he would do even better with better headlines, but it’s just not a priority for him. And Chris has certainly earned his “from line” credibility.

Would Chris get even more traffic and engagement if he wrote more specific headlines? Yes.

Seth and Chris succeed because people know, like, and trust them. Once you’ve gotten that, everything else is only a matter of desire, degree, and direction.

But keep in mind that in each of their own ways, Seth and Chris were early adopters and pioneers. You’re going to have to build your own trust within the context of the now for your particular business.

Does it Matter?

Here’s my ultimate take on the issue from back in 2010:

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.

Maybe you don’t care about maximizing your ultimate reach forever. Maybe your business model doesn’t even require it.

But you’ve got to get off the ground.

The way to do that is to deliver great content that attracts as many of the people you’re after as possible. And headlines that specifically promise to deliver that great value are a great way to make it happen.

Say “hey” in the comments and let me know what you think.

About the author

Brian Clark


Brian Clark is founder and CEO of Copyblogger, host of Rainmaker.FM, and evangelist for the Rainmaker Platform. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Nice post!
    I got here from your RSS-feed, but it wasn’t the “Hey” headline that caught my attention, it was the Email Marketing 101 image. I had to read the second paragraph three times before I even looked at the headline.

    /Stefan

  2. Worked on me.

  3. Hey! I must say I didn’t hesitate a second to click on the link when I saw it in my feed this morning. It was just too curious. Great points made with a wonderfully simple headline (which I suppose will work exactly once – and isn’t that exactly what we’re looking for?) .

    Happy Friday.

  4. Hey Brian,

    Totally agree about Seth being the proof of the power of the “from” line… but for me, the headlines he writes are a big part of what pulls me in over and over.

    Sure, they’re not specific, but it’s precisely their lack of specificity that regularly piques my curiosity. The fact that I don’t know what exactly a given article is about, coupled with the knowledge that I’m going to learn from it, keeps me from marking as read + archiving.

    Does that pull in someone who doesn’t know Seth yet and sees one of his headlines via a retweet? Maybe not as much as specificity would, and so in that regard you’re right on — he’d get more new visitors with more specific headlines. But (like you say) traffic isn’t necessarily the point. And IMO he’d be sacrificing part his brand by going specific.

    • I agree that Seth writes great headlines for his fans, even if you can’t tell what the topic is. They fall into the “clever” category, which only the most talented and trusted can get away with. Most often when someone tries to write a clever headline, it backfires completely.

  5. Hey… No denying that caught my attention in my feed reader lol

    But I have to partially disagree with you… Headlines catch the attention of the reader and often are the reason to bring the traffic from organic search but in my latest set of split tests headline is one of the variables I focus on with every batch of pages and the KPI of the pages have been almost the same on good titles and bad ones. It sort of confuses me lol the better titles SHOULD perform much better but they haven’t. But anyway my suggestion would be to use good headlines and bylines all the time – it’s just strange I’ve had half a dozen tests perform very similarly with drastically differing titles…

  6. Michael Corley :

    Hey Brian,

    I noticed the same difference in my email opens between property listing update or a market trend occurring in property sales.

    My headlines were terribly generic on the “Updates” email, which was sent from “The Team”.

    But when emails were sent from ME, with an eye catching headline about recent sales, my open rates were higher, as well as the click through a to the site.

    I’m no where near the celebrity that Obama, Seth or Chris are on the social web, but I may have stumbled upon what you’ve described as it relates to being known, liked and trusted.

    Glad you clarified it to make sense for me.

  7. Headlines can make all the difference in how well your content is received, simply because there is so much more noise to contend with. If you were an early adopter there wasn’t nearly as much competition to get noticed, so you could afford to play a little fast and lose as long as your content delivered. But now you have to contend with the superstars of your industry that could send an email with no headline and have people still read it, as well as the competition that is doing everything they can to catch someone’s attention from the get-go.

  8. Dude.

    • In all seriousness – and yes, I am replying to my own comment – I coud not agree more about everything you wrote. Interestingly, I first read this blog post as an email in my inbox. The “Hey” definitely caught my attention. However, the from name is what really was the reason I read the email/blog post.

      Here’s my take: The decision to open an email vs. delete/archive/mark as spam has almost 100% to do with the subject line AND the from name.

      Let’s start with the From Name. If you trust who the email is from, if you recognize them, if they have a history of providing valuable content … you are more likely to open the email.

      Now, toss in the subject line. If your subject line is interesting or unique or compelling (or all 3), there is a better chance your email will get opened. That being said, I’ve seen plenty of examples of “boring” subject lines (see Chris Penn’s Saturday Email) that drive incredible opens/clicks. Of course, that likely goes back to the From Name. If you know Chris and trust that his emails deliver value, the subject line is irrelevant.

      Pretty sure we just said the same thing. Re-reading what you wrote, I like your explanation better. Ha!

  9. I have to say the ‘Hey’ subject did catch my attention and I opened the email simply because I thought it was a weird subject line. I would think you could only use that on your list a couple of times before people lost interest.

    • Agreed, Lisa.

      We have highly engaged readers who would open every day even if the subject was “Yo,” “Urg,” “Um,” etc. But that would quite severely restrict the opens and shares from everyone else. ;)

  10. You got me,

    An email, with subject line Hey, would normally meet many of those who are sent to trash without being opened. This one got an immediate click to open the email.

    Normally copyblogger’s subscribed emails are left, to be read at ease on the smart phone. Good one!

  11. The “Hey” worked on me. Your point is simple, to the point, and I for one completely agree with you. Nice play here Brian.

  12. I always notice your emails in my inbox and read the headlines. Most of the time I think it’s something valuable I should read. But many times I don’t click because I don’t have time. I clicked on this email immediately because it is so different than your typical subject lines.

    • Good call. I think that’s the key why it worked: it was unexpected. There is a certain urgency in a headline that says “Hey.” It’s like something that you would get a from a friend who’s mother just died in a car wreck. It breaks the program because we’ve been trained to expect unique, useful, ultra-specific headlines. Build a campaign around it, however, and it will fade.

  13. Hey! Brilliant, Brian, absolutely bloody brilliant. Superb headline, so different from all your others and truly piqued my interest immediately. Your headline shouted volumes way above the noise of the other gazillion emails in my inbox this AM.

    Anytime you post such a unique headline, given your 100,000 plus membership, and all else that deserves humble bragging without restraint, it’s noteworthy. Creative. Different. Eyecatching. Unique, brief, different = eyes on page.

    I’m just starting up with a brand new shiny business model which gleams anew with each pearl from you. And hey, if it works for President Obama, got my attention and comes from you, all I can say is hey yeah!

  14. Hey! I opened your email at the moment I’ve seen the title :) Kudos! But I wouldn’t open the email if a sender is unknown to me.

  15. “Hey” – To be honest, it’s the headline that got me to read your post before lunch (when I usually catch up on reading). I had just had a call with a customer on the success of President Obama’a email campaign and this post was timely. One of the points I would add concerning your headlines and their (usual) specificity is that your posts are also conversational and informational. Without those qualities, a specific headline would only grab me once.

  16. I opened the “hey” email from both Copyblogger and President Obama, and would have done the same if Seth Godin or Chris Brogan had sent out an email with the same subject line.

    And you’re right, it all depends on who it’s from – because I trust Copyblogger and the President to some degree, I found the ‘hey’ subject line a little weird, but certainly intriguing enough to open. On the other hand, if you guys or the President used this subject line all the time, I’d lose interest quickly.

    Also, if I got an email from someone I didn’t trust with this same subject line, there’s probably no chance in hell I’d open it – it would go straight into the trash.

  17. Here’s my prediction: it will rock in open rates and comments. It will tank in social shares.

    • The reason I think it will tank in social is that we know most people share content based upon the headline (and *gasp* without reading it), and it just takes a lot of time to read and then come up with something in 160 characters. If the writer has already done the work for me in the headline, then clicking the share button is all I have to do. “Hey” and a link in my tweet stream would look like spam. :) I could be wrong though.

      • I think you’re right. I’m mostly interested in seeing email open rates. And I think you’re right about that too … but it will likely only work every once in a while (not hey, vagueness ;))

  18. Hey,

    I saw that article about Obama’s email campaign yesterday, so when I saw an email with the same subject from Coppyblogger I knew you would be talking about it. Normally, “Hey” would just look like a spammy email that I would delete straight away, but the from line made all the difference.

  19. …still smarting from the “I’m not Barrack Obama” thought.
    Also, I’m living proof that likability is not necessary for success.

  20. I think superb headlines attract attention and help to get your content read. This is essential when you’re starting out. If your content is good, you’ll begin to earn trust and if it’s entertaining as well your readers will begin to like you. Then your headlines don’t need to work quite so hard because they’ll recognise your name and trust that your email is worth reading.

    Content is the key. Bad content and a deluge of offers and promotions kill trust.

    Somehow you have to grow with your audience, otherwise they’ll move on. This is something you guys have a mastery for.

  21. Most emails with the subject hey where I don’t know the sender well get treated as spam. If Barak Obama sent me email with hey in the subject line I would have trashed it without reading because there is no reason for him to send me such an email i would have treated it as spam/possibly containing a virus. For me the fact that so many people opened the email is sad and explains why so many viruses and hoaxes continue to make the rounds; people don’t think before they click.

    • Well, on the other side of that, Tasha, presumably people who received the email had opted into the email. So they were expecting a message.

      • Yes and no. I would wonder if my or a friends email/computer was infected as many times I get spam from “friends” with subject lines that don’t make sense. I get email from PayPal (among others) all the time that is NOT from PayPal but instead is phishing email… Maybe I’m overly suspicious/paranoid from years of avoiding phishing/viruses/hoaxes/Trojan horses/etc. and friends who don’t think before clicking/forwarding but I’ve not had an infected computer ever and I frequently forget to reinstall virus software when I rebuild my computer. Getting a “Hey” from copyblogger not suspicious but from the president of the US… So the from matters, does the headline/subject match the sender, and I’m not sure how many times an organization sending “personal/friend” style/unrelated to content to me it would take before I’d unsubscribe because I felt used/lied to/lost trust. But I may be a minority.

        On the other-hand a marketing “trick” only works really well a few times. That is why you talk about the importance of content and headings. Those things build trust and have stayed relevant over the long run. Creating ones own innovative approach that blows everyone away is great but everyone jumping on it frequently waters it down and rarely can be as well done by others as the original.

  22. I opened this because the person who sent it is not known for wasting my time.

    The caveat you made about search engines using info in headlines is a good one. The most popular post on my blog has a headline packed with common keywords. I learned a hard lesson, since people would get much more out of the post -after- that, but the headline simply is not as effective.

  23. Hey, Brian. Brian? Is that you. Brian? Yes, obviously I opened your email and was curious about the unusual subject line, but the from line really did it. But that wasn’t what grabbed me the most.

    “Here’s a rough approximation of a recent email exchange between our CFO, Sean Jackson, and I:”

    It was that quote. Die you, YOU, the real Brian really make that horrible grammatical blunder? ‘I’ is the object of between, so it should have been ‘me,’ as I know you know…but I expect absolute perfection from Copyblogger, so I just had to tweak you a bit.

    • Good catch, fixed! Everyone makes mistakes, especially when writing quickly, late at night, without Robert or Sonia to do a final edit. I need to avoid that obviously. ;)

  24. I would have breezed over this email in my inbox had I not had the inbox open when this came in. It was the preview flash that caught my eye “How’s that for a headline?” I wanted to see what you had to say about such a weak headline.

    Typically these types of email subject lines cause me to skip over them and eventually delete them when I am cleaning out the inbox. It gives me the feeling of a company or individual who is try to be too familiar in order to get my attention. I expect the organizations I subscribe to will inform me of the perceived value they are delivering. That’s their job in my opinion. I am too busy to spend time going blindly through emails. Regardless of the company…grocery store, business products, shoe stores, mentors…tell me why your email deserves my attention. I suppose it all comes back to WII-FM.

  25. I always read Copyblogger emails when I see them unless the subject line sounds like a post I’ve read already (rare). That’s because they’re a treat for when I get my first task of the day done :)

    I love the link to the Obama campaign’s email results – I LOVE getting to snoop at other people’s strategies and results. I’m trying to get the perfect “From Name” so I can start being really casual like his campaign.

    One thing to keep in mind, is that some email programs (I use Gmail) show a preview of the content of the email next to the subject. So I saw “Hey…” and then “How’s that for a headline? If you saw the news out of the Obama camp ye…” – so there was NO WAY I wasn’t diving into that email as fast as I could! The content at the top of your email should always be just as engaging as the headline in my book :)

    • some email programs (I use Gmail) show a preview of the content of the email next to the subject. So I saw “Hey…” and then “How’s that for a headline? If you saw the news out of the Obama camp ye…”

      Yep. ;) I mentioned that in the post just to show how complex it can be to isolate a single element for testing. But with everything else remaining constant, it would be fun to split test “Hey” versus something else and see what won.

  26. I remember that “Hey” email and I rolled my eyes when I saw it (but yes, I opened it). I had noticed that many of Barack’s emails had the voice of a 20-something male. I figured that I had somehow gotten on the wrong list and that I was not the right demographic. I was getting tired of the emails–they read like texting conversations from college students.

    But still–I opened it. Hmmm…

  27. I read your blog religiously and have never commented before so “hey!”
    You can’t argue with success but I would have deleted an email from Obama entitled “Hey” because it is so out of the norm it reads like spam to me. I only opened this one because I know Copyblogger as a source and that you play around with things to get people’s attention. But it does make you think you might like to veer outside the rules now and then.

  28. As others have said, the only reason I clicked on “Hey” is because it came from Copyblogger.

  29. Hey.

    I read it because of the From, not the title. If anything, the Hey almost kept me from reading it. I just figured that if it came from Copyblogger, it might be worth reading.

  30. So I have to admit, the headline totally caught my attention when I saw it tweeted by Ricardo Bueno this morning. This was the exact text: “Hey… http://www.copyblogger.com/hey,” or something really close to that. I just HAD to click in order to find out what Copyblogger published that had “hey” in the url. Once I started reading, I wasn’t surprised to find out it was connected to the report published by Obama’s team of marketers. What they found is really interesting, namely that personal and informal seemed to do well. That doesn’t mean well-thought-out headlines like the one’s produced here don’t work, but at the very least, people seemed to be responding to conversational, personal subject lines, granted they were coming from Mr. President which automatically adds another variable to the equation. Takeaway: It’s definitely worth experimenting with personal, less polished/corporate subject lines, but I wouldn’t throw out the tried and true methods just because they worked for President Obama. Not yet, anyway.

  31. HEY!

    Liking this post content..we’re in the process of doing some extensive headline testing using Optimizely on our website and always doing A/B email newsletter headline tests, so this info will definitely come in handy when trying to increase open rates and engagement. At this point, we’re definitely going to be focusing more of our efforts on Point #2.

    Keep up the good work!

  32. I believe this may be the first comment I’ve left on Copyblogger, but I’m a dedicated reader and I wanted to share my experience regarding this post. I have a two-month-old son and I flip through the Google Reader app on my phone when it’s my turn to feed him (I work at home, so this happens frequently). Since I’m a regular reader and have gone through the Copywriting 101 series I gotta be honest – I furrowed my brows quite a bit when I saw the headline, but I knew there had to be a reason behind it. You didn’t disappoint. I am looking forward to the day when I can legitimately use the “Hey…” headline on one of my own posts.

  33. I love this game.

    Sean didn’t say “Let’s gloat about it.” Sean said ( at least you said Seth said. I really don’t know what he said. But, I’ll go with your take so I can make my point.)

    Seth said, We should tell people.

    This followed by your beautiful misdirection play…”… alienate our mentor.”

    THEN you did what Seth wanted done….. ” You told us.” LOL

    Copyblogger.com alone gets more traffic than those two popular online marketing sites because we write intentionally engaging, specific titles to match intentionally engaging content (quality content is what all three sites do). This, despite the fact that we have the youngest website of the three.

    I love this game.

    • Not really a game. A situation arose that made the information worth sharing. The fact alone was not worth sharing. See the difference context makes, once again?

      • The joy of ambiguity.

        P.S. I love to read the material here. Anyone who makes this connection…What Friedrich Nietzsche Can Teach You About Using WordPress Plugins… hangs with a crowd that needs to be heard.

        My aplogies to Sean. I tangled Seth and Sean. My bad.

        Have a good weekend

  34. It’s vague, but genuine and personal. “Hey” is something you use to send a reminder email to someone you’re supposed to spend some time with this weekend. In that way he’s forging a bond, and becoming a “regular guy.” This has it’s appeal. It’s an approach that’s free of gimmicks. In a day and age when everyone’s got an angle, this had a kind of refreshing appeal. Just my thoughts.

    • I agree, I’ve opened this exact same subject line sent from a friend who’s also a marketer — I thought it was a personal message. It has that feeling.

  35. I opened it in large part because of the preview text gmail showed me, which was: “Hey … How’s that for a headline? If you saw the news out of the Obama camp yesterda.” I wanted to know what the news from the Obama camp was. But the email also caught my eye because before I saw the from column, I thought it was probably from a family member.

  36. Brian,

    Hey was an “okay” headline.

    Using @copyblogger when you put it out on Twitter?

    Priceless.

    For me.

    Because I know, like, and trust you.

    The Franchise King®

  37. Loved the subject line, but…

    ONLY opened it because I know and trust you and all Copyblogger associated businesses. I thought this was an urgent message, was a bit disappointed — but enjoyed the content very much.

    So, “hey yourself, you!” :-) ~Jim

  38. Hey!

    For me, this email was quite timely as some coworkers and I were discussing the headlines of the Obama campaign (and they were helping me with writing a headline for our monthly newsletter) when the email arrived in my inbox. So even though I always open emails from Copyblogger, this time I immediately opened it and then forwarded it to all the coworkers I had been talking with – so you may have gotten more subscribers out of the deal! ;)

    Great article and content. As always.

  39. Great post :-) Don’t what your stats are going to reflect about your open and click through rates and I wanted to share why I opened your email…

    But first, I’d like to let you in on my personal standpoint on the headline – I abhor email headlines with the word “hey” (I’ve received several of those) . I may be oversensitive for the digital age but I think it sounds kind of rude and obnoxious. Plus from a writer’s point of view, it’s just plain lazy! I agree with you that specificity is key when it comes to getting maximum engagement through email headlines (especially when you’re – as you pointed out – just one unique snowflake among billions of unique snowflakes and not Barrack Obama or Angelina Jolie)

    So back to my original point – the only reason I opened the email was because I thought it was kind of shocking that Copyblogger would stoop to using a headline like “hey”. It just seemed so un- Copyblogger- like!
    I’m glad to know there was a good reason for it… Thank you for doing what you do. You guys never let me down!

  40. People who’re not very well trained try every Subject Line they read verbatim. They have no idea as to whether or not it will work in their niche, they just “copy” it, same as they do for their copy.

    Just because it works for the POTUS doesn’t mean a thing, unless your niche is being POTUS.

    A great marketer can read a Subject Line and know, 95% of the time whether or not “a series of words” will work or not in their niche, as a Subject Line, in an ad, in copy, whatever.

    Glad to see the Subject Line by Brian Clark on here ;-)

    • A great marketer really can read a subject line and know, 95% of the time whether or not “a series of words” will work or not in their niche, as a Subject Line, in an ad, in copy, whatever. That really struck home with me. Thanks.

  41. Hey Brian, here’s the thing: if the email is from CopyBlogger, you, or Sonia, I’ll open it. There’s always treasure n there.
    With much appreciation

  42. I’m reminding myself, blog readers are not unlike a live audience or a television/internet audience; different interests, attitudes, and quirks. I’ve spoken with 25 strong business owners in the same room and few of them use the same tools, follow the same marketing authority’s or do business the same. I try to take that into consideration when I put together a marketing strategy. The comments here are similarly so varied based on so many different variables. Right? I couldn’t agree more with the statement, “The way to do that is to deliver great content that attracts as many of the people you’re after as possible. And headlines that specifically promise to deliver that great value are a great way to make it happen.”
    Seth and Chris began long before most of us and their style IS who they are. They have evolved as they learned and I might imagine they are plenty busy with the current traffic their brand draws. Life vs work.. I read them because their subject matter works
    Analyzing your results with your Subject, Headlines and From line all combined give us more tools which will help rank the younger sites. Fantastic post Brian, a lot of good information from really good research. Thanks!!! It’s supposed to be about community and useful/informative content. You hit a home run.

  43. If you have some kind of influence over your readers.. if they are waiting for new content from you then probably single word can attract many of them but if you have very short post and with great number of ads or uninteresting content then that single word will be the most ignore post ever….

  44. “Hey” worked for me because I find it so irritating as a greeting, though acceptable if you are trying to warn me that I am about to be run over by a truck.

    For me “Hey” worked 2 times. Once when used by the President, second when used by Copyblogger commenting on the use by the President. After that, it’s into the trash, and cancel the subscription.

  45. Hey ;)

  46. Brian,

    Great article! How did you get Chris Brogan and Seth to mentor you? Did you know them prior? Or go to them after starting your own blog?

    • I was referring to Seth as a mentor, Chris is my friend (although I learn from him constantly as well).

      With Seth, all it really took was his books. Then I got to meet him and he puts up with me when I need to email or call him, which is awesome. Both Sonia and I give him credit for putting us on the right path.

  47. Curiosity is the word. The headline got me interested and I would not be pleased with myself if I don’t open it. I believe it worked magic. Nice one!

  48. I can tell you from personal experience that I would read Seth and Chris about 10X as often if they were more specific in their headlines. I read a TON of content every day, and the titles draw me in. While I appreciate them as writers and business people, I’m often put off by the titles. I really have a hard time explaining why. It almost seems cocky that they don’t need to tell me what a blog post is going to be about. So I usually skip them in my Reader.

    • Oh, and I only read this blog post because I read EVERYTHING you write, partly because of the titles. So this was the exception. If you took this approach every time, I’d start reading less and less of your content.

  49. I agree with other folks who said they only opened it because it was from Copyblogger. Normally, I wouldn’t open an email with “hey” as the subject line – not even from Obama. But then, that’s mostly because I know you’re not going to ask me for money, and I can’t say the same for him.

  50. Hey–I’m coming late to the party, but I did want to say that, between you guys and Jon Morrow, I’m convinced of the efficacy of a great headline. I’ll be launching a new site in January, and I hope to see first hand the benefit of spending lots of time cooking a good headline.

    Many thanks for all your content. I’ve recently bought the Genesis Framework and Prose theme. Already had the Premise product. I’m excited to see all of them working in concert on the new site. And kudos to your day-to-day staff. They’re fantastic.

    Jim H.

  51. you are breaking traditional approach bro….I liked it…

  52. Hey… Great article with unique headline. Nice to see good conversation going on here, too. I just joined in.

  53. Content is always the king. The content must be engaging to get it share by others. Thats what i focus on right now. Yes The A/B testing..

  54. Hey is okay, but in this case it is the from that drew me in! The combination of intriguing headline or informing headline enhances the from and vice versa. And of course those two elements have to be consistently paid off with good content.

  55. Awesome Headline, and when I started reading the post, I come upto line “You’re nor Barack Obama”, Sincerely I laughed too much and enjoyed reading the post. Very well constrained. Thanks for Sharing it.

    Regards,
    Sohil Memon.

  56. Choosing the right words are key!

  57. Hey……I liked this post…..

  58. I saw this come up in my feed, and intentionally DIDN’T read it because of the headline. I’ve got lots of things I read daily, and I don’t like getting hooked in without an inkling of where it’s going. That’s the same reason I read maybe 1 out of 5 posts from Seth Godin. Problem is I’ve got this OCD tendency, and all the rest of your posts were marked “read” so finally the pull was too strong and I caved. :)

  59. Hey, Brian. :) I think the headline worked. Short, sweet, and unexpected. Plus, it drew me to the comment section like a bee to honey.

    I like that you weren’t afraid to try it out even though your stats might suffer. Bold experiments are necessary every now and then, no? ;)

  60. Thanks for this, Brian. Good stuff.

    I’ll second all of your points and add one more: I think specificity is more respectful to the potential reader most of the time. Let us know what’s in it for us to open the message, and do so honestly.

    When I get an e-mail with a subject line that makes it seem super informal and personal and extremely vague — like “Hey” with nothing else — and it’s coming from a marketer who’s list I opted into months ago and I’ve lost track of the exact reason why, it’s actually a big ding against them – from my perspective. I might even open that mail for half a minute, yielding the result they wanted, if the main thing they’re looking at is their open rate. But then I’ll scan through a typical marketing message from a typical internet marketer, complete with the cold certainty that they don’t care who I am. And with almost equal certainty they’d never take time for even a brief personal exchange with me.

    At that point, the unearned informality of the subject line grates on me so much as a tactic that I’ve just become nine times less likely to buy anything from this person — ever. I may even be ready to look for the unsubscribe button. Especially if you add in a couple of other pet peeves I have

    When it’s coming from Barack Obama, on the other hand, there’s zero chance he’s trying to blend in like an old college buddy with a similar name just to improve his open rate. The informal tone is an acceptable rhetorical gesture, instead of a mere tactic, when the real social distance between yourself and the letter writer can’t possibly be ignored or misunderstood. So we accept it as a polite form of address with just a mild twist of surprise, rather than it looking like a crass manipulation. Especially true for those of us who like the president and voted for him twice. He may address us as friends if he looks. No one is confused by this.

    Those other pet peeves?

    I also dislike fake bait in a headline. When the email subject line says something like: “Kindle KDP Closig Down!” and everybody jumps to see how long they’ve got to sell their e-books independently before the only downloadable books will come through the big corporate channels. But then you open and read it and it isn’t happening. Your chance to get on *this marketer’s special training* for KDP might be a window that’s closing, but the KDP platform is going no where. You’ve just fallen for blatant scare tactic. But again, it’s only improved their open rate and probably not their conversions.

    Finally, as someone with professional writing and editing experience, I find it insulting when marketers hit a big list with material that hasn’t been proofed for even the most basic things: spelling, grammar, punctuation, homonym confusion. It looks hasty and makes it clear that this marketer isn’t invested in something I consider non-optional for any form of professional writing. If basic English grammar isn’t a personal strong point for a business leader, they could at least employ someone with the requisite skills to copy check them. To proofread their junk.

    I keep reading copyblogger and related media from lots of copyblogger insiders or affiliates because I get the marketing education I need in a palatable, entertaining, and respectful form. The material isn’t sloppy and doesn’t insult my intelligence and doesn’t engage in unethical bait-and-switch and other shady tactics. I don’t mind a little bit of tease, of course, so long as the balance is right. And it’s amazing to me how many internet marketers don’t get it.

    Sincerely,
    Mark

    P.S. I started reading this article when it was among the top content on the home page. The headline didn’t do it for me as much as the positioning.

  61. My favourite line:
    “Before you can rely on people paying attention to you because you are important, you have to become important to them.”

    That just tickled me somewhere deep inside my brain. Thanks!