7 Tricks for the BEST Email Subject Lines

You put a lot of effort into building a list, and sending out great content. But all of that is for waste if you can't get your subscribers to open your emails!

Today we'll look at 7 strategies you can use to create the best email subject lines. The kind that evoke interest and curiosity, and compel your subscribers to open your messages.

Punching up your subject lines will benefit ALL of your automated marketing pieces (blog broadcasts, email list archives, etc) as well as your social media activity.

They are perfect for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn headings as well as email. Using engaging keyword-rich headlines is also great for SEO, and how your content looks in the search results (giving you a higher click-through rate)...

The above paragraph is a paraphrase from Phil Hollows on Page 77 of his List Building for Bloggers guide, the Subject Line Optimization chapter. While Phil goes into great detail about each of the 7 strategies, I'm simply going to give you a quick overview and some fun examples to spark your creativity.

The BEST Email Subject Lines contain
one or more of these elements:

  • Short Subject Lines
  • Controversial Headlines
  • A Keyword Phrase
  • Numbers and Counts
  • Actionable Subject Lines
  • Timely or Urgent
  • The "Classics"

The subject line of the post you are reading now is an example of a combination of those elements. It contains a number. It's fairly short (8 words). It contains a keyword phrase ("best email subject lines").

To create some fun examples, I'm going to use Link Bait Generator (a great tool for brainstorming creative titles) and a variety of niches/topics.

Short Subject Line - Example 1

Exercise Tips To Ignore!

Controversial Headlines - Example 2

10 reasons civilization may collapse because of organic foods...

A Keyword Phrase Subject Line - Example 3

What the best weight loss program looks like

Number and Count Subject Lines - Example 4

6 bits of exercise advice that will land you in the hospital

7 bizarre ways patio furniture can kill you suddenly

8 things you probably don't know about dog food

Actionable Subject Lines - Example 5

Make your first scrapbook the easy way - this week!

Fix your hair loss problem fast. Learn how...

Timely or Urgent Subject Lines - Example 6

Exclusive coupon code, but act fast - offer ends in 24 hours!

How to start making money online... today!

The "Classic" Subject Lines

Phil shares that the two subject lines with a history of repeatedly high open rates, no matter what, are: "You are not alone" and "Did you get it?". I would advise you use those sparingly (and so does he).

Be cautious about using "tricky" subject lines. They may have a high open rate, but you may find your open rate declines following any "trick"...

I hope that inspires you to use some of these 7 strategies for coming up with great blog post titles, email subject lines, forum thread titles and more.

Getting your links in front of your market is not enough - you have to entice them to click through and actually read your content. πŸ˜‰


p.s. For more great tips from Phill Hollows, download List Building for Bloggers

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...moreΒ»


  1. Scott Lovingood says

    I have noticed many of the lists I am on now are starting their headline with a word in brackets to help you classify it quickly.

    [Urgent update}
    [SEO Tips]

    Not sure how well they word but they do create a unique look to your headline and cause people to catch it while skimming down their list of emails.

    It will probably lose its effectiveness (assuming it is effective) when everyone does it but it does allow readers to create rules so they can categorize your emails quickly.

    Always remember too that each market is going to respond differently to headlines so try some out and see which ones get better open rates, better CTRs and are more profitable.

    • Great tip - you should always test, as different things work best in different markets or on different topics.

      Good point about brackets. I have used them in the past, but you're right about people using them as a filter to put your mails in a folder. For that reason, I changed the text in my brackets at least quarterly to get back in front of them in their main inbox...

    • Dennis Edell says

      I do that to some blog posts too Scott...it helps there too.

  2. Justin Brooke says

    Some recent things I've been doing with great results...

    [brackets] LOVE THEM

    Adding a question mark? to everything I can. When used how it's supposed to it's a question and questions are great for copywriting. When used outside of it's normal role it's a "pattern interrupt" which is also a great advertising technique.

    For example...
    Internet Marketing Alligator?

    Oh yeah, and using two words that don't go together work great for adding curiosity. Like marketing + alligator.

    Anywho, I'm no super email guru but those are some things that get my emails opened the highest.

  3. jane from unusual floral arrangements.com says

    I find when I tweet or blog about flowers I get more attention if I mention weddings. I'm sure others are interested in arranging flowers, but weddings seem to be the way to be noticed.

  4. Now I want to read the post about death by patio furniture! πŸ˜€

    Recently, there have been a slew of emails with subjects such as "Your download link" or "Product Update", which are actually badly-disguised affiliate sales letters. I open them the first time - then I unsubscribe. I don't have the time or the desire to interact with marketers who think lying is an appropriate strategy.

    • Scott Lovingood says

      Being honest with your emails subjects is the best method. I unsub to many lists that send out subjects that don't give a true representation of the email I am going to be reading.

      I like people being creative but really dislike someone trying to simply trick me. Focus on building a relationship with your list and not on tricking them.

      Relationships last a long time but tricks only work for a short period of time.

    • LOL That would be a great post, wouldn't it? haha

      I agree with you on deception. Dirty trick. I've received those as well. If you're going to say "Download Link" there better be a download link in the body of the message! πŸ˜›

  5. Id have to agree with Justin (above) the best instant reaction I've had from an article was one called 'How to Teach Your Shark To Sing'.

    Sending a misleading email is the perfect way to get me to unsubscribe, but I got away with the shark thing, mostly because I think it made people laugh.

    • Humor is good, and usually well received. There's a big difference between humor and deception, as we've discussed. I would love to see your article - care to share the link?

  6. Dennis Edell says

    I must agree with some above, the trickery and outright lying (bait an switch) in subject lines just keeps getting worse as the years go by.

  7. Somehow you'd know the email is just trying to bait you by just looking at the subject line. Some marketers are really creative but once the content's distant from what the subject line promised, that's automatic unsub or delete.

    • Exactly. Relevance is key. Being relevant not only to the "bait" (whether it's an ad or a subject line) but also to the market you're targeting...

  8. James Foster says

    It happens many a time that even the best offers land into trash without even a look, so the importance of a catchy subject cannot be underestimated.

  9. Great post. Getting the emails opened is always the name of the game in email marketing. Relevant bait is the perfect term for this, like you mentioned. You don't want to be using fish bait to catch a mouse πŸ™‚

  10. Kevin Riley says

    Relevance is always important but from a strictly open rate perspective, I have tested using things like Re: Fwd: and they seem to convert into higher open rates almost in every case. I know it may seem a little spammy so use with discretion but it seems to work and if you are providing value to your list I don't think you will be burning your list because of it. Just my $0.02


  11. We have seen the bait & switch, smoke & mirrors, etc. gimmicks reach the saturation point in the IM world. Marketers who constantly use these tactics without providing solid, worthwhile content are not in this business for the long-haul!

    You, Lynn, will be in business for as long as you choose. This, due to the fact that everything you provide is reliable and solid! Many thanks...

    All the best,


  12. I have to agree with Lynn, humour is a good way to get your foot in the door. Essential is actually have something worthwhile to say or sell. Many email market attempts have neither.

  13. Excellent advise, definitely will use for my online marketing.

  14. Well done Lynn, I liked your 7 bullet points, which you have mentioned at the beginning of the post, for best email subject lines.
    I agree with your all things said. The irony is people even wouldn't click your email if they are not asked to do so or if not provoked and enticed by catchy email subject lines.

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