How to Earn More Opens With Powerful Subject Lines

Are your subject lines boring?

If your open rates aren’t that great, we hate to break it to you, but yawn-worthy subject lines are the most likely culprit…

After all, at least 35% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone.

What could your business do with 35% more opens?

Well, a 35% increase in anything would make a huge impact on your results.

So if you’re ready to learn exactly how you can drive up your open rate and get more eyes on your marketing messages, you’ve come to the right place!

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about creating powerful email subject lines that increase opens. 

We’re going to tackle a variety of subject line categories, choosing power words, and how to avoid landing in the dreaded spam folder.

We’ll also cover how to tap into the magic of psychological triggers, ensuring you reach your audience in the most impactful way. 

Plus, you’ll also find dozens of subject line samples that you’re free to cherry pick from. 

So, without further adieu, let’s get going!

Choosing Your Angle

Before you sit down and start writing your subject line, you need to consider your angle.

Not all content is created equal, and depending on the message, you need to frame your subject line accordingly.

So, start by considering which type of email you’re planning to send.

Here are a few popular types we see a lot of:

  • Gifts & Giveaways – Bonuses/Freebies
  • Educational – How-To/Trainings/Tutorials
  • Business Announcements/Updates
  • Promotional Messages – Product Launches, Discounts, Teasers, etc.
  • Welcome/Introductory

Once you know the real purpose of your message, you can zero in on the best subject line options!

Categorizing Your Subject Lines

Another helpful practice is to brainstorm multiple subject lines over a variety of categories.

You likely send a mix of email types to your audience and we’re all about batch work so try this:

Start with your top five email categories, then brainstorm three tempting subject lines to go with each one.

Your ideas don’t have to be polished, just jot something down to capture the essence of the direction you may want to take. Then, before you know it, you’ll have a list of 15 click-worthy subject line ideas ready to go!

Here are some ideas to get you started: 

Gifts & Giveaways

  • Hey, John, a free coaching call – just for you! 
  • $500 Giveaway! Just 4 hours left to enter
  • You earned a bonus! Do you want your gift? 

Educational

  • How to write the perfect email in 10 minutes flat
  • Our $5,000 training – yours for free!
  • The Instagram webinar begins in 3…2…1

Business Announcements/Updates

  • We are back…with something BIG!
  • Shocking results from our audience poll…
  • Did you hear our latest news?!

Promotional (Limited-Time Discounts)

  • You’re late! Hurry before this expires…
  • Doors close tonight for 80% off
  • 2-hour warning…then your discount is gone!

Welcome Messages

  • Kristen, welcome to our 30-day challenge!
  • You’re in! Yaaaaaasssss, girl
  • Welcome to (company name)! Did you see this? 

Hopefully these examples planted some seeds so you can start brainstorming some ideas of your own?!

Crafting Your Subject Line

Now that we’ve covered some of the preliminary steps, let’s dive into some tips and tricks for actually writing a compelling, powerful subject line!

Keep it short & Sweet

When it comes to length, shorter is usually better. You don’t want to create a kick-ass subject line only to have it get cut off so it makes no sense to mobile readers.

40-65 character subject lines seem to be a sweet spot. This is characters, though – not words!

To avoid any flubs, we recommend sending yourself a test email, to make sure everything (especially your subject line) looks perfect before sending to your faithful audience.

Begin with Words that Matter

Just like most forms of sales and pitch style writing, you want to put the most compelling part of your message at the beginning. 

Consider the differences here: 

FREE download for Sendlane customers! 

Vs. 

For Sendlane customers – a FREE download! 

Which would you open? 

Keep Things Relevant 

Nobody enjoys a bait and switch email. For that reason, be sure to deliver what your subject line alludes to.

This is especially true for teaser-style subject lines. You know them when you see them:

  • You HAVE to see this! 
  • Incorporate this best practice for 100% growth
  • Open this email for life-changing advice

Remember when we were talking earlier about the angle of your message & considering that ahead of time?

How disappointing would it be to open the email only to find hum-drum information that can be accessed anywhere? Or to open a vague, but intriguing subject line, only to be greeted with a message about something entirely unrelated?

Well, the easiest way to maintain the trust of your audience is by crafting subject lines that compliment the purpose (and the body) of your email.

Embrace Power Words 

Go for impact! The use of power words will grab the attention of any email recipient, so make sure you infuse your subject lines with eye-catching language for best results.

Some of our favorite power words include:

  • Essential
  • Ultimate
  • Massive
  • Perfect

Be sure to avoid passive statements (like ‘was’ and ‘will be’) and instead opt for more exciting active statements like ‘do,’ ‘try,’ and ‘take.’ 

And remember: try to put your power words at the beginning rather than the end.

Watch out for SPAM

Now, this should go without saying, but it’s SO important that we just can’t skip over it: make sure you avoid using language that could result in your messages being flagged as SPAM.

Here are a few of the top words words that we’ve seen give other marketers trouble:

  • Winner
  • Amazing
  • Urgent
  • Guarantee
  • Risk Free
  • Now Only

This is by no means a full list, so before you start sending, check out our email curse words database right here!

You also need to avoid overusing special characters or using the terms RE: or FWD: – both will land you in the junk mail folder faster than you can say SPAM.

Which brings us to another point: Formatting.

Try to avoid all caps in your subject line.

Yes, one word for effect is fine now and then, but keep it to a minimum so your message doesn’t get filtered directly into junk, never to be seen again.

Connect Using Lists & Numbers

Lists and numbers often rank high when it comes to email open rates.

Numbers stand out within regular text, which makes it easy to use them for grabbing attention!

Here are some subject lines examples that contain numbers and lists: 

  • How to earn 4k per day without FB ads
  • 20 highly profitable niches you can steal
  • The 5 life lessons I learned from Lebron James
  • How to launch your own 6 figure business overnight

Psychological Triggers & Subject Line Strategies

As simple as they may seem, there is a sharp science to subject lines. If you look back at your favorite emails, it’s likely the subject lines used each contain a psychological trigger.

When it comes to grabbing the emotions of your audience, there are a few subject line styles that perform the best.

Let’s explore that a bit more, shall we?

Generate Curiosity 

We want to know everything – that’s just human nature.

So, when an email jumps into your inbox, audaciously suggesting they know something you don’t…

Well….curiosity sets in and you just have to open up to learn more!

 We’re gonna make it super simple for you to begin crafting your own curious subject lines. 


Here’s our magical formula: 

Find the gap between what the reader knows + what they want to know. THEN, give the teensiest of hints. 

There! The seed of curiosity has been planted, and all they need to do now is click. 

Here are some subject lines you can use to build curiosity: 

  • “Instantly softer skin, and other secret beauty hacks inside…” 
  • “8 things you didn’t know about email segmentation.” 
  • “This latest social media craze will take over 2019.”

Creating curiosity can happen around a new launch, a big announcement, or an upcoming sale, but this strategy isn’t just for your sales messages. Click here to see how Adidas drives curiosity with an unexpected approach to abandoned cart emails. 

Create FOMO

FOMO = Fear of Missing Out

People seriously dislike feeling left out.

We all know that heart-pounding anxiety when we think a great opportunity is passing us by. The FOMO meter hits the red zone, and you simply cannot resist the urge. 

Subject lines that create urgency, or a sense of scarcity, include deals that expire, suggestions that their friends are ‘already doing it’ or important updates that will affect the readers’ life in some way.  

Try including FOMO causing words such as limited time, low quantities, tomorrow, only, now, final, gone, and new. 

Other FOMO inducing subject lines you can use: 

  • “Final hours to claim your prize!” 
  • “Only 2 left in stock.” 
  • “What your friends already know…”

Learn more about writing urgent, FOMO prompting offers here. 

Tease with Special Offers 

Okay, who doesn’t love a special offer, discount, coupon code, or FREE stuff?!

Special offers and FOMO can be married together into insanely impactful subject lines. 

Special offer emails are highly effective when you have a new product to launch, need to clear your stock of an old product, want to boost sales with a holiday offer, or to nudge a customer who hasn’t been active in some time.

Here are some irresistible special offer subject line ideas you could tweak for your business:

  • “Your discount is expiring in 2 hours.” 
  • “173 people have claimed this offer in the last hour.”
  • “Today only – a FREE download that will drive customers.”

Tickle their Funny Bone

Laughter truly is the best medicine. If you can cause your reader to snort their morning coffee out of their nose; mission accomplished!   

Funny subject lines can come in many forms including sarcastic, edgy, self-deprecating, witty wordplay, or observational. 

Some of the funniest subject lines we have seen lately: 

  • “Come Back to Bed.” – Casper Mattresses
  • “162,719 pints of Irish stout are lost every year in men’s mustaches.” – Harry’s Grooming 
  • “How to organize your VHS collection.” – Blu Dot Furniture 

You may not think you are the funniest of copywriters so here’s a great article on how to incorporate humor into your email marketing.

May the laughter ensue!  

Get Personal 

According to DMA personalized emails are one of the most effective email marketing strategies. And emails that include the first name of the recipient in their subject line have a higher click-through rate than those that don’t.

Including your recipients’ name in the subject line (whether it be at the beginning or the end) will instantly grab their attention, add a feeling of familiarity, and add a level of curiosity, enticing readers to open up and learn what you have to say. 

Some subject lines you could use to establish a connection include: 

  • “James, we’d love your feedback.” 
  • “Melissa, it’s time you knew…”
  • “Sarah – you’re simply the BEST. Here’s why…”

Mix it up!

It’s important to mention that you can combine subject line styles, too!

Try incorporating a special offer with personalization: 

  • “Dan, your insanely good coupons have arrived!”
  • “It’s time to save serious dollars, Amanda.”
  • “50% off, just for you, Becky!”

You could also take a stab at FOMO with a touch of humor: 

  • “If you don’t open this, you’ll break the internet.”
  • “Only open this if you’re willing to cry-laugh with the rest of us.” 
  • “Better odds than Tinder. Swipe right, and we promise a discount.”  

Stay Away From These Faux Pas

We couldn’t let you go without sharing some major subject line blunders.

From terrible formatting, to confusingly vague, to overly detailed, enjoy these jaw-dropping, real-life email subject lines that nobody should use. Like, ever. 

  • Give Me 9 Minutes a Week and I Guarantee You $67,548 a Year
  • Confirm your shipping address before July 1st to avoid massive losses.
  • $10,000. (INSIDE)
  • ⚠ Can I get an answer? [Today Please]
  • eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeasy monnneeey!

Lock It Up With Powerful Subject Lines

Now that we’ve run through all of these best practices, tips, tricks and strategies, we suggest starting a running spreadsheet that you can add to any time you get inspired!

Don’t let the momentum pass you by – jot down ideas, save examples of really effective subject lines that landed in your inbox and watch for trends in the formatting, words and language.

And when it comes to your own subject lines, don’t be afraid to experiment!

Play around with a variety of styles and power words and remember to carefully check your analytics to see which subject lines are performing best for you.

We know that crafting the perfect email and ensuring it gains the attention it deserves, is a time-consuming job. But these tips, and a tool like Sendlane, you’ll be sure to strike email gold in no time!

Kristen Dahlberg

Content Manager at Sendlane
As a member of the Sendlane content marketing team, Kristen focuses on everything from organization to content curation and process improvement. She enjoys variety and the challenge of learning the best way to accomplish each new goal.

Outside of work, Kristen spends as much time as possible at the beach, soaking up the San Diego sunshine!
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