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Improving open rates with a creative subject line

Ankit Ghosh
Ankit Ghosh

I was talking to a friend of mine who happens to work as an email marketer at a million dollar company. We happened to talk about open rates and factors which effect the open rate of most emails.

According to him, three things had the most effect on the open rate of any email.

  1. Personal relation between receiver and sender.
  2. Placement of the email in receiver's inbox.
  3. Headline/Subject of the email.

Though the first two are a bit tough and a topic for a different day, I'm going to talk about the third and the most interesting part.

About email subject lines

Let's begin this with a simple definition of email subject lines. So subject lines are basically the headline which the user sees before clicking the email. It's a kind of heading for emails.

So now coming to the topic, do you know what points you need to follow to write a nice high converting subject line? Here are a few.

  1. Straightforward subject line
  2. Adding hook to a subject line
  3. FOMO effect on subject line
  4. Solution based approach

Let's understand these one by one.

Straightforward subject line

Straightforward subject line is referred to those subject line which are directly to the point and most of the time isn't very exciting. Plus it never has the best open rates. These generally work well with transactional mails when you know that the user will surely open it.

Example: Your order has been shipped

Add hook to your subject line

Hook here doesn't actually means a hook, it refers to an attention-grabbing phrase which excites the user to stick to the content. If you wanna know more about the hook in headlines then refer to this video by MarketingExamples by Harry.

Example: Let's upgrade your life, without breaking your bank.

"Without breaking your bank" is the hook here.

FOMO effect on subject line

So FOMO aka fear of missing out is widely used on landing pages and marketing copies by marketers. Well this has now creeped into subject lines as well and it really works if the receivers have a bit of interest in the product.

Example: Grab our $99 e-book for free (only for first 10 people)

Solution based approach

To use a solution-based approach you need to understand who your is your audience and what are they looking for. So assume you run a newsletter about second-hand cars and you know that your subscribers are looking for used cars. How would you write your subject line?

Example: 5 tips to get a nice discount on used cars.

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Tips to write good subject line

  1. Keep it short and precise.
  2. Subject lines shouldn't be used as sales pitch.
  3. No tactics (like FOMO) should be overused.
  4. False claims are a big NO.

Subject line formulas

Though I have written above a brief guide on how to write subject lines, some still might find it difficult and to solve that here are some premade subject lines template which you can use in your next email.

1. How/Where to Find {Desired Output} Even When It's Impossible

Example: How to Find {Peace} Even When It's Impossible

2. How To Make {Desired Output} That Matter to {Authority}

Example: Make {a SaaS} That Matter to {Venture Capitalists}

3. How {Authority} Got {Result} In {Timeframe} Using {Solution/Product}

Example: How {Spotify} Got {500K Users} In {10 Days} Using {Twitter Ads}

4. {n} Ideas You Can Steal From {Authority}

Example: {101} Ideas You Can Steal From {Experienced Copywriters}

5. {n} Secret Tools Used by {Authority}

Example: {11} Secret Tools Used by {Successful Investors}

6. Why {Authority} Don't Use {Competitor}

Example: Why {Big Publications} Don't Use {Google Analytics}

7. The Exact Process I Used to {Desired Output} in {n} Days/Months

Example: The Exact Process I Used to {Make a Million} in {10} Months

8. The Ugly Truth About {Topic}

Example: The Ugly Truth About {Affiliate Marketing}

9. {n} Hard & {m} Easy Ways {Desired Output}

Example: {5} Hard & {3} Easy Ways to {Successful Copywriting}

10. {n} Things Your Competitors Are Doing Wrong

Example: {9} Things Your Competitors Are Doing Wrong

11. Struggling With {Competitor}? Use {Product}

Example: Struggling With {Mailchimp}? Use {ConvertKit}

12. The Biggest And Easiest Secret of {Desired Output}

Example: The Biggest And Easiest Secret of {Lowering Ads Spend}

13. {Desired Output} Now!

Example: {Improve Your Sales} Now!

14. Stop {Problem} on {Output}

Example: Stop wasting time on mindless work

15. Don’t Open This Email

This one is a whole subject line as its main aim is to generate curiosity.

Though these formulas are very diverse and can be used practically everywhere it still is a guarantee to improve your open rate. For that you need to understand who your audience is and which of these will have the most impact on them.

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Ankit Ghosh

Freelance content writer and organic marketing enthusiast.


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