7 Subject Line Formulas Guaranteed to Boost Your Email Open Rates

As Michael Masterson will tell you, “80% of the success of a sales letter is determined by the headline and lead.”

And Matt Furey, considered by Michael Masterson to be the best email copywriter in the business, says, “The subject line or title of the email — this is of utmost importance. The number one job is getting the email opened.”

Now think about the subject line of the emails you write …

It’s the headline of your email. But, you only have 50 characters to grab attention and get subscribers to take a peek inside.

So if your subject line isn’t doing its job, then no one is reading your email.

If no one is reading your email, then no one is clicking through to your offer. And if no one is clicking through to your offer, then no one is buying.

If no one is opening, reading, clicking, or buying, then the results aren’t there.

And if the results aren’t there, then your client is less likely to hire you again or refer you to their friends.

Knowing that, you can imagine how important your subject line is.

Today I want to show you seven subject line formulas proven to cause spikes in email open rates. After you try these out on your own emails, you, too, will see a lift in your open rates.

  1. Combine curiosity and benefit

    The most effective headlines combine two elements: curiosity and benefit. You already know the value of benefits. But, let me tell you about the other part. Curiosity is a powerful psychological factor. People try things, buy things, and do things just because they “need to know.”

    Here are a few sample subject lines that combine curiosity and benefit:

    • Bet you $2,000 that THIS makes you $50,000
    • Could these exercises be the Fountain of Youth
    • Dramatically alter aging
    • A copywriting market “they” said had disappeared
    • The most profitable website you’ve never heard of
  2. Use special characters

    Warnings that special characters (such as !, %, $, @) cause your emails to land in the spam folder or get rejected by ISP’s most likely keep you from using these in your subject lines. But, a recent article put out by the Email Experience Council (eec) says you no longer need to worry.

    The eec says ISP’s are more advanced now and can track and reject legitimate spam. They also report using these “spammy” symbols with no problem.

    Personal testing along with reports from top emailers confirms using these characters in the subject line can bump open rates. An extra tip here — use these occasionally and don’t overdo.

    Here are two sample subject lines using this technique from a major Internet marketer, Jay Abraham:

    • THEY all paid $36,500. You pay 94% less!
    • Do you reach “Real Businesses” doing $10 Million+?
  3. Add a number

    Just like in headlines, numbers get attention, pique curiosity, and give a specific benefit. Here are a few I pulled out of my inbox:

    • 10,000 times stronger than the law of attraction
    • Feel 10 years younger in this country
    • 1 simple stretching technique
  4. Enter the conversation already going on in their head

    This next idea comes straight from Robert Collier and is most likely an idea you’ve heard before. To quickly connect with your audience, jump right in to the conversation already taking place in their mind. In other words, what are your subscribers talking about with their co-workers and friends? What are they thinking about?

    Two ways to find out what people are talking about are to look at the Trending Topics on Twitter and take a look at headline news stories.

    For example, there is a good chance most everyone knows about the BP oil spill, so that would make a good topic for your subject line.

    If you send frequent emails, check and see what the hot buttons are with your readers. By looking at your tracking reports to see what people are more vigorously opening and clicking on, you’ll know how to continue the conversation.

    Another way is to follow Amazon’s approach. They send book recommendations based on your purchasing history.

    Here are some great examples of recent subject lines:

    • U.S. gov’t changing retirement rules?
    • If your hamstrings are tight, read this now
    • The business disaster that DIDN’T happen
    • The best recession ever!
  5. Insert a date at the beginning of your subject line

    In a report on email marketing by Strategic Profits, they say, “We’ve gotten test results that show using a date at the beginning of a subject line spikes open rates.”

    Dates supply urgency and relevancy. Plus, you don’t see dates used a lot. That might explain part of the reason why they are so effective. Having said that, I don’t recommend using dates often. Making too many emails seem urgent by using dates can desensitize your reader.

    Here are a few to get you thinking:

    • Agencies in 2010: Challenges & Opportunities
    • New: Our 2011 Consumer Trend Report. Juicy early-bird price included.
    • Sept. 19th Atlantic Beach Acoustic Night
  6. Include an identifier

    An identifier is something that is included at the beginning of every subject line. These brand your company and train your list to look for your email.

    This is most effective with existing customers or subscribers. These also work well for a series or for courses. Let me give you some illustrations:

    • Excess Voice #213 Profitable Freelancing
    • AWAI – You’re more than “just” a copywriter
    • Success 2.0 Update: Grab this free discovery tool …
    • Magnetic List Building Video #2
  7. Combine phrases such as tips, steps, and rules with numbers

    Lyris, a marketing technology company that provides tools for managing email marketing campaigns, reviewed two years of subject lines. From this study, they discovered that “action-oriented statements that included numbers andtips’ and similar phrases pulled the best.”

    Subject lines such as:

    • 7 steps to creating unstoppable income
    • 11 ways to beat Google at their own game
    • 30 power tactics to drive email marketing revenue now

Never forget the main purpose of the subject line is to get your email opened. Try these formulas to see what boosts your open rates. Test them. When you find a winning subject line formula, don’t keep repeating it, but mix it up some. Plus, look in your inbox … See if top marketers known to test repeat a formula — if they do, that might just be your next subject-line blueprint.

[Ed Note: Now that you know how to get emails opened, Autoresponder Apprentice will show you how to write email copy that converts. Written by “the king of autoresponders” Jay White, it’s the fastest, easiest way to break into the vastly underserviced — and highly lucrative — world of email and autoresponder copywriting.]

This article, 7 Subject Line Formulas Guaranteed to Boost Your Email Open Rates, was originally published by Wealthy Web Writer.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
Average: 3.3
Published: September 22, 2010

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)


This name will appear next to your comment.


Your email is required but will not be displayed.


Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters


Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)