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7 Eye-Catching Email Subject Lines to Catapult Your Open Rates

Eye-Catching Email Subject Lines to Catapult Your Open Rates
“OMG, that email subject line totally reached out and grabbed me!” Image Source

If you’re like me, the first thing you do when you wake up is grab your phone and check your email. I go through and delete all the unimportant emails so that when I get into the office, a fresh inbox awaits.

However, when I see a subject that catches my eye, I typically read that email right away. That’s the power of email. No matter what new social network springs up, your email will likely last many years into the future. Email marketing is a great way to connect, engage, and convert your audience.

But how do we cut through the noise and the huge amount of SPAM that hits our inboxes every day? Let’s explore 7 powerful email subject lines that you can use to better engage with your list.

1. Your AMAZING photos

I used the subject line above in a cold recruitment email and received a 70% open rate along with a 25% conversion rate.

Because it was a cold email, in the body of the email I made sure I told them where I came across their photos along with an introduction to the company.

This subject line shows that flattery is a great way to get your recipient’s attention.

However, you want to make sure that you are not baiting your recipients with this subject line and then trying to sell your services.

I like to use flattery when I’m either recruiting someone or trying to interview an influential person for my podcast.

Key lessons:

  • Use flattery to your advantage.
  • Do NOT bait and switch. For example, do not use the subject line “Your AMAZING website” and then try to sell your SEO services.
  • Flattery is best used for recruiting someone or to land an influential person for your podcast, blog or web show.

2. Were we boring you?

“Were we boring you?” Image Source
Were we boring you? Image Source

This was a subject line used by Sperry Van Ness. At the time, they were receiving an average open rate of 30% which is above industry standards. However, the company felt that it was mostly the same people who were opening the emails.

So in an attempt to clean their list, the company drafted an email with the subject line “Were we boring you?

The opening paragraph included a message about how many of the subscribers were not opening the newsletter.

Sperry Van Ness then asked subscribers if they wanted to stay on the list or if there was anything that the company could do to better communicate their message.

The open rate sky rocketed to over 50% and they surprisingly did not receive as many unsubscribes as they originally thought.

In fact, people actually apologized for not being more involved.

Key lessons:

  • Try using a subject that is completely unexpected
  • Using a question in your subject lines is a great way to get someone’s attention
  • Don’t be afraid of being different

3) How I grew the KISSmetrics Blog from 0 to 350,000 readers a month

Neil Patel is a master of writing catchy blog headlines and if you’re an email subscriber to his blog, the headlines also become the subject lines of his emails.

In fact, email marketing is how he built his first business. In his blog post, he goes into great detail on how you can use email marketing to launch your first business. It’s a must read.

The reason why I love this subject line is that it tells a hero’s journey. We all start out as someone looking to build an audience. We don’t have any readers, any listeners, or any viewers.

The subject line also implies that Neil will provide tactical action items that we can use to grow our respective audience.

Key lessons:

  • Use a subject line that relates to your audience’s current state of business
  • Inspire them with real numbers and show them how you did it so they can do it themselves

4. App business kit (60.34% opt-in rate)

I recently saw this subject line used by Trey Smith of GameAcademy promoting his free app business kit. Trey used this subject line as a follow-up email from the previous day.

The 60.34% opt-in rate immediately caught my attention.

Within the email, Trey explains that he A/B tested 5 different landing pages and that the one included in the email converted at a whooping rate of 60.34%. Makes you want to click on the landing page doesn’t it?

He also goes on to state that it’s one of the highest conversions he’s ever seen.

Lastly, he talks a bit more about the free app business kit and ends with a call to action to download the kit (which I did from the first email he sent).

This is a great subject line to use when you’re following up on those who haven’t registered for your webinar, downloaded an ebook, or signed up for a course.

You don’t necessarily need to be A/B testing your pages. You can also share the amazing results you’ve seen from the previous email.

Key lessons:

  • Use mind-blowing stats in your subject lines to build intrigue
  • Stats in subject lines are great to send reminders to those who have not engaged with your product or service

5. Pat’s super secret way to find content to write about

Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome uses the above subject line in his first auto-responder email and he provides AMAZING content within this email. Pat knows that to build a loyal audience you have to give them your best stuff at the very start on the relationship.

And since his audience is primarily of bloggers and online marketers he understands that at times we all go through dry spells of coming up with great content to write about.

That is why Pat shares his super secret tip a day after you sign up for his email. He knows once you read this content that he has your attention for the full span of the auto-responder series.

Key lessons:

  • Share your best content in the beginning of your auto-responder series
  • Use “secret” to attract attention, but use it carefully as not to disappoint your readers

6. Would you like to unsubscribe?

I know what you’re thinking, the money is in the email list! Why in the world would I ask anyone to unsubscribe?

Well it’s simple. We want people who want to hear from us.

We often get emails from lead generation sources such as conferences and webinars. And while these leads may have been interested in the initial offering, they may not be interested in hearing from us ever again.

What we’ve found is that these people will most likely unsubscribe the next time you send any type of email, so we make it easy for them by sending an email dedicated to unsubscribing.

By doing this, we scrub our list from those who will likely never engage with us and also earn the trust of those who open the email and didn’t unsubscribe.

As an example, think of Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Michelin three-star restaurant. He is also famously featured in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

He attracts sushi lovers from all around the world who call months in advance and pay top dollar for a coveted seat at his 10-seat restaurant.

However, there’s a twist. Customers must eat whatever Jiro is serving that day and are not allowed to add anything to the sushi which means no soy sauce and no wasabi.

He treats sushi as an art and spends hours and hours crafting the perfect piece. While he could easily expand his space and triple his revenues, he wants to make sure he attracts the right customers, so if you’re looking for a bento box Sukiyabashi Jiro is probably not the right place for you.

Key lessons:

  • Scrub your lead list of those who will likely never engage with you
  • Don’t be afraid to be bold, it will earn trust with those who stay on

7) Steve, where are you?

I used the subject line above to send a final reminder email for a webinar. It’s the very last email in a sequence of four emails I send promoting a webinar.

With this email I was able to achieve a 43% open rate and a 15% click-through rate. To give you a little perspective, the industry averages are 24% and 4% respectively (according to Mailchimp).

This subject line uses the psychological trigger (or internet slang) called FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s the feeling that one gets when you stray away from your normal social routine.

Image Source

FOMO is emblematic of the social age and made popular by sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

When we scroll through photos and status updates, the worry that tugs at our minds is set off by the fear of regret, according to Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational” and a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. He says we become afraid that we’ve made the wrong decision about how to spend our time.

While the subject line will gain your recipient’s attention, you must make sure your content is also worth the attention.

Key lessons:

  1. Personalize the subject line with the recipient’s first name to amplify the fear of missing out
  2. Provide valuable subject matter within the body of the email

Even with the proliferation of social networks, email marketing is still a powerful tool. The problem is crafting the right subject line to cut through the noise and get your readers attention.

Use the subject lines above as a template or as an inspiration to craft your own.

What successful subject lines have you used in the past? Of the list above which one is your favorite and why? Share your comments below.

— Steve Young

The Smart Guide To Email Marketing Conversion

About Steve Young
Steve Young is the Director of Product Marketing for SmartShoot, a marketplace that connects businesses and individuals with freelance photographers and videographers from around the world.. Follow Steve on Twitter.
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  1. Duran Drake

    Hi Steve,
    Recently I have been doing Guest Post Activities and I just want to share a point about subscription . My guest post was approved by the site but now still I am getting the emails for subscription and alerts even after I am unsubcribing them through the regular procedure I don’t know why the webmaster of that site is still sending me the updates though everything is fine from my end. What exactly they are doing ? If not marketing than what ?

  2. Shilpi Agarwal

    Great article, Steve!

    Data never lies and so there’s a lot of truth and power in using data and visualization of data wherever possible – subject line + content + talk + presentations. It makes you more authentic and believable.

    Great summary!

  3. Randall Magwood

    I’ve found that the following email subject line works awesome for me:

    “[FIRSTNAME], here’s your free book!”

  4. Mark Ford

    I use the titles of the most popular posts from my blog on a weekly basis. The open rate is usually over 50%

  5. Robert Mullowney

    Awesome article Steve!

  6. Sofia

    I believe that subject lines are one of the most influential factors to email marketing. I would even go ahead and say the hardest one.

    thank for sharing!

  7. Melissa


  8. Super Star

    I followed your advice and used the unsubscribe technique. It worked. I had about a 40% increase in click-through’s!

    Here is how I positioned the email. I worked in my subject in and around the actual content you posted here. :) Thank you for the tips!

    Dear Fan,

    Sure it’s great to know that you are on my email list but it’s also great to know that you want to CONTINUE to be on that list.

    Hence this email.

    If you don’t know already, I am a guy who just so happened to have legally changed his name to Super Star in an effort to connect with teens in schools and communities all across the country. It seemed like a good idea when suggested to me by Gene Simmons of KISS and well it turns out it was a great idea!

    So I legally changed my name to Super Star after I found sobriety from suffering for nearly 15 years from an addiction.

    I am, unfortunately, all too familiar with the impact effecting families across the US as a result of the opioid (Rx pills and Heroin) epidemic communities are facing. It is indeed, an all-out epidemic and it is only a matter of time until someone in your school or community suffers a loss from an overdose. Just a matter of time.

    My hope is that because of the sense of urgency regarding this matter that you would be open to exploring a possible collaboration with my work on behalf your school or town that will leave a sustainable and measurable impact on your community.

    While this synopsis on my background may be a bit lengthy, I’m sharing it with you as I believe it is pertinent to this topic.

    Again, my legal name is Super Star. Don’t let the name fool you. The name carries a lot of merit and credibility in the field of addiction and my work with teens across the country. This work has been featured in many high-profile publications and has the support from The Partnership for Drug Free America, The National Institute of Drug Abuse and many more organizations that deal with destructive behaviors and substance abuse. My innovative programs also have also garnered support from the highest ranking psychiatrist in the U.S. Army, Brigadier General Loree K. Sutton, M.D, who also just so happens to have served as director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE).

    I travel from coast to coast to engage teens, parents and communities in crucial conversations about living responsibly by making healthy choices. I have received recognition from school teachers, administrators and parents acknowledging that my programs and message incorporating anti-bullying and drug campaigns has influenced and inspires countless teens across the US to make healthier choices. I am also an accomplished motivational speaker (primary subject: addiction), Dream Coach, author, columnist, TV spokesperson and musician.

    My passions in this field are two-fold: 1) to serve as an advocate bringing awareness and engaging in crucial conversations concerning drugs, alcohol and other destructive behaviors and 2) helping teens to understand the link between peer influences, personal responsibility and destructive behaviors and the connection of these things to one’s success in life.

    My specialty is communicating in an unconventional, relatable and effective manner which encourages teens to face those challenges instilling a sense of integrity in their actions by encouraging them to focus on self-esteem and confidence in being unique, principled and original.

    The work I do comes recommended by an esteemed list of professionals in the field of addiction and education. In addition, my book, First 30 Days to Serenity: The Essential Guide to Staying Sober has received accolades from countless treatment providers and has been considered the “go to” book for individuals entering into the world of recovery from substance use disorder.

    I would appreciate an opportunity to open up discussion around how to utilize me as a proponent for change in your community. I have a few ideas that may interest you and ultimately increase awareness in and around the area in-which you live.

    I invite you to take a moment to review my website at
    4 and absolutely
    look forward to hearing from you.

    Oh and about why I sent you this email in the first place. I know what you’re thinking; the opportunities are in the email list! Why in the world would I ask anyone to unsubscribe?

    Well it’s simple. We want people who want to hear from us.

    We often get emails from lead generation sources such as conferences and webinars. And while these leads may have been interested in the initial offering, they may not be interested in hearing from us ever again.

    What we’ve found is that these people will most likely unsubscribe the next time we send any type of email, so we make it easy for you by sending an email dedicated to unsubscribing.

    By doing this, we scrub our list from those who will likely never engage with us and also earn the trust of those who open the email and didn’t unsubscribe.

    Therefore if you want to UNSUBSCRIBE from hearing from me then please go ahead and click on the unsubscribe option!

    Kris Kancler (A.K.A Super Star)
    Phone: 708-351-1536

  9. Shoplet UK

    We noticed that the best open rate we had with our emails subject line; Thank You.

    That almost did 70% better than the rest of the subjects.

  10. Supplements in Australia

    I believe that subject lines are one of the most influential factors to email marketing. I would even go ahead and say the hardest one.

  11. Guerrilla Geek

    Absolutely fantastic article. It’s been bookmarked and I will definitely be using some of the ideas in here in the next few weeks. Thanks Steve!

  12. Manoj

    Hi Steve,

    Wow, What a great article.

    i really appreciate if you also help me little bit for my website introduction part, I am very confused.


  13. Mike Wood

    Love it. I use the “am I boring you” line for an exit pop-up on my website.

  14. Claire Greenhow

    Looking for inspiration for a charity email subject line, you’ve given me a few ideas.

  15. IH

    Great read Steve. “Personalize the subject line” and other content resulted in great gains for some of my recent campaigns. The extra effort is certainly worth it!

  16. Stella George

    Great article , It will give lot of help to the digital marketers and website owners..

  17. Amandah

    Great blog post!

    The successful subject lines I’ve used in the past were:

    Got a freelance writer?
    Hey! Read this.
    What P.T. Barnum Can Teach You about Social Media

    My favorite examples were #6 and #7 because they were fresh and unexpected.

    • Steve Young

      Amandah, those are great ones. Do you mind sharing the open rate of “Hey! Read this.”?

      • Amandah

        Hi Steve,

        My open rate for Hey! Read This was/is 33.3%.

        My open rate for Your FREE Gift for Subscribing to Savvy-Writer (I forgot to share this) was 40%.

        I’m always testing email subject lines and blog post headlines.