7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates

“LoL… 100% conversion is impossible!”

That was all I needed to hear. It doesn’t even matter who said it, I was now on a mission to prove that statement wrong.

Today we’re not talking about sales though, we’re talking about getting your emails read and your links clicked. We’re talking about little conversion boosters that can produce thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands depending on your offer and audience.

Critical First Steps

The tactics you are about to discover can improve conversions to a cold audience and without you even knowing what that audience prefers yet. However, for best results we suggest using these techniques with an audience that you are very familiar with.

Poll them, call them, meet them face-to-face, do whatever it takes to learn exactly what problems, concerns, and desires your audience has.

Use the methods below with a subscriber list where you know exactly what they want, why they want it, and how they want it. When you do, you’ll get conversion numbers so high they’ll baffle your peers.

With that said, let’s get this party started. First we’ll address getting those emails opened and then we’ll work on increasing clicks.

The Almighty Question Mark?

When you add a question mark to the end of any statement it forces the brain to read the statement as though it were a question. For example, I’m using it in the title of this tactic.

It makes you think “What is he talking about and how does it work?”

Which means it’s engaging the reader mentally. Any ad that is engaging the reader mentally is going to get a higher response rate. I’ve added a question mark to my Adwords ads, Facebook ads, email subject lines, and blog post titles. EVERY TIME it has increased the conversions.

Sometimes only by a slight margin and sometimes by as much as 200% – Just by adding one more character to your subject line. You don’t have to turn your subject line into a question to use this tactic. In fact I recommend you don’t, just add a “?” to the end of any subject line.

Subject Line Jewelry

Why do people wear jewelry?

To get more attention, look pretty, and overall get more attention. You can use this same concept with your email subject lines by adding “jewelry” to them. Here are some examples of what I mean by “jewelry”

=> This Is My Killer Subject Line
// This Is My Killer Subject Line \\
>> This Is My Killer Subject Line

In today’s world of crowded inboxes these little attention getter’s… get attention! They make your subject line stand out among all the other subject lines. However, I suggest using them sparingly or else your subscribers could become blind to it from see it too often.

Convincing Captions [work great!]

We all know that a call-to-action improves conversions. Except subject lines don’t have room for call-to-actions? Or do they?

This Is My Killer Subject Line [must see]
This Is My Killer Subject Line [inside]
This Is My Killer Subject Line [time sensitive]
This Is My Killer Subject Line [voted best]

Just like the subject line jewelery these captions get more attention because they stand out in the list of subject lines. However, they also add the conversion boosting power of a call-to-action.

Branded Subject Lines

When a cattleman wants to make sure everyone recognizes his cattle among all the others in a herd, what does he do? He takes a hot branding iron and brands his cows.

The modern day email cowboy can brand his subject lines just like his horsey riding cousins did to their cows. This tip does require that you are using autoresponders or a follow-up series of some kind. Just use the first email in the series to tell the audience what your brand looks like and that they should be looking for it.

It can be as simple as adding your initials with brackets or creating your own design using the keyboard characters. For example, here are two versions I currently use.

[JB] This Is My Killer Subject Line
[|> This Is My Killer Subject Line

The second one is supposed to look like a diamond. I tell every new subscriber to watch for special emails among our normal schedule with the “[|>” because that means it’s a “marketing diamond.” Meaning a tip or story or deal that is better than what we normally send out.

While it does make them pay less attention to our other emails, we get incredible open rates on the ones that we REALLY want to make sure they read.

The first one is something I use on one of my follow-up series so they know it’s me writing to them. I know they can see the “from” field but that’s not usually looked at in the scrolling glance that’s used for choosing an email to open up first.

The Secret Discount

Switching gears now to getting your emails acted on, here is campaign I’ve used very effectively several times over the years.

While I’m not a fan of discounting your products (trains the customer to wait for sales) this one-two punch combo is too good for me to resist.

You write your “Hey we have a special discount today” email like you normally would. Except you don’t tell them what the discount is or the price. You leave them hanging by never mentioning the actual percentage of the discount or you specifically say “you’ll have to click to find out.”

The curiosity power of a “secret” along with the power of a “sale” create an explosion of clicks.

The “Bad Hair Day” CTA

People love to be entertained, and they love seeing someone else make a mistake. I’m not talking about anything evil, but have you ever laughed when a friend tripped?

Obviously, not if he fell and got hurt, but if it was a little trip you probably giggled a little and poked some fun at them. If you’ve ever had a bad hair day in a picture you know how much attention it got you, and is maybe STILL getting you.

When you write your email as normal add a P.S. or something just below the call to action that creates some entertaining curiosity. For example, “When you see the video PLEASE don’t laugh at my hair, I was having a bad hair day.” Here are some more examples…

“Go to the page now but please don’t laugh at my typing, my wife played a trick on me by switching a couple of my keyboard keys around”

“Learn more about the product here, but don’t laugh at the shirt I’m wearing, I didn’t know we were going to be using this video for our product demo.”

The Twitter Email

People don’t try to make a sale from their business card or from Twitter. Instead they use those tools to bring the person into a better sales environment. Business cards get people to call your office and Twitter gets people to visit your website.

It is possible to make a sale directly from the inbox, but it is not the best environment for sales. There are much better environments like webinars and sales pages.

Instead of using the email to try and say as much as possible, why not try saying as little as possible. Treat the email like it was Twitter and limit the message to the most important or most attractive part and then drop your link.

This will create a very short email that can be read at a glance. It’s a little annoying when used all the time, but when used every once in awhile it creates a very strong amount of curiosity and desire to find out more.

Here’s an example I would use for Unbounce:

Hey John,

We just added a new feature that makes landing pages twice as effective.

Read about it here


Unbounce Team

There you have it, 7 proven ways to increase your email open & click-thru rates. At worst you have 7 new things to try and maybe will boost conversions a little. At best you have 7 new tools in your toolbox for dramatically increasing your conversions.

If you have a tip you have used that worked well or a question about one above… Then tell us below in the comment section, I’ll be reading and replying to every one of them for the next few days.

— Justin Brooke

default author image
About Justin Brooke
Justin Brooke, aka TheRebelMisterB, is a copywriter, darn good blogger and speaks internationally about topics relating to Internet marketing. Clients have called him the “Kimbo Slice of Internet Business” and he proclaims that his conversion numbers make men cry!
» More blog posts by Justin Brooke


  1. Printable Coupons

    The idea about using a question mark to intrigue a visitor to click is huge. I always seem to want to click through as well when someone posses a question like that. It is a very, very effective tool and leads to a high click rate. Thank you for reinforcing this fact in your post. I just found your blog and am hooked! I will be looking through as much of your blog today as possible.

    • AntiWarPapaya

      I like the idea of using a question mark too. If you come up with the right question, it can compel somebody to take some sort of action on your email. I think that truthfully for any type of marketing you have to offer some sort of actual benefit to somebody to take any sort of action as well. You see on Facebook there are all kinds of companies listed at http://www.buyfacebookfansreviews.com that can help you get fans, but most of these companies recommend offering some sort of real incentive while your campaign is going on: whether its a coupon or insider news or something equivalent. I think that you have to do the same sort of thing with email marketing as much as possible. It’s just that with all kinds of email spam that is making people sort of jaded, you have to make sure that it doesn’t come across to people like some sort of questionable offer that they see and immediately ignore.

  2. Justin Brooke

    Thanks PC, I’ve been called crazy for how much I use the little question mark. However, it works every single time and it’s the simplest little thing anyone can do.

    Glad to meet you and hope I can keep impressing ;-D

  3. brian litman

    great email Justin.. .Learned a few new things can implement right away…

  4. Justin Brooke

    Thanks Brian, coming from a top dog like you that’s a really big compliment. Keep in touch with any split-test results you get from this. Love to add some outside case studies.

  5. Calvin Curry

    I like your “Bad Hair Day” CTA idea. I’ve never thought of that. But I’m sure it will work. Can’t wait to try it out.

    Calvin Curry

    • Justin Brooke

      Thanks Calvin, works the best when you got a video you really want people to watch. Add in a great benefit they’ll get for watching the video with the curiosity of the bad hair day and BOOM! big clicks

  6. Jimmy - Niche Experiments

    Great post Justin.

    For me the “bad hair day” tactic is a must! Anyone who reads our blog will know that we love silly jokes or pictures so that tactic will fit in nicely with what we’re all about.

  7. Matt Poc

    Yeah, curiosity gets attention!

    A few months ago I’ve sent an email to my list with a subject line “THANK YOU” and I got 14.6% open rate and 9% click through rate!

    Curiosity definitely works.

    Matt Poc

    • Justin Brooke

      Be careful though because sometimes just curiosity alone gets clicks but then pisses people off if it wasn’t about something they really wanted. I always use curiosity combined with a benefit that way they know what they are getting. It’s a one-two punch!

  8. Shane Sullivan

    Justin, dude, that was great. I’m printing this one and adding to my email swipe file.

  9. Chad Eljisr

    Good stuff Justin!… :)

    I am familiar with most of those methods, but never heard of the bad hair day tactic. That’s simply put WOW, kind of similar to some seduction techniques, and I can’t wait to put it into action…

  10. Alex

    All these techniques are easy to use but I reckon the question mark is probably the most useful!

    • Justin Brooke

      The question mark travels across almsot all ad platforms so I agree. Loved it in Adwords, loved it in Facebook, obviously love it in email, and I even loved it in my POF ads!

      It’s like my iPad, I bring it everywhere I go LOL

  11. Gabriel Mercado

    I love the ? mark tactic, “Curiosity killed the cat” every time I see the question mark I open the messege. lol

  12. Lawrence

    Awesome! I recieved an email from you 6 months ago with instruction to look out for [JB], and it worked for me and I used it. My open rates jumped 22% from that alone! Keep delivering great value, unbounce is likely affiliation with your brand- great value always. Thanks!

    • Justin Brooke

      That’s great news Lawrence! I can’t describe the feeling of hearing news like that, knowing you really helped someone get a positive result. No amount of money in the world can replace that!

  13. George

    I really liked your tips – specially the first one – the ? – I think it’s a great way to get someone curious… and not just to open an email, I’ve used it in article and blog titles, banners and I even have a few domains like: http://WhyWorkOnline.com, http://WhyPayOffDebt.com, http://WhyCosmeticSurgery.com and one I’m just setting up: http://WhyDetoxDiet.com

    As a B2B salesperson for over 22 years I was always taught to use questions to direct the presentation… It truly has power… and I think people should consider using it more – and in more places.

  14. Andrea Lattanzi

    Great tips. I always find these blog posts to be very practical and easy to understand. Thanks!

  15. DianiaLee

    Hey Justin,
    These 7 tips are really powerful! I can tell you 1st hand that the all work, because they’ve all worked on me, Lol. If i had to pick just one as my favorite, it would be the “Bad Hair Day” CTA. The reason being is: 1) it puts people at ease by letting them know you are human. 2) if for no other reason they will click through, just to see your “Bad Hair Day” etc. I also love the simplicity of the “Question Mark” & “Subject Line Jewelry”.
    Thanks for all you & Chaunna do for your followers!
    Y’all Rock ~DianiaLee

  16. Shawn Horwood

    As a consumer I’m a big fan of the branded subject lines. I find those are the emails I open the most, and those are the emails I put a priority on reading.

    Other emails could be promotions, could be information or could be spam, but the branded ones I know what I’m getting, and I’m excited to open the emails.

    As a marketer, I’ve found that question marks are awesome for increasing conversions in most situations.

  17. Jacques Desjardins

    Does the “subject line jewelery” actually work? (see how I made that a question lol)

    I’m asking because spam blockers tend to flag some characters and I’m wondering if this would actually hurt more than help. Great article!

    • Justin Brooke

      Hey Jacques, I know we don’t know each other so there is no trust between us. However, I depend on articles like these to positively grow my reputation. Which means I make sure I NEVER say anything I haven’t solidly tested and know for 100% is correct. That way I won’t have any regrets, surprises, or people hating me for something going wrong.

      I can’t promise that the “jewelery” will always work in the future. Currently it works for me very well, has worked for my clients, and is working for some friends I’ve shared it with.

      By “works” I’m saying that it increases my open rate. Which wouldn’t be possible if it was making my emails trigger the spam filters.

  18. John Counsel

    Great ideas, Justin. All meat with just enough feathers to make it appealing.

  19. Farhan

    I think Convincing Captions is the one for me. It really makes you click on the email.

    Great Tips. Thanks.

    • Justin Brooke

      Yeah I use that one a lot. What’s great about it is that it’s one of them that you can use over and over again without worrying it will get less effective. I been using it for several months now and it’s still working.

  20. Neal

    Hey Justin, awesome post man. I liked the one about branded subject lines the best. Esp. with the massive increases emails over the last couple years

    • Justin Brooke

      Thanks for the compliments my man. It’s true email marketing has gotten much tougher and I’ve been studying how people check their email lately.

      People have folders, multiple email addresses, filters, and now we got priority inbox with Gmail.

      Never has it been more important than now to make YOUR email the one that is recognizable at a glance

  21. Steve Hall

    Hey Justin
    I think the key is not to over do them and to use a variety of the tactics so that people don’t become used to seeing them all the time.

    • Justin Brooke

      Like any marketing tactic, if it gets overused it loses it’s potency. Some of these though I have been using over and over again with no loss of performance.

      The question mark and captions are things I use almost daily. There might be a loss in performance that is so small that I can’t see it without deep analytics, but from what I can see they still work just as well today as they have my first time.

      Like I said though, if I really overused it, or never changed things up… I’m sure it would take a dive.

  22. Ken

    I like the question mark subject line.
    Thanks for sharing your techniques!

  23. Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Justin,

    I like your tips, especially the one about crafting a creative PS line.

    Go at it from a different angle. Adding humor or levity to a PS instantly lightens up the reader, getting a laugh or chuckle. When in a high energy mood, the reader is more likely to give you a click.

    The strategy piques curiosity too.

    Thanks for sharing.


  24. Forrest

    Thanks Justin for another list of immediately usable and effective tips. I just scanned my emails and found that few people use them, and I delete most without reading them.

  25. Jeff Bode

    Awesome Justin! I use a lot of the same subject link techniques with great success so I know this info will help those who don’t use it yet.

    Here’s 3 additional email tips (I’ve written a ton of emails)
    1 Have multiple calls to action (hint anchor text: Click HERE Now – works really well)
    2 Use hanging phrases including the … at the end
    3 Use * or ~ or something similar along with your from name to make it stand out

  26. ’7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates’ by Justin Brooke

    […] 7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates […]

  27. AJ

    Hi Justin,
    I like the ‘Bad Hair Day’ method for new prospects or for those who have not purchased anything. Once they have purchased, you should change to the ‘Branded Subject Lines’. This helps to ensure your emails keep getting opened by those who have already purchased or opted into another list. This is a great combo practice that focuses on new and existing customers.

  28. Debbie

    Great tips Justin. All of them were good but I have to admit the 2 that really stuck out to me and the ones I plan to try 1st were probably 2 of the simplest: The Almighty Question Mark? and the Subject Line Jewelry

    I will definitely be trying out some of these but especially these 2 first. Thanks

  29. Yomar Lopez

    Love these tips and I’ve had success with many of them.. Of course, sometimes you forget about the things that work and need someone to remind you (like here).

    A few thoughts…

    * Question Marks: They work but don’t abuse them. As with any content, you should balance the “tricks” with normal copy so that you don’t seem too gimmicky.
    * Jewelry: Same thoughts as above. These things make messages stick out and certainly work best for e-mail but they can work in other places.
    * P.S. I Love You: Yes, yes, and YES! This allows you to be concise with the main body of your message and add value for those that are curious.. or skip to the end.

    As always, do what is natural to you so you are authentic through and through (hi Dr. Seuss).

    With that in mind, you don’t want to joke about your bad hair day if you really could care less about your hair.. Or have none. Just saying.

    Great read here, Justin. I like the clean, simple way you formatted it all. Good chunking in action. From the very beginning, I felt I had to read on.. Particularly due to the “LOL” comment. Haha

  30. Ibloss

    I think the “?” is a great point. Besides that, the other points trigger email spam to me. Usually I’d get rid of those pretty quickly.

    • Yomar Lopez

      That’s true.. It just goes to show that there are no universal laws in marketing. I think the use of clever titles and special characters to stick out in a cluttered inbox generally works, so long as the value is immediately evident.

      Of course, there’s the argument that these tricks may work better with the younger audiences.. Demographics help with marketing but I would not fall into the trap of putting people in boxes. Consumers today are very dynamic and sometimes quite fickle.

      Sometimes, it’s just luck and good timing.. Which is why you need to get those opt-in rates up and drip information little by little, until they DO notice. 8)

  31. James St. John

    Real good stuff here, Justin. I will certainly begin to apply some of these to my follow-up e-mails. I have used a couple, but never actually thought about the power of the question mark.
    Someone mentioned using “Thank You” as a subject. My spam filter kills all of those, thankfully. Sorry.

  32. Ronald Groot

    Hi Justin,
    thanks for the inspiration! How simple can it be…

  33. Vijay

    Thanks for sharing these great tips. I will include them in my email series as well.

    From my personal experience, I have opened emails from marketers whom I trust and like.

    I am not sure how much of an effect subject lines have in this case since I look more at who is sending the email than the subject line.

    I think it goes without saying, provide great value to your subscribers and have a great relationship with them. You should see a huge difference in the open rates :)

  34. Jason Marshall?

    Hi Justin! Love the post!

    I loved the tip “The Twitter Email”. I definitely have a tendency to almost over communicate. Hoping that I have explained everything completely and left no confusion.

    So for me using a super short email would have double the affect. First, because of the reasons you state and second for the shock value of change.

    I guess that’s another tip… Change it up! Once in a while change your emails up to keep their attention. So for those of you that already do short emails throw in a long one here and there.

    DOH! I guess this isn’t a “Twitter Comment”. I will shut up now.

    Thanks Again Justin!


    PS – How often do you use the bad hair day ;)

  35. newsvideosindia

    So much helpful tips ! I like So ! Like it easy and useful for blogger also.

  36. Kristi Hines

    I don’t mind the short emails so long as they are not cryptic. I had one this morning that was something like “Boost your traffic by 250% using these techniques.” and then a link. Sure I opened the email, but I looked at it, didn’t know who it was from because literally there was just that blurb, the link, and an address at the bottom I didn’t recognize. It felt almost like the Twitter scam going around about “Hey, I saw you in this video.” then a link.

    There has to be a healthy balance between short and sweet but still informative. The more spammy it looks, the more unsubscribes you might get. I like your example where they at least add a signature line at the bottom. Make sure it’s obvious who it comes from!

  37. Rack up those clicks, rack up your conversion rate « Solnyx Consultants Inc.

    […] Brooke outlines 7 steps to increase your email open rate as well as your link click-thru. Ask questions to involve your readers, use captions and symbols to […]

  38. Conversion-Fest Winners – and the Secret Sauce Behind Blog Post Promotion | Unbounce

    […] Justin Brooke@JustinBrooke7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates […]

  39. Increasing Email Open Rates with Proven Subject Line Writing

    […] your response rate.Thought to ask make an iphone app or perhaps how to make an iphone app on windowsWhen you're promoting anything online, email marketing can help you reach your target audience like …s. If you want to be able to get the most out of your email list, you have to start with the basics, […]

  40. Conversion-Fest Winners – and the Secret Sauce Behind Blog Post Promotion | Vevosi Marketing Blog

    […] Justin Brooke@JustinBrooke7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates […]

  41. joaca jocuri cu bile

    7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates | Unbounce has been saved like a favorite :), I really like your blog!

  42. Afropeeps

    Great!!! tips. Will have to apply some of them.
    they are just amazing. Glad i stumble upon it.

  43. buyseoservice.info

    Hello, many thanks for sharing your opinions in 7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates | Unbounce. This is really a very nice website.

  44. type 2 diabetes

    7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates | Unbounce has been put into my own bookmarks. I can’t wait to learn even more about this topic.

  45. fraud investigation service

    7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates | Unbounce is an amazing share. Thanks for this article.

  46. Steve

    Nice Article, some very useful points. I have written a similar article too. Although I think you have provided a different outlook. http://www.stehughes.net/2012/07/5-tips-for-improving-your-email-open-rates/#more

  47. jan

    I like this post. Simple and effective. I’m re-thinking my email subject lines now :)

  48. Improving Email Open Rates

    […] “How To Write Magnetic Headlines” Unbounce’s “7 Proven Ways To Increase Your Email Open & Click-Thru Rates” Business 2 Community’s “Email Newsletters 101: How to Increase Your Email Open […]

  49. Email Marketing Ideas To Boost Click Rates - Business 2 Community - Conversion Nexus

    […] Intrigue – Just like your messaging strategy, creating a little intrigue is always a great idea. Market with heavy-handed hints instead of telling someone explicitly why […]

  50. Marketing Automation, Automatyzacja Marketingu, Lead Nurturing, Demand Generation, Generowanie popytu | 13 sposobów na skuteczny email marketing w ecommerce. Jak zwiększyć OR i CTR Twoich kampanii?

    […] jak zaproszenie do rozmowy. To dużo bardziej angażuje niż podanie informacji. Według badań Unbounce tak prosty trik może zwiększyć OR nawet o […]

  51. 13 Ideas for a Successful Email Marketing. How to Increase OR and CTR of your campaigns? | Marketing Automations

    […] recipient read it as a question? Yes! And questions begin conversations, they engage. According to Unbounce, that simple trick can increase OR even by 200%.– use symbols: thanks to that the message […]

  52. TIEA

    Having read this I believed it was really enlightening.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this short article together.
    I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  53. Helena

    Very good information, Thanks for sharing. But how do i know that my emails are not going to spam.