11 Tips for Creating Email Subject Lines that Work (and 1 bonus tip)

Hello NPN’ers,

Email marketing is a very competitive business, and writing email subject lines that increase your open rates can be the “win or lose” determining factor in your email campaigns.

Below I have compiled a quick list of tips and ideas that can help you be more successful in your email marketing. I hope you get some value from what I have to share…

1. Short and sweet

A subject line needs to be short and to the point. Generally keep it under 50 characters. Remember your content is in the email body, it doesn’t need to be in the subject line too.

2. Use numbers and counts

This is an often used tactic that creates interest in the reader. People love to read “top” lists because they’re easy to read, and quick to digest. I’d recommend your list be less than 15 and more than 4. Odd numbers seem to work better. ie. 7 or 13 works better than 8 or 10.

Example: “Top 7 ways to get free leads”

3. Actionable subject lines

Use action words to intensify your subject line. You need your reader to take action now, not sometime whenever they feel like it.

Example: “..Get my free report NOW”

4. “friend” subject lines

These work well to get emails opened, but you have to be careful as they are often deemed to be misleading. Use them, but use them sparingly.

Example: “hey it’s me again”, or “did you get this?”

5. Personalize

Personalizing your subject lines is kind of debatable whether it works or not. Some people say to always personalize your subject lines, but honestly I’m not sure if it’s a good thing, or even necessary. Only your own testing will tell you whether they work for you or not.

Example: “{firstname}, get my free report now!”

6. Don’t mislead

You could say this is common sense, but there are still many people that do this out of desperation. Being misleading in your subject lines can result in a lot of unsubscribes from your list, so be careful. Basically, if you feel you have to be misleading, your content or probably isn’t worth buying anyways.

7. Test and re-test

Yep, this is an important one. Email marketing is all about testing. In fact, every time you send out an email, you are testing what you’re doing. Keep track of all your emails and your subject lines. Your autoresponder system should be able to give you the stats you need with regards to the interest you’re generating with your emails. Look at open rates and clickthrough rates for each subject line you use.

8. Use controversy

Quite often being a little bit “controversial” in your subject lines can increase your open rates, but make sure you’re not misleading people at the same time. Generate more interest by creating the “wow, I really gotta read this one!” curiosity in your email list.

Example:  “This could make some people very angry…”

9. Answer a question:

If you know your market, and what type of people are on your email list, you should be able to determine what questions they might have. A question in the subject line can make your readers curious enough that they’ll want to find the answer by opening your email.

Example: “Is Making a living from your computer really possible?”

10. The “how to” subject line

Everyone wants to learn how to do something, especially if it benefits them in any way. Give them a simple “How to…” subject line in your emails and if they’re interested in the topic they’ll certainly want to read the rest of your email message.

Example:  “How to write subject lines that always get attention.”

11. Don’t use “re:”, “fwd:”, “confirm your subscription”, “payment received” etc.

This ties in to being misleading in your subject. All this does is anger your reader and they will click the unsubscribe link in your email, guaranteed.

12 (bonus tip). Specifics Really Work!

Using specific numbers or results can improve your email open rates drastically. Use odd numbers, or odd times to create more curiosity.

Example: “How to get 67 free hot leads by dinner time!”

If you keep it interesting and keep providing valuable information to your readers, you will be successful in your marketing campaigns. Remember to be consistent with when you send your emails out as well, you need to train your list to know when you’ll be sending out your updates.

That’s it from me, have a great day!

Geoff Stephen

Comment below..

9 thoughts on “11 Tips for Creating Email Subject Lines that Work (and 1 bonus tip)”

  1. Hi Geoff,

    Great tips.

    I get lots of the payment recieved and re: type emails.

    I hate getting the ones saying your friend so and so recommends, or thinks you’d like this product.

    I’m like , fool I don’t know you and click the spam link to these type emails, if they don’t already get sent to my spam folder.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. I did a split test between the subject lines:

    New YouTube video for you 🙂


    How to generate 24 subscribers in 24 minutes

    And the second one got literally double the opens and clicks as the first one. The message was exactly the same too.

    I love testing and tracking!

    Keep it rockin,
    Gabriel Johansson

  3. @Gabriel Your subject lines are quite different. I wouldn’t click on the first one either 🙂 Specifics work the best on capture pages and sales pages as well. Rock on, bro.

  4. Hi Geoff,
    Thank for the 11 Tips.
    Never notice that a nice & sweet subject will make such a big different to my open rate / click rate.
    I thought it will be the same.
    Well, guess I have to test it only know.

    Great tips & thanks for sharing,

  5. Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for the great tips; will be testing some of them out very soon. I’ve used the numbers one before, but didn’t realise that the actual number mattered!!

    Thanks again


  6. @Sue Collier
    Sue, when you use an exact number people are curious as to how you did exactly that. As opposed to saying “make $5000 per month” which is open to interpretation and is more of an estimation.


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