Email Subject Line Tricks Don’t Cut It With Me

I don’t know about you but I have had enough of these email subject lines that try to trick you into opening them. In their efforts to win readers many internet marketers seem to have resorted to using email subject lines that – well – just suck.

Some of the email marketing subject lines that I have had flooding into my inbox recently are:

  • Urgent please
  • Important notice
  • Commission notice
  • New Facebook message
  • Notification of ClickBank sale
  • Get your commission
  • Notice for (your name)
  •  Re. Your Order
  • Open ticket
  • Confidential message for (your name)
  •  Special delivery
  • Priority message
  • You are a fool
  • Claim your money
  • Log in details
  • You still up?
  • Payment received, download link enclosed

I’m sure you can add some others to the ever growing list. The thing is that once you have been tricked into opening one of them you just don’t fall for it again so I fail to see the point. I unsubscribe straight away from lists run by marketers who use these methods and I am sure I am not alone in this.

I have even seen some of the so called “gurus” suggesting some of these email subject lines  for the suggested emails they give on their affiliate pages. They may get you a high open rate in the beginning but not for long as people get wise to them.

We all want to get our emails opened and read. A lot of effort goes into building a list and sending out great content but it’s frustrating when it all goes to waste if your email is not opened.

Here’s a few dos and don’ts of subject lines.  

Avoid subject lines that:

1. Insult the reader. Many markers believe that people always rise to their defense, and thus resort to provoking them to such action. Thousands of mails are sent daily, calling the reader names such as fool, stupid, ignorant and many others in this line.  The truth is that you cannot expect any positive response from someone you just insulted. Yes, they might open the email just to see why you are calling them names, but they will eventually run away from you and buy from your competitors.

2. Are too generic. Readers want to identify with you and your brand, and the best way to do this is by personalizing the subject so that it seems relevant to the reader. Avoid emails that have generic topics. Best to tell your readers what they the email is about.

3. Are wordy. In many cases people have email systems that simply do not show many words of the subject line. Many email programs cut off the subject line at 50 characters and that includes spaces!

4. Consist of one word like “Hi”. These fail to communicate what the email is about.

5. Beg for attention like “Please read this”, “Urgent”   It often has the opposite effect

Good subject lines

Generally, a good email subject line is the one that:

1. Addresses the problem of the reader by offering a solution. A subject line such as ‘Lose 10 pounds in a month through dieting’ is good enough to draw the attention of the reader. People get too much e-mail to waste time on anything that doesn’t convey a benefit for them/

2. Speaks directly to the reader. A subject such as ‘Donate a dollar and save starving millions’ sounds more friendly than ‘1 Million lives could be saved if all Gmail account holders donated a dollar today’.

3. Summarizes the entire email. Do not play games; Subject lines are meant to tell the reader what to expect in the rest of the message.

4. Highlights the important details in the message. If the message you are giving involves important details such as names of prominent persons, dates and venues, highlight them in the subject line.

One idea that seems to be working at the moment is to start your subject line with a statement in brackets for example [Video] [Blog post] [Gift] [ Tip of the Week].  This can catch the readers attention straight away. The email will stand out just because most other subject lines that the your subscriber gets won’t have brackets.

At the end of the day you really have to test,test,and test.Split test too if your list is big enough. Everyone’s list is different so there is no magic formula that works for every list. You know your subscribers best so the solution to writing good email subject lines that get the results you want is to consistently test and tweak them.

One final tip is to study the email subject lines of the message that you receive. Which ones do you open and why? Use these ideas to craft your next subject line.

What tips have you got for writing email subject lines that get good open rates? Please share them with my readers in the comments.

19 thoughts on “Email Subject Line Tricks Don’t Cut It With Me”

  1. Hi Sandy,

    Good subject to bring up. I’m sure there are a lot of people who say I can’t take it anymore! The reality is that pain in the $#$& subject lines are never going to go away!

    I got one the other day that said- Is this you in the video? Unbelievable ehh. One tip I got for everyone is to look at it all like a comedy show and see which ones are going to make you laugh the most. That’s what I do. I believe it’s a healthy way to look at it all instead of getting all upset.

    My take on a good subject line is it must grab your attention in a good way that won’t make you disgusted or insult your intelligence. Just like headlines in newspapers it’s got to be worded in such a way that it hits the bulls eye and smacks you right between the eyes and peeks your interest so when you open the email you’ll want to know more, not RUN AWAY.

    Terry Conti

  2. Sandy, the depths that some marketers will go never ceases to amaze me. It’s really quite irritating. The worst ones however are the spamie ones like forex or stock tips. I’ll take your tips and use them wisely. Suzanne

  3. Well written piece, unique and good advice for candidates. No question! Uniqueness is key! According to me you described that in very good way.
    You are so smart and this is a great post!
    Thank you for the great tips.
    Wow I didn’t know this! And I love your blog!
    What a great blog, I am bookmarking it.
    and this is right in such a way that it hits the bulls eye and smacks you right between the eyes and peeks your interest so when you open the email you’ll want to know more.

  4. Well said, Sandy. I too get irritated with some of the subject lines I see in my email. The first thing I do on my computer each day is clear out my inbox, and if I’m not really careful, I’ll be sucked in to reading these worthless pieces of mail. I’ve found that the best practice is to delete these messages outright before I waste any time reading them that could be better spent on my business. I also take about a half hour each week to unsubscribe from the most blatant ones. Thanks for some great information.

    1. Hi Stuart

      You are right. They are usually a waste of time. I try to spend some time each day to unsubscribe and clear out the junk from my inbox too otherwise before I know it I have a ton of messages flooding in every day and I am liable to miss the important ones.


  5. I tend to open my emails in what i believe are the most important looking one from my car valeting business email address which are forwarded to my personal mail, then from friends family etc. The ones I believe are spam or marketing like the ones above I either delete before reading or unsubscribe, sometimes this works sometimes not

  6. This post is great, because everyone gets e-mails from people that they do not want to receive. The best thing is to avoid the e-mails that look like they are not important and that offer free prizes. I have started to transfer the e-mails that are unnecessary to the junk folder so I do not receive them again.

  7. I very much like your advice in points 1 and 2, Sandy, because those are the only emails I’ll open if they’re from an unknown username. The title has to put me in the forefront, otherwise, I’ll skip it over. To me, the worst subject lines are the blank ones — even if a friend sends me those, they go in my trash because they were probably generated by a virus on a friend’s system.

    1. Hi Leo,

      I agree with you about the blank subject lines. I have discovered that they are nearly always spam so I never open them.


  8. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

    1. I wonder what happened there? That has happened to me in the past. It always pays to copy what you have written before you press the submit button in case there is a problem, then you can try again without having to write the whole comment out again.


  9. It is annoying when you get so many e-mails that are irrelevant and junk. You can tell straight away by the subject lines if the e-mails are going to be worth reading or not. I just put them into the junk folder, so that they will get sent through to their rather than my actual inbox.

  10. Recently, there have been a slew of emails with subjects such as “Your download link” or “Product Update”, which are actually badly-disguised affiliate sales letters. I open them the first time – then I unsubscribe. I don’t have the time or the desire to interact with marketers who think lying is an appropriate strategy.

  11. That’s one thing I’ve always wondered… as mentioned, the Guru’s tell you to use these deceptive subject lines to get high open rates, but they don’t tell you what it can do to your relationship with your list.

    And I am sure many people think, well, if they are all doing it, it must work, otherwise, why would they be doing it. Or they have so many leads coming in, it doesn’t matter?

    Sadly, seems a quite a bit of churn and burn going on. 🙁

    1. You are spot on there Ron. I did buy a WSO about solo ads that said a similar thing. They said that if you market aggressively you lose some subscribers but so what because you just keep building your list through solos. It seems to be the same mindset. I would not feel comfortable doing it.


  12. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with it either.

    There even seems to be a model that is being promoted quite a bit lately, suggesting people build lists as an asset to only sell solo ads from. Guess it’s not bad, to each their own. Direct marketers have been doing it long before the internet came around.

    BTW, it’s been kinda tough to post, keeps saying capatcha error 🙂

  13. The time has passed when such email marketing subjects dragged attention and people should know that it is no longer effective. These days once I see any with those type of subjects, I simply delete it without even opening it.

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