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How to Write Utterly Compelling Email Subject Lines (That Get Opened)

Email Subject Lines

Email headlines (aka subject lines) are THE single most important thing in email marketing.

Want to know why?

Because without a good one, no one is going to bother opening your email in the first place.

It HAS to do all the initial heavy lifting.

So, the million-dollar question is, what makes a really GOOD HEADLINE?

People click on things for various reasons, but more often than not, it is a combination of TWO things:

1) Curiosity, and

2) Benefit…aka WIIFM (What’s In It For Me)

For the most part, one size does not generally fit all, and it often simply depends on your audience and what specifically interests them.

Having said that, regardless of your audience, there are some key elements which are generally considered to be ‘must-haves’ in all great subject lines (and this equally applies to article/blog headlines).

We call these elements the power of the Four U’s.



So let’s take a look:

Add Urgency:

Adding a sense of urgency to a headline can work wonders; however, overuse can have the opposite effect.

So I would only be inclined to use it in a time-sensitive situation and if…wait for it…it was true!

This means that every email you send out should not impose a deadline or ‘last chance’ call to action (desperate cry for help). A simple ‘now’ in your headline can be just as effective.

Likewise, social proof can add a perception of urgency.

For example: ‘Learn how the top tech businesses are making a killing with this one winning technique’.

Once you see this, you don’t want to be left behind, do you?

Be Unique:

No, I don’t mean like your aunt’s favourite Art Deco vase, or your Mexican drink coaster collection.

I mean to highlight the benefit of your product or service in a unique way, something which piques the reader’s curiosity.

Alternatively, make your headline more appealing by making the message stand out in a unique (but good) way.

For example: ‘The Psychology of Cult Branding: How to convert your customers into your tribe’.

This is different from the usual SEO keyword-stuffed headline and conveys a message in a novel way.

Be Ultra-Specific:

Being specific about what you are writing about can make your copy a lot more compelling.

Especially if you have narrowed down your audience and are laser-targeting a specific niche.

For example, my article: ‘15 Ways to Find Your First Copywriting Clients’ is specific to new copywriters just starting out who want to get clients.

Remember, when it comes to marketing, if you are marketing to everyone, you are marketing to no one.

Be Useful:

Actually, this should be at the TOP of the list!

If your headline isn’t perceived as useful to the reader in some way, they aren’t going to bother opening it. Which means they are not going to read your carefully crafted message. Remember the ‘What’s In It For Me’ (WIIFM) rule.

And when I say ME, I mean YOU…as in your readers.

For example: ‘8 Truths About Freelancing You Should Know (Before You Quit Your Job)’ tells you what you need to know if you are currently employed and looking to go freelance.

Obviously, it is not always going to be possible to get all four U’s in all of your headlines, but at least one or two should be your bare minimum target.

Out of the four U’s my favourite is USEFUL, because if your intention is to genuinely help others and provide value, you will always be the one with the winning formula.

Out of all of the above, I would say curiosity is the number one email converter.

Creating a gap between what people know and what they want to know is a powerful pull in any headline.

It’s like the first line of a novel….which brings me nicely on to:

Lasso Them In With An Open Loop

Can’t wait to watch the next episode of your favourite soap or Netflix show? That’s because you have been caught by the open loop in its simplest form (or cliffhanger as they used to say back in the day).

This clever linguistic lasso will have your readers coming back for more every time.

How do you create it?


Click here to find out now.

Just joking.

We need the answers to questions; we hate to be left hanging. This is a great add to any headline and even in the body of the text itself, especially if you are running an email sequence and want your readers to open the next email.

“Silicon Valley is no longer the leading tech capital of the world…”

See how it works now?

Ask Questions

Questions in your email headlines are a great way to raise curiosity. For example, ‘Want to know the best way to get your emails opened?’ was one of my best performing email subject lines. I wonder why…

Don’t Be Too Clever

There is a tendency for people to get carried away with email subject lines and try to be too clever. But copy which is confusing or panders to the reader does not get your emails opened.

Make sure that your email does what it says on the tin. So if it’s a special offer, make sure this is obvious from the headline.

Don’t write something just to get your email opened if the content is not convergent with the heading. That’s a surefire way to get people to quickly unsubscribe from your list.

Don’t Be Too Long

Think about the device your email is most likely to be delivered on. Will your subject line actually fit? If it is too long, then it’s likely that it will not only not fit but also simply be discarded.

Avoid Sir Spamalot

Hmm yes. Spam. Spammy headlines do not get delivered.

There are many words that are considered ‘spammy’ and they tend to revolve around anything monetary (which isn’t too helpful) for example, FREE, $ signs, Last Chance etc.

Most email providers will have a list of words which are considered spammy, and a simple Google search will reveal the most common ones.

Become Utterly Compelling

Of course, email copywriting does not simply stop with the headline; you also have to make sure your email content is just as compelling.

As for what things to write about…

Check out this FREE guide with 45+ email content templates and a complete course to writing great emails.

You’ll be glad you did 😉

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