5 Types of Email Subject Lines That (Almost) ALWAYS Get Opened

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In email marketing, your most important goal is to deliver an email that inspires people to take action. The first action, of course, is to open the email and read what’s inside. This is far more likely to occur when you’ve used an engaging subject line. While crafting the perfect email subject line is no easy venture, here at DigitalMarketer, we’ve got it down to a pretty good science. Keep reading to learn just what it takes to create the perfect opener. 

In our YouTube series, Marketing Mastery with DigitalMarketer, I talk about the 5 types of email subject lines that ALMOST always get opened.  

So, check out the video, and keep scrolling if you want to read more! 

Number 1: The Dead-On Offer

Sell with the what

This is a pretty simple one, I got the goods and I know you want them. Though, you REALLY need to make sure that people ‘want what you got’. 

When using dead-on email subject lines, you’re going to want to hit a segment of your list that finds the offer attractive. From there, don’t get creative or crafty—you just need to sell the open with the WHAT. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a free download or a $3,000 product, direct subject lines are a great way to break up campaigns and boost click-to-open rates. 

Here are a few of our best performing dead-on subject lines:

“11 Copywriting Books You (Probably) Should Read” – 19.64% open rate

“Email Marketing Announcement: Enrollment is Back Open” – 21.56% open rate

This sets a clear expectation and primes the click more than our next subject line type. 

Number 2: Curiosity/Blind

Confusion promotes action

Want to boost opens? Well that’s EASY—get them curious or… wait for it… confused. 

Sure, a confused customer GENERALLY doesn’t convert, but confusion will provoke the EXACT action you want in this case: the open. 

Now, when someone is opening because they’re curious or confused, you’ll very likely see a drop in email click rates

For example, say I got the blind email subject line “Cut Off” (one of our best performing promo email subject lines last year). This pattern interrupt may have been enough to get me to open, but the second I see it’s a promo I’ve already said no to means I’m just going to trash that email. 

However, you don’t need to rely on blind emails (those emails that get a high open but lower click rate)! You can pique interest and get readers going “Ooooo what’s that?” with the right type of curiosity subject lines. 

If you’re in marketing and you got an email saying: “Netflix’s Huge Homepage Fail”, you’re going to open that email up. Regardless of your marketing specialty or interest area, everyone knows Netflix and wants to know HOW they failed. 

This SL borrows authority, tells a story, AND makes the recipient curious. 

Number 3: Self-Interest “What’s in It For MEEEEE”

Your email must provide value

We’ve heard “What’s in it for me” in more ways than one and this is an objection ALL marketers ALWAYS have to overcome. 

In terms of email, it’s a little easier to overcome this question because you know a lot about your subscriber and you’re not an interruption, but a message they took time to evaluate whether they’d read or not. 

This all comes down to WHY SHOULD I READ THIS NOW?

Well, if you were interested in copywriting, you might open up an email saying: “Up to 85% OFF Our Best Copywriting Strategies” because you’ll get our best trainings AND save some cash. 

Or if you’re a marketer and you saw an email saying: “How to Create a Video Studio on a Shoestring Budget”, you’re likely going to give it an open because we all know just how important video is in the current marketing landscape. 

Number 4: Urgency

There’s no motivator like a deadline, that was true in school AND in business. People hate missing out and they ESPECIALLY hate missing out on a deal.

Email subject lines like… “LAST CHANCE: DigitalMarketer Lab goes off the Market in 3…2…1…” or “$95 today, $995 tomorrow” use FOMO as a strategy to get people to actually open, read, and take action. Now, these subject lines aren’t appropriate for every email… in fact, you should use them fairly sparingly so you don’t become the boy or girl who cried wolf.

Also, you’ll notice that the 2 examples I shared are a hybrid of dead-on and urgency. 

Pro-tip… if you want to get higher open rates, you’re going to need to mix and match these subject line types. 

Number 5: Story/Relevance

The most interesting part of the story is… well… the middle. With these kinds of subject lines, you’re trying to transport your reader into the middle of a conversation. 

“The Little Facebook Tweak that Halved Lead Cost”


“Here’s the REAL Reason Amazon is Buying Whole Foods”

See what I did there?

These types of subject lines work best to promote content or to prime a promotional series.

When you start with a story, especially a timely one, you’re given the opportunity to answer one of the most important questions you need to overcome: “Why should I care… now?!”

These email subject lines tend to open a serious loop with your reader, but you HAVE TO DELIVER the goods in the email body to ensure they do the intended action.

So, to recap:

  1. Dead-On Offer
  2. Curiosity/Blind
  3. Self Interest “What’s in it for me”
  4. Urgency
  5. Story/Relevance

If you want to dive deeper, check out 101 examples of our best performing subject lines on the DM blog.

And head over to our YouTube channel every week for more Marketing Mastery tips with me, Justin Rondeau.

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