Writing tips

Craft an enticing subject line

You can’t get conversions from your email newsletter if nobody opens it. Your subject line can make or break the success of this marketing campaign. Once you understand how to increase open rates with different subject lines, you’ll have a better chance of getting high conversions from your newsletters. Take a look at this data about how recipients view the subject lines of a message: As you can see, the subject line can determine whether or not the message gets opened or reported as spam. How can you entice people to open your newsletter? For starters, make sure your subject lines are not boring. Subject lines such as “March Newsletter” don’t give anyone a reason to open their emails. Be personal: 82% of marketers report that personalized subject lines lead to increased open rates. Furthermore, 75% of experts say personalized messages drive higher click-through rates. One of the most common ways to personalize a subject line is by using the recipient’s name. Another enticing way to encourage opens for your newsletter is a time-sensitive subject line. Come up with a way to create a sense of urgency. There’s valuable information in your newsletter that needs to be read right away. Breaking news is something your subscribers would want to hear immediately. I’ve found that addressing a common issue or concern also works well. For example, you might promise that the contents of your email can help solve a problem, provide readers with valuable information to improve their lives, or make them happier. You’ll want to make it so that readers are so intrigued by the subject line that they can’t resist opening your email. You’ll want to pique their curiosity and leave an information gap that can be filled only by clicking. For instance, a B2B company might use a subject line such as “How to Double Your Sales in Just 30 Minutes.” One of my highest open rates came from an email I sent asking for people’s help. I genuinely needed and wanted the response of my readers. When I asked for readers’ help, it created an information gap between my request and the point of my request. Why did I need help? The result was an insane level of open rates. I’ve seen other great marketers do the same thing. Jayson DeMers, for example, created this email subject line that caught my attention: He even used a smiley face. Buffer knows that their audience wants to hear about social media tips. That’s why they use subject lines like this one: Throwing in some power words that stimulate readers and appeal to their emotions can have a tremendous impact as well. Use these terms when you’re coming up with the subject line for your newsletter. Here are just some of the power words you can use:

  • amazing
  • mind-blowing
  • jaw-dropping
  • blissful According to studies by MailChimp, time-sensitive words in the subject line with the highest impact on open rates are:
  • urgent
  • breaking
  • important
  • alert You get the idea. I recommend that you check out this list of 317 power words from Smart Blogger for more ideas. Here’s something else I do to save time and effort and increase effectiveness of my email campaigns: I use or repurpose my blog article titles as my email subject lines. This doesn’t work for every industry or email marketing campaign, I know. But it works for me. The goal of my email marketing efforts is to help people with great content. That content, of course, lives on my blog. So, I might as well use the title of my article as my subject line.

Getting emails opened

Half the battle is getting prospects to open your emails. Research from HubSpot found that companies with 1-10 employees typically receive a median open rate of 35.3% and companies with 26-200 employees receive a median open rate of 32.3%. Here’s another look at the stats from SmartInsights. Find your industry in the list, and see how your open rates compare: These numbers aren’t exactly staggering. I’ve found that the key to maximizing my open rate is making my emails as personal and interesting as possible. For instance, I suggest using your first name as your from address. Why do I suggest this? The data says so. In one survey, researchers asked “What most compels you to open a permission based email?” I know what would get me to open an email: the from line! Do I trust the sender? Do I want to hear from them? Do I like what they write? Is it going to help me in some way? The best way for me to find that out is by looking at who sent the information. Just take a look at these numbers. The from line is leading the subject line by double! Most people are already drowning in emails and don’t want to open something from some questionable corporate entity. But many are willing to open something from a real person, who is reaching out to them one-on-one. If you are signed up to receive emails from me, you expect to see “Neil Patel” in the subject line. I wrote the email, so I might as well be the one sending it. Besides, it gives you, the reader, the authentic sense that you’re hearing from me as a person, not some disembodied email marketing software.

Stick to your goal

What do you want your newsletter to accomplish? This should be the first question you ask yourself before you start writing. If you don’t know the answer to this, how will your subscribers know what to do? Here are some common goals for email newsletters:

  • drive sales
  • increase social media presence
  • download an e-book
  • drive traffic to a landing page
  • promote a new product or service There are tons of other goals your company might have. But if you’re struggling, use these to get started in the right direction. Pick one and go with it. Trying to jam all these into one message is complicated and will confuse your audience. Here’s a great example of a newsletter with a simple goal from Litmus: The goal of this newsletter is clearly to increase clicks to improve their engagement rates. Rather than just writing a lengthy article about the pros and cons of single vs. double opt-in landing pages, they give their subscribers an option. They’ll get different content based on which CTA button gets clicked. You can use a similar strategy in your newsletter, even if you don’t want to be as direct. First, introduce your goal with the headline or opening statements. Then, discuss it in greater detail throughout the message by mentioning it once or twice. Finally, end with a strong call to action like in the example above. Emphasize it. Don’t make it ambiguous. The customer should have a clear direction of what action to take after reading your newsletter.

Give people a reason to opt in

Let’s take a step back for a minute. For you to get conversions in the first place, you need to have an active list of email subscribers. The best way to do this is to give them a great reason to opt in. Just saying “sign up for our newsletter” isn’t appealing. How can you approach this? Value. Pitch people with value. Give them an incentive to sign up. Check out this example from the Lands’ End website: Customers who sign up for their newsletter will get 25% off their orders. It’s a no-brainer for customers to opt in. But the value doesn’t stop there. They continue by saying their newsletter subscribers also get access to exclusive offers. This implies they’ll get other discounts in the future as well. Besides monetary discounts, think about other ways your company can add value to prospective newsletter subscribers. It depends on your company and your industry, but try to get creative here. For example, an airline could offer priority boarding to customers who subscribe to their newsletter. You could provide free online seminars or e-book downloads to anyone who signs up for your newsletter. If your company hosts events, you can offer free parking passes or free entry to subscribers. Just think outside the box. The more people subscribe, the greater your conversions will be.

Keep language FORMAL and avoid language of everyday speech.

Don't say: "Cinderella was mellow and good. She never let her stepmother get to her ." Say instead: "Cinderella was mild-mannered and kind. She never let her stepmother affect her high spirits ."

But also work on expanding your VOCABULARY.

When reading, look up words you don't know. See how they're used. Start a list. Incorporate them into your writing as you feel comfortable and as they are appropriate.

Use the VOCABULARY that you know.

Don't always feel you have to use big words. It is always better to be clear and use simple language rather than showing off flashy words you aren't sure about and potentially misusing them. This is not to say, however, that you should settle for very weak vocabulary choices (like "bad" or "big" or "mad").


Don't say: "The mystery lady was one who every eligible man at the ball admired." Instead say : "Every eligible man at the ball admired the mystery lady."


Don't say: "The stepsisters were jealous and envious ." Instead say : "The stepsisters were jealous ." (...or envious. Pick one.)

Closely related to this, avoid CHOPPINESS

Don't say: "She scrubbed the floors. They were dirty. She used a mop. She sighed sadly. It was as if she were a servant ." Instead say : (again, there are multiple ways to do this) "She scrubbed the dirty floors using a mop, as if she were a servant. She sighed sadly."