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The best ways to increase your open rate is to send your email at the best possible time, with the best possible subject line.

Overall, you want to keep your subject lines (the subject line is the first thing recipients see when they're deciding whether to open an email) as short as possible.

I used to believe the subject lines were a lot like headlines of an advertisement -- they're not. I'm always how surprised how stupid I was a week ago.

Instead, a subject line's entire aim is to get people to open an email, and not necessarily to describe the copy, product r benefits.

But that doesn't mean some rules of writing an advertisement headline don't apply. They do!

For example, right off the top of my head, here is David Ogilvy's top 10 rules for writing a headline (David Ogilvy is the father of modern advertising):

  1. A headline is like a tag on deli meat -- tell the reader what the ad is about!
  2. A headline must appeal to the reader's self-interest
  3. A headline should seem like it is introducing news, or the latest thing
  4. There are many words that make a headline more effective, such as: Announcing Just In, Free, Attention, You Won't believe, etc.
  5. Always try to insert the name of the brand into the ad, such as the Dove soap ad where a pretty girl was pictured saying something like (on the phone with husband): "Darling, I'm having the most extraordinary experience... I'm head over heels in DOVE."
  6. Try to have your headline make a promise to the reader
  7. A headline should get the reader curious about the body content
  8. A headline should use PLAIN language (no fancy words, please)
  9. Never use a negative word in a headline, such as: "Contains NO Arsenic" (people tend to forget the "no" and just remember the "arsenic"
  10. Never use a blind advertisement, that is, an ad that promises and talks about nothing


Frankly, the only piece of advice here I wouldn't directly apply to email subject lines is #10.

This is because, sometimes the subject line, "Good morning, [First Name of Recipient]" is more effective than any other clever subject line we can write. Also, a lot more like this that talk about nothing, are always great at getting people to open.

Other than that, Ogilvy's advice here is very good and very applicable to email subject lines.

Now I have heard people say to never use more than 3 words in a subject line and I disagree. If you have to use 5-8 words, but the line is REALLY compelling, go for it!

The only other advice I'd offer is DO NOT use the word "free." This almost always triggers spam filters, and you're email will land in spam boxes, especially if it is a new list.

Don't compete — DOMINATE.


Matt Steffen

"Don't compete -- DOMINATE!"

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Matt Steffen was Listed by Forbes as the #1 Marketing Consultant Who Avoids the B.S.