18 thoughts on “Lame Email Subject Lines, High Open Rates. Is it Possible?

  1. Hi Adrian, I’ve gotten 20-30% open rate when I only included one post in email vs. three and it was less.
    I do agree if you know who sent the email you will open it quicker than those you may be unsure of.
    I’ve been using co-schedule to help with headlines and I really like it. I’ve seen a little spike in traffic since using it.
    I like your tip to include your blog name in everything so readers recognize and remember it.
    Thanks Adrian.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I’ve gotten 20-30% open rate when I only included one post in email vs. three

      There’s something wrong with that conclusion.

      Subscriber’s decision whether to open an email or not isn’t based on a piece of information the subscriber hasn’t seen yet (the number of posts included in the body of the message). The decision depends on what the subscriber sees before opening your message.

      When you make assessments regarding the open rates you have to take into consideration the factors that influence the open rate (the subject line, etc), not the factors that don’t influence the open rate (like the number of posts included in the message)

      The CTR – not the open rate – may depend on how many posts you included in the message ;)

      1. Hi Adrian, oh understood. 20-30% is open rate and just over 5% is click through on mine. So they are opening more with the use of co-schedule headline analyzer. The click through rate increased from 2% with using just one post in the email itself :) Thanks for clarifying Adrian.

  2. I recently started building an email list so I haven’t yet sent any email to my subscribers. But I am going to start with lame subjects just to see if I can get a high open rate with my very first email.
    Thanks for the article, Adrian!

    1. Take care! This article doesn’t teach you that writing bad headlines is something good. So don’t write bad headlines on purpose. It is possible to get good results even if you don’t write good headlines, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a good result – especially when you’re a newbie in list building and email marketing.

      Here’s the danger: If you write a lame headline and you send it to people who actually don’t know you, you may not get a second chance. The unsubscribe button isn’t your friend. On top of this, if you get also some “This is Spam” reports you’re doomed ;-)

      It is possible to survive if a bear attacks you, but if you can… you’d better avoid that fight. The same with this article. Don’t write bad headlines on purpose!

  3. Hey Adrian,

    Thank you for this unique perspective on email marketing.

    Yes, sometimes being the same-old helps – as people start to recognize you when you keep your identity static for a longer period of time.

    However, this technique won’t work with every niche. Especially on marketing niches – the subject line will matter, or else the user won’t open the email.

    I absolutely agree on the relationship part – one needs to establish a very good relationship with their subscribers to get a better open rate. This can be done via high quality content, sent at regular intervals with auto-responders.

    1. Hi Shobha,

      However, this technique won’t work with every niche. Especially on marketing niches – the subject line will matter, or else the user won’t open the email.

      How do you know it? Have you tested it? Or it’s just an assumption based on “expert” articles that usually disregard the sender but emphasize only the subject line…

      Branding and relationships are not things that apply everywhere except for the marketing niches ;-)

      Example #1 – I’m subscribed only to two internet marketing newsletters: IM NewsWatch and SiteProNews. I never read their subject lines. However, I always open them because I know for sure that I’m interested in their content.

      Example #2 – The newsletter attached to this blog – an internet marketing blog – has always the same subject lines, only the date is different. The subscribers open these emails though, they don’t act the way you assumed ;-)

  4. I just signed up for Aweber and am going to start sending emails to my subscribers (all 10 of them). I’ve been trying to come up with creative email titles and am kind of relieved to hear that sometimes KISS really does work.

    1. Hi Amy,

      $19/month for 10 subscribers is quite expensive, isn’t it? Why don’t you signup for the moment for a company that has a free plan? And by free plan I really mean free plan, not a x-day free trial ;)

      1. I’m using the subscription in conjunction with my personal blog. It isn’t ideal since I have to switch back and forth, but I’m hoping that as my business blog increases I can rationalize two subscriptions. I’ve used MailChimp in the past and may switch back to it if the subscriptions don’t increase.

  5. Hey Adrian,

    Great post.

    I haven’t done these type of email headlines, per say, but I’m subscribed to an Internet Marketer who does this religiously. And it gets me every time. And it’s not even “mom” type of headlines either, it’s stuff like “Raw, ‘uncircumcised’ emails and ‘Junkies getting high on the goo-roo carousel'”

    It gets me to open them, that’s for certain. And what makes it better is that the emails are actually informational and entertaining.

    But, this is something I’ll have to at least test out and see for myself if it works. Thanks for this post.

    – Andrew

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing the article on G+ and Twitter. You may want to correct the headline of your latest blog post. I’ve notified you on Facebook one week ago, but I guess you were busy and didn’t notice it ;)

  6. I really enjoyed your take on email headlines. You’re right, the headline is touted as being the single most important element in terms of open rates in many posts on the topic. But as you say, the sender is a critical part of the recipient’s decision to open the mail.

    When I reflected on it, that’s the ONLY thing I look at when deciding whether or not to open an email. I’ve subscribed to many many blogs in the course of my own blogging but I’ll only open those from people I recognise as being likely to have something of value to me. I’ve determined who those few people are based on earlier emails from them. I may not have a strong relationship with them or their blog but at some point they’ve said something interesting.

    Hmm, that’s got me thinking! Thanks Adrian!

  7. I agree with you. There is always advice about writing “killer” subject lines, I tend to believe that if they see where the email is coming from they will most likely open it. I receive too many emails every day with subject lines with exclamations, smiley faces and long titles. I find these tend to be more spammy than the ones from trusted sources.

  8. Hi Adrian,
    For several months I’ve been experimenting with different From fields. Your article has given me more direction in what to choose. Plus, the importance of consistency.
    No matter how long any entrepreneurs have been online, we learn from your expertise Adrian!
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Susan,

      Testing is a must in marketing, but you should take care. If you change two or more variables (instead of only one variable) then you may not be able to interpret the results.

      What I mean is that if you send one master-message and then you send a test-message that has a different From field (change #1) and a different subject line (change#2), then you cannot interpret the results.

      You’ll get two open rates but you cannot know what was the variable that determined the decrease or the increase of the open rate. Was it the change #1? Was it the change #2? Was it the mix? You have no clue. So that’s not a real test.

      Change one thing at a time!

      Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that I recommend that you send one master-message to your whole list, and then a test-message that is identical except for the From field. You’ll get unsubscribes because of the repetition of the actual message.

      That’s not what I suggested. You have to send the master-message to a part of the list and the other message to another part ;)

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