How to Increase Your Open Rates on Emails

When it comes to getting consumers to open your emails, nothing is more important than writing effective subject lines. 

A lot of factors go into achieving successful email open rates – and there is no shortage of articles online claiming to have the perfect approach.

But in this article, we are only going to focus on the subject line.

If you don’t write an effective subject line, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your email is or what time in the day you send it because no one will open it. The subject line is short, but a lot of thought goes behind a well-written one.

So, if you want to write subject lines that entice people to open your emails, keep reading on. We have two tips that will send you well on your way to higher open rates.

Tip #1: Place Yourself in the Shoes of the Consumer

Before you place your fingers on your keyboard and start typing a subject line, ask yourself this important question: “What do the recipients of my email want or need?”.

The answer to this question should serve as the foundation for your subject line. If you can encapsulate your audience’s wants and needs and condense them into nine words or less (the ideal subject line length), then you are well on your way to improving your email open rates.

If you think you are already doing this but your email open rates are still suffering, then there are a number of possible explanations.

Let’s begin with the most likely: you have a misconstrued understanding of your audience. There’s only one way to fix this, and it requires an exercise in empathy.

How to Step into the Shoes of Your Consumers:

Many marketers make the mistake of trying to write a subject line that simply conveys the content of their email accurately, and while this is an important part of a good subject line, it is not the most important.

Your primary goal with a subject line should be to write a something that you, yourself, would be enticed by if you were a consumer. Once you achieve this, then you can worry about making the subject line relevant to the content (but ideally, they go hand-in-hand).

If you want to entice your audience, you must have an intense understanding of their challenges, wants, desires, and goals. But if you’ve ever tried to embody the mindset of someone else, you know how hard this can be.

To make it easier, don’t think of the email recipients as a group of people but as a single individual. If your audience is a collection of small business owners, envision one small business owner and try to understand him or her as best as you can.

Once you do this, think long and hard about why your content will benefit this person and try to frame your subject line accordingly.

For example, if your email is about how to write better subject lines, don’t simply write a subject line that says, “How to Write Better Subject Lines.”

Small business owners don’t care about writing better subject lines (even if they should). They care about increasing their open and conversion rates.

This may be the most important takeaway for your email marketing: Consumers care first about the end and then about the means, not the inverse.

When you only have nine words to catch consumers’ attention, lead with the end (i.e., the “why should they care?”) not the means (i.e., “here’s how to do something you don’t even realize you need to do yet”).

This approach applies to marketing on a whole, but it is especially important for short-form strategies such as email.

Tip #2: Use Active Verbs

That’s right, your scrupulous high-school English teacher who nagged on you for using passive voice in your essays was onto something…

Emails are far from essays, but they do share something in common: they’re both persuasive mediums. 

Many people think that active voice is important for formal writing but not for casual, nonacademic writing. However, this is far from the truth.

Active verbs are best suited for mediums that require persuasion, formal or otherwise. Don’t believe us? Let us rephrase: “Active verbs better suit mediums that require persuasion, formal or otherwise.”

Same sentence, different effect. One uses passive voice, the other active. There might only be a subtle difference, but when you only have nine words and one second (at best) to get your point across, every word matters.

You may be thinking, “Wait a second, you’ve been using passive voice in this blog post.” You’re absolutely right, but this isn’t a persuasive post; it’s an informational one.

It’s nearly always better to err on the side of active voice, but it takes considerable time and energy to write in such a manner. That’s why we recommend saving that time and energy for when it really matters – when you’re trying to persuade an audience.

Let’s Recap:

  • If you want to improve your email open rates, the first step is to improve your subject lines.
  • To improve your subject lines, place yourself in the shoes of your consumer, figure out what they want/need, and condense those wants/needs into a short, nine-words-or-less phrase.
    • And remember, focus more on how your content benefits the consumer and less on the content itself. Your task is to pique interest first and then educate.
  • To pique interest, it helps to use active verbs, the style best suited for persuasive writing – the style best suited for emails.


If you found this article insightful, let us know! And feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues.


Contributed by Bryce Ward.