What I Learnt by Analysing 177 Email Subject Lines (From 7 of the World’s Top Marketers)

The subject line is the most important part of marketing emails and also the most overlooked.

If you really think about it, the subject line is the difference maker. As this is often all people see to determine if they want to read your email or not.

That means if you have a crappy subject line then you can potentially lose the vast majority of your audience before they even read your email.

Focusing on writing excellent subject lines is the best way to see a massive increase in engagement from your emails.

And, it is a lot simpler than you might think.

In this post I am going to break down the lessons I learnt from analysing the email subject lines of some of the world’s top marketers.

Email Subject Lines

A long time coming

I have wanted to write a blog post about email subject lines for a while now but every time I came to do it I didn’t know where to start.

It’s such a funny thing when you think about it.

Surely a post about subject lines should be simple. It’s just a few words used to introduce an email after all.

If only this were true. Then we would all be getting 60% open rates.

The subject line is the most important part of your email but many people take it for granted.

It has the power to quite literally double your sales.

If one subject line gets a 15% open rate compared to another getting 30% then you have double the number of eyeballs on your promotion and double the potential of sales.

This puts a lot of pressure on you when writing a post about subject lines.

So, instead of just saying here are 177 subject lines, look how awesome they are. I thought I would take a different approach.

First, I’m going to start by laying down some of my knowledge for you on subject lines.

Then, I’m going to deep dive into seven of the top marketing minds in the world and breakdown their approach to creating excellent subject lines.

Let’s do this…

Understanding what makes a good subject line

There are three things that make a great subject line. Well, two things and one thing that makes a subject line bad.

If you stick to these then you will be crafting great subject lines instantly.

Rule 1: They serve one purpose and one purpose only

Email subject lines serve one purpose

When it comes to creating great subject lines, you have to remember the purpose they solve.

It is only one purpose, but it is an important one.

As I said earlier, your subject line is the difference maker in your email marketing. It’s the difference between a 15% open rate and a 30%.

More eyes mean more sales.

Instead of worrying about setting the context of your email or being descriptive with your subject line. Worry only about getting people to open your emails.

That’s the single purpose of a subject line.

If you can do this then your email copy can do the rest and get people to take action.

When creating a subject line, use intrigue as your secret weapon to get people to open the email.

Rule 2: Use the space you have

use space wisely for email subject lines

Think about how you read subject lines.

There is only a small space for you to read the email subject line in. That means you have very few words to create a message that gets people to open your email.

This is especially true for people reading your email on their mobile phones. According to a recent report by Adestra, 59% of emails are opened on a mobile device.

That means as a marketer, you have even less space to capture someone’s attention and get them to open your email.

In fact, according to Return Path, the sweet spot for a subject line is 65 characters in length.

That will work out to between six to ten words.

So, you have to be concise when writing subject lines. Knowing this actually really helped me to create better performing subject lines.

When you have less space, you find yourself writing more creatively to make use of the space.

Rule 3: Don’t use clickbait

don't use clickbait in email subject lines

Your subject lines should intrigue readers enough to want to open the email and read its content.

It shouldn’t lie.

Don’t fall into the trap of creating clickbait subject lines that don’t deliver on its promise.

The worst thing you can do is to tell someone they will receive something by reading your email and not give it to them.

This is the quickest way to get someone to unsubscribe from your email list.

A quick note about spam

A good blog about subject lines has to mention the dreaded spam word.

The reason why I didn’t include it in my three rules is because the idea of avoiding spam words in subject lines is not a hard and fast rule.

It is good to understand what words makes your subject line look like spam but in my experience, this does not always effect their performance.

I have used some of the words that people think are spammy and seen excellent open rates.

Your main concern to avoid seeming spammy, is to not use clickbait subject lines. As this is what spammers do.

As long as your email delivers on the subject line’s promise then you are good to go.

For reference, you can always read this article by Prospect.io on spam words to avoid in your subject lines.

In the article they talk about the context in which you use the words (no clickbait essentially). It is worth reading just so you know what to look out for.

Trial and error makes the marketing world go round

As a great marketer or business owner, you already know the value in testing.

This is the same for your subject lines.

However, if you have a list of less than 2000 your testing will not be conclusive.

This comes down to the results not being statistically significant unless you are testing a number of 1000 or more.

If you do have a larger list, then you should definitely use the A/B testing feature that is now contained within most email marketing platforms.

Create a couple compelling subject lines and run a test to see which performs better. Then send the rest of your emails using the best performing subject line.

What the experts do

Instead of analysing what the experts say I want to look at what the experts do.

Luckily, I am subscribed to many marketing experts lists so I was able to pull a number of subject lines from their emails.

I am going to look at some of my favourites and also pull some general findings from all the subject lines.

Let’s start with Digital Marketer and Ryan Deiss

Digital Marketer's Email Subject Lines

Digital Marketer sell digital marketing training courses. They are one of the leading authorities in the industry so analysing their subject lines should be interesting.

Here’s what I found…

They leverage scarcity a lot

This is something that I have noticed Digital Marketer do more than most.

The psychological sales principle of scarcity states that people are more likely to buy something if they think there is a chance that might miss out on it.

This is defined perfectly by the current FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) effect.

Just check out these subject lines:

  • [CLOSING] Due to demand, we’re closing T&C ticket sales…

  • [Time Sensitive] Our direct-response copywriting course!

  • [FLASH SALE] Our Facebook ad plan (and best templates)…

These subject lines tell the person that they need to act on the information contained in the email quickly in order to receive its benefits.

This not only increases the intrigue to get people to open the emails in order to see what they could miss out on, it also puts them in the act quick mind frame which likely results in a lot of action taken from their emails.

They use non-conventional formatting to get the recipients attention

I really like this approach from Digital Marketer as they know how busy people’s inbox is.

To compete against the high volume of emails we receive they use unconventional formatting to stand out in a crowded inbox.

Take these for example…

  • 📝 [Checklist] 5 Copywriting Elements to Test on Your Landing Page

  • ⏰ T&C Tickets Gone In 3...2...1...

  • ⚡ [FLASH SALE] My Conversion Rate Optimization course for $95

Not only are they using emojis to stand out, they also often use brackets to really capture people’s attention.

In a recent Experian study, they found that using emojis in subject lines results in a 56% greater open rate.

The use of bracketed descriptions of content in headlines has also been found to increase click through rates by 38%.

I’m sure using both of these together is helping Digital Marketer stand out in the inbox and drastically increase their open rates.

Here are some more subject lines from Digital Marketer to get your creative juices flowing…

  • Welcome to DoubleYourSales! Here's where to start...

  • [DYS] Lesson 0: How to Build an Unstoppable Business

  • I’m keeping my promise…

  • [READ] Ezra Firestone explains Facebook Messenger

  • Get my entire marketing library for $1

  • [CLOSING] Due to demand, we’re closing T&C ticket sales…

  • [DOWNLOAD] Facebook Ad Templates

  • [85% Off] 3 Proven Facebook Campaigns to Run Today...

  • Your new marketing family

  • [DYS] Lesson 1: "The Formula"

  • [FLASH SALE] Our Facebook ad plan (and best templates)…

  • Kyle, 2 am is late...

  • 📝 [Checklist] 5 Copywriting Elements to Test on Your Landing Page

  • [Time Sensitive] Our direct-response copywriting course!

  • Free advanced online training...

  • Livestream for T&C this year?

  • T&C in Bora Bora?

  • [BLOG] Become a Better Copywriter

  • 📕 Reading List: 26 Books for Digital Marketers

Neil Patel

Neil Patel's Email Subject Lines

Neil Patel is one of the top marketers in the world.

Amongst his many accolades, he is a New York Times best seller and Forbes says he is one of the top ten marketers.

When it comes to marketing, Neil knows what’s going on.

So, let’s see what we can learn from his subject lines…

Leveraging the power of the ‘How to’

This is something that I noticed instantly with Neil’s subject lines. He uses ‘How to’ a lot.

Just check these out…

  • How to Rank #1 on Google

  • How to Build DA 70+ Links

  • How to Get Traffic From Google News

  • How to Create the Best Facebook Business Page

  • How to Run SEO Experiments

There is a reason why he uses this format so much. It is because he mostly promotes his blog posts.

If you have checked out any of Neil’s blog posts then you know he produces very in-depth knowledge rich content pieces.

He then uses ‘How to’ to leverage people’s thirst for knowledge.

By telling people he is going to show them how to undertake a marketing task they are more likely to open the email to learn.

He is an expert at building curiosity

Something else that jumps out at me about Neil’s subject lines is that he uses a lot of curiosity in his subject lines.

Check these ones out…

  • is bing worth leveraging?

  • How Google's Search Engine Really Works (A Peek Under The Hood)

  • How Many Keywords Can A Single Page Rank For?

  • Should You Place Social Sharing Icons On Your Website?

  • What Is Affiliate Marketing And How Can You Leverage It?

Remember what I said about the subject line serving one purpose?

To get people to open your email.

Intrigue and curiosity are powerful ways to get people to do this.

Neil uses this in many of his subject lines, often by asking a question.

Just read the examples above. Makes you curious about the answer, right?

I especially like the second subject line where uses a bracket to let people know that he is revealing a secret.

Here are some more subject lines from Neil Patel…

  • How to Get 200 Targeted Facebook Followers Per Day

  • How I built a multi-million-dollar company when I was broke

  • Your Ticket For The Advanced Content Marketing Summit

  • How to Do SEO for a Tiny Five Page WordPress Website

  • Did You Claim Your Ticket For Advanced Content Marketing Summit?

  • How to Increase Your Search Traffic by 58% in 30 Days

  • How to Steal Your Competition’s Backlinks (And Then Outrank Them)

  • First Ever Advanced Content Marketing Summit: Save Your Seat Today

  • Why You Should Never Buy Facebook Fans

  • 6 Off Page SEO Strategies That Will Rank You on Page One of Google

  • How to Use Excel and Google Sheets to Organize Your Marketing Efforts

  • How to Show Up on the First Page of Google (Even if You’re a Nobody)

  • Limited Seats For The Free Pass to Advanced Content Marketing Summit

  • How Skyrocket Your Traffic by Bring Your Old Content Back From the Dead

  • 27 Amazing Online Marketing Tactics for Small Businesses With Low Budgets

Ramit Sethi

Growth Lab's Email Subject Lines

Ramit Sethi is the founder of I Will Teach You To Be Rich and Growth Lab.

I’ve been on Ramit’s list for about a year now and he really focuses on building a great relationship with his audience.

I often receive emails about what he has been up to or just a random thought with no call to action.

At least he does a great job of making it seem like that. I’m sure, as the clever marketer he is, there is method behind the madness (as they say).

I certainly feel like I am a member of his inner circle. Which is incredibly effective marketing.

Let’s see how he uses subject lines to build this feeling within his followers.

He uses a lot of highly emotion driven subject lines

Emotional driven anything is great in marketing.

If you can make someone feel something as a result of what you have written, you have formed an instant connection with that person.

This connection can then lead to a relationship and potentially a new customer.

Ramit does a great job of connecting with his followers in a very emotional way.

Just look at these subject lines…

  • If you're scared, read this

  • The shame in reaching out for help

  • This is the saddest email I've ever read

  • Why do you manage your money like you’re still 20?

  • The uncomfortable truth about coddled kids

Each one pushes a different emotional trigger.

Fear, shame, sadness, regret.

All great triggers to entice someone to read his emails.

Then add some more emotional triggers in the content of the email and you’ve got yourself some action takers.

Ramit is a big believer in the power of emails in his businesses. They are actually a big driving force behind a large portion of his sales.

How do I know this?

He talks about it in a lot of his emails and content that he produces.

With this in mind, let’s have a look at another tactic he uses in his emails.

There is a big focus on money

This is probably not surprising since the business that put him on the map is called I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

So, it makes sense that he would use this trigger in his emails.

Especially, when he does such a great job of making himself and his students lots of money.

Let’s have a look at a few examples…

  • $15,000 in a single day — how did this happen?

  • Weird and interesting findings from my first $600,000 launch

  • Earned $11,476 while hiking (Zero to Launch closes tonight)

  • $8,672 on New Year’s Day

  • The I Will Teach playbook for 7-figure launches

Not only is money a massive emotional trigger (most people want more money) but it also acts as a form of social proof.

Social proof is another effective psychological sales principle that you should be using in your marketing.

Ramit uses this same principle to get people to open his email.

While adding a level of intrigue because people want to find out how he did it, it also demonstrates why people should listen to him and read his emails.

Because he will show you how to do this too.

Pretty powerful stuff.

Here are some more subject lines from Ramit…

  • Real success stories from TINY online businesses

  • It’s time: Start your online business with Zero to Launch

  • Kyle, is this right for you? Let’s see

  • Bravo asked me to be on their TV show

  • People hate seeing how the sausage is made, but I love it

  • Why would anyone buy a lottery ticket? Here's why

  • This woman spends $20,000/year on beauty

  • Online trolls and my AMA

  • I interview 3 online business owners -- today only

  • Please stop writing about how “vulnerable” you are

  • You’ve done everything “right” but you’re still worried about money. Why?

  • 5 awesome articles on productivity, boundaries, & great books

  • Ramit on resolutions, meditations, and the FIRST HUGE POST of the year

  • How much can you earn? Real results from the past 2.5 months

  • Use this earnings calculator to see how much you could earn

Scott Oldford

Scott Oldford's Email Subject Lines

Scott Oldford helps six figure entrepreneurs become seven figure entrepreneurs through his ROI method.

I have been following Scott since just before he blew up his previous seven figure business (Infinitus) to move onto create the ROI method.

I have to say that from receiving his emails and being retargeted by his adverts on Facebook, I truly believe that Scott knows exactly how to create million-dollar businesses.

So, he is definitely doing something right.

Let’s have a look at how he is making people feel this way and helping his clients do the same thing in his business.

Social proof plays a substantial role

As I mentioned before, social proof is a powerful psychological sales trigger and from what it seems, it plays a big role in Scott’s ROI method.

Just check out these subject lines…

  • Entrepreneurs are saying this about the ROI Method

  • Meet David: $400k → $1.1m in 12 months

  • She used ROI to build a million dollar business on YouTube

  • Meet Pat. $20k/month → $100k/month in 4 months

  • "I'm generating over $75K/mo and need help!"

I love the way he gets creative to fit the necessary information for these subject lines to work into a small space.

These unconventional formats also help him stand out in the recipient’s inbox.

If you want to find out how his clients are dramatically transforming their businesses, then you have to read the email.

Click… open.

He uses a conversational tone

This is something that I really like about Scott’s writing.

He uses a conversational tone to really connect with his followers. Here’s a few examples…

  • I haven’t done this in a while...soo

  • Wanna be Omnipresent? Live training today at 1pm PST

  • 11 things about Momentum ;)

  • Ok, so I need your help...

Many traditional business owners prefer a more traditional approach to email.

Scott throws these old school business rules out the window and it pays off for him in a BIG way.

He knows that by using a conversational tone, he is using the same language that his clients use, and this will create a better connection with them.

This connection is leading him to some serious business growth as the last update I saw from him, he was on track for an eight-figure year.

Here are some more subject lines from Scott…

  • 3 “Secrets” on Facebook Advertising

  • How to sell high-ticket in 2018

  • If you aren’t Relevant, FB won’t be the place for you

  • Lead magnets: how to actually do them right

  • Step inside for world-changing, industry-revolutionizing, TRANSFORMATION.

  • 6→7 Figure Blueprint Inside (50%...)

  • R.O.I. = Relevancy, Omnipresence, Intimacy

  • Become ultra-Relevant to your ideal clients with this

  • Go Nuclear with the R.O.I Method

  • Become ultra-Relevant to your ideal clients with this

  • how to leverage your business or group program

  • How Intimacy creates growth in your business

  • The R.O.I. Method is the 1st piece of a 7-figure business

  • [Live Webinar] I presented this at Digital Marketer’s War Room

  • The R.O.I. Method is the 1st piece of a 7-figure business

  • What is The Relevancy Engine?

Jeff Bullas

Jeff Bullas' Email Subject Lines

Jeff Bullas is the owner of JeffBullas.com, one of the leading authority websites on digital marketing.

Among his many accolades, Forbes call him a top influencer of Chief Marketing Offices.

If he is that influential among some of the marketing elite then he likely knows a thing or two about subject lines.

Let’s see what we can learn.

He uses numbers a lot

Numbers are a great way to break up your subject line and standout in the recipient’s inbox.

Notice how these experts craft subject lines to stand out?

Research has found that using numbers in your titles brings 206% more traffic to your blog posts.

So, it makes sense to deploy the same tactic in your subject lines.

Here’s how Jeff uses numbers in his blog posts…

  • Top 12 Social Media Automation Tools To Use in 2018

  • The 10 Laws of Content Marketing Mastery

  • A 10-Step Checklist to Launch Your Startup

  • 10 Actionable Copywriting Tips That Will Make Your Content More Powerful

  • 5 Inspiring Books That Are Transforming My Life and Business

These subject lines also do a great job of managing readers expectations of what they will find in the email.

By being more precise about the information, recipients know that the amount of content they can expect from the email.

He also uses the number 1 to great effect

I like this tactic as it is a very straight to the point, no BS way of enticing people to read your email.

Let’s check out the examples before I explain what I mean…

  • The #1 business skill you don’t have

  • The one tactic that grew my business leads by over 100,000

  • The one word that will change your life....

Instead of giving people a million reasons to open his emails, he is giving them one really powerful reason.

The best reason.

These subject lines intrigue the recipient to discover what this absolute best way of undertaking a certain challenge is.

Many people want to get to the point and these subject lines promise just that.

By reading these emails, you won’t waste any time and will get a ton of value from them.

Here’s some more subject lines from Jeff…

  • Why this formula could save your business

  • Get your LinkedIn Profile Assessment - No cost!

  • How to 10X Your Instagram Engagement and Create Content At Scale

  • Why Your Marketing Campaigns Could Put Your Company’s Digital Security at Risk

  • An entire playbook for getting tons of high quality leads

  • Is this your business’s “weak link”?

  • 3 Step System to Generate 10+ High-Ticket Sales Appointments Every Month

  • ⚡⚡ [FLASH SALE] $100 OFF of My Blogging Mastery Course

  • A new model for writing to sell

  • ⚡ [ONLY HOURS LEFT] $100 OFF

  • How Niche Influencers Can Boost Your Content Marketing ROI

  • Content Marketing 101: All You Need To Know To Grow Your Business

  • Copywriting Tips to Persuade, Promote, and Profit

  • 3 life lessons I learned the hard way

  • How to use the 5 key pillars of storytelling to inspire your prospects

  • Here is your 101+ Tips download Kyle

  • The $2 Billion Dollar Sales Letter

Eric Sui

Eric Sui's Email Subject Lines

Eric Sui is the founder of