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6 Psychological Tricks to Get Your Emails Opened

When writing emails, there are several points you need to pay attention to, including delivery rate, opens, and click-through. When it comes to writing emails that get opened, you have to focus on your subject lines. Here are some psychological tricks that will work for improving your email open rates.

Trick No. 1: Use Words That Are Known to Generate More Opens

Which words, when used in email subject lines, generate the most opens? For every campaign and audience, the answer will vary. But, luckily, email marketers have been studying this for a while. In 2014, AlchemyWorx released a study that showcased the top words to use and not to use in email subject lines, based on open rates. Today, those words, according to Yesware, are quite a bit different. If you take a very close look, you’ll notice something that all of these words have in common: they can all be used in action statements.

As an email marketer, at every step of the journey, you need to be telling readers what to do next: see, click, get, or learn something. The wording you use in your email subject line should be no different. You can engage your audience with words that entice them to an action, which ultimately mean “open this email.”

Trick No. 2: Don’t Use These Words

There are a few blacklisted words, when it comes to email marketing that are known to trigger spam filters. They will annihilate your delivery rate, but that’s not the only reason you don’t want to use them. Spam filters are very intelligent. Their algorithms are based on email recipient behavior over time.

This means that when your emails containing these words are delivered, they are not likely to engage readers. The intuitive systems that blacklist your email address are your savior, in this case – they’re warning you not to trigger your reader to think you’re sending them spam.

Hubspot’s ultimate list of email spam trigger words contains tons of words and phrases that you should leave out of your subject line vocabulary, indefinitely. Here are just a hand full that they reference first:

  • As seen on
  • Buy
  • Buy direct
  • Buying judgments
  • Clearance
  • Order
  • Order status
  • Orders shipped by
  • Shopper
  • Dig up dirt on friends
  • Meet singles
  • Score with babes

Additionally, don’t use dollar signs ($), the word “free,” or make promises at the gate. Do some research on your industry to find out what the most common spam trigger words are, so that you can avoid them at all costs.

Trick No. 3: Personalize Your Subject Lines

People love seeing their name, and being approached in a conversational manner. According to MarketingSherpa, personalized email subject lines increase conversion rates for most industries. Their email inboxes are your consumers’ most intimate spaces online. They have invited you in, so approach them as if they matter: use their names.

Unless you’re in publishing or media and entertainment, using a name in your subject line could increase your open rates anywhere from 13.3 to 41.8%. This is huge. But don’t overdo it – even effective tactics can lose their weight over time. If you use the reader’s name in every email, this trick may not always work.

Trick No. 4: Make Your Message Seem Urgent

One of the most surefire ways to make sure your emails get opened is to create a sense of urgency. Being met with a feeling urgency, the human brain is forced to make a decision. Make your subject lines seem urgent.

You can create this sense of urgency with words like “act fast,” “time-sensitive,” and “hurry.” But, rather than making everything seem like a command, you can also use words like “invitation,” which may create the feeling that there is an upcoming event that has a deadline – this would make the reader want to know what that deadline is, so that they can then make a decision. Overall, urgency is going to ensure that your emails aren’t skipped-over.

Trick No. 5: Keep it Brief

Depending on which email provider your reader uses, you only have so many characters to say what you need to say. Hotmail’s new platform, for example, only shows 37 characters of any subject line. So, unless your strategy is to make readers want to find out what the rest of the sentence says, your subject lines should be 37 characters or less. If you’re having a hard time cutting your subject line, consult with professional writers, so that during your next email campaign, you’ll know what copywriting tricks to use.

Trick No. 6: When You Have to, Frontload

If you can’t say what you need to say, in order to summarize what’s in the email body, in 37 characters or less, try this trick: Frontload. Frontloading is when you place the most important words in your subject line or headline at the beginning. This ensures that the message can be seen, even if the subject line is cut-off in the middle.


In order to write effective email subject lines, you need to use psychological tricks that make readers want to open the messages. Use the right words and avoid spam triggers. Use personalization and signal a sense of urgency in your subject lines. Keep your message brief, and frontload when necessary. Following this advice is the recipe for a higher percentage of opens in your next email campaign. Try it now.

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