Welcome to the 7th annual installment of DigitalMarketer’s 101 Best Email Subject Lines!
Within this post, I’ve got 101 PROVEN, swipeable email subject lines that are yours for the taking. And if you’re one of our email subscribers, there’s at least a 20% chance that you played a role in determining what made the list. If that applies to you, please prepare for a little déjà vu. 🙂
Though you’re currently reading one of the most aptly titled blog posts of all time, you’ll find more here than just subject lines. I’m going to break down the 8 components of every good subject line AND you’ll get an analysis of our top 10 performing subject lines of 2019.
That way, when you’re finished with this post, you can:
1. Start deconstructing and reproducing the elements of YOUR best-performing subject lines…
…or…2. Completely steal ours, if you haven’t already.
(NOTE: Looking for the subject lines from previous years? We’ve collected all 600+ top-performing email subject lines since 2013—and all the amazing analysis that comes with them—into The Ultimate Email Subject Line Swipe File! Create your FREE DM Insider account here to get instant access!)
If you’re new to the post (or email marketing in general), take a minute to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of email subject lines.
These are 8 different components I found again and again in our top-performing email subject lines…
These are your bread and butter subject lines—you should be using them most frequently.
They are usually direct and speak to a specific benefit your audience will gain by opening the email.
Self-interest subject lines also help pre-qualify openers by giving them a clue about your email’s body content.
If self-interest subject lines work because they communicate a direct benefit, curiosity-based ones succeed for the exact opposite reason.
They pique the interest of subscribers without giving away too much information, leading to higher opens.
Be careful though, because curiosity-based subject lines can get old fast and are the most likely to miss their mark.
Do you like free stuff? Do you like to buy things when they’re on sale?
So does your email list.
When you are giving something away or selling something your subscribers would be interested in, directly stating that in your subject line is a great way to convince them to open the email and learn more.
This is the most powerful type of subject line you have at your disposal.
Subject lines that communicate urgency and scarcity tell readers they must act now.
But too many of these can lead to list exhaustion, so use sparingly and, of course, only when there is truly a deadline, limited quantity, or limited availability.
Don’t forget to remind your list about the person or people behind your products.
Sometimes you need to thank your subscribers, tell them a story about yourself, or make a human appeal for their attention.
Keeping your audience informed about new developments in your field builds authority and keeps your open rates high.
These subject lines often work well when combined with a curiosity element.
7. Social Proof
A fundamental characteristic of humans is that we look to the behavior of others when making decisions.
You can leverage this in your email subject lines by mentioning individual’s success stories, familiar names, or highlighting how many people are already using a product or service.
Telling a story, or at least teasing the beginning of one in your subject line is a unique way to highlight benefit and get the open rate you’re looking for.
As for our best subject lines of the year… here they are.
The 10 Best Email Subject Lines of 2019
10. bad news, NAME 😔
CONTENT: Facebook Messenger Execution Plan Flash Sale
OPEN RATE: 19.21%
ANALYSIS: William Shakespeare said brevity is the soul of wit. While this subject line might not have been exactly what the playwright had in mind, it tightly combines curiosity (a vague, negative declaration in the form of “bad news”) and humanity (the use of the first name field, a pensive emoji, and lower-case letters that soften the edge of said “bad news”). So anyone who saw this in their inbox knew that something was wrong enough for us to bring it up in the subject line, but not SO wrong that I needed to break out Title Case.
9. Content is King (and Queen)
CONTENT: How to Craft a Pillar Blog Post Workshop Sale
OPEN RATE: 19.29%
ANALYSIS: While maintaining flavors of curiosity, I got declarative with this one. Seeing as how the bulk of our email list identifies as a “marketer” in one form or another, and Content is something that virtually all marketers need nowadays… I knew that if I took one of THE keystone levers of the industry and used the well-known Bill Gates idiom, “Content is King,” as a departure statement that would separate us as an authority on the subject, I’d both deliver valuable information to our subscribers and get a few opens.
8. 11 Copywriting books you should (probably) read…
CONTENT: Blog Post
OPEN RATE: 19.64%
ANALYSIS: Benefit, benefit, benefit. If you read this subject line, you knew exactly what you were in for. The only curiosity that came into play was “WHAT ARE THE BOOKS??” And that simplicity made it one of the easier-to-craft subject lines of the year. The logic was simple: People love odd numbers, copywriting, books, books on copywriting, and a friend’s passive encouragement to read more often.
REMEMBER: When you’ve got all the ingredients for a hit, there’s no need to be clever.
7. The Ultimate List of Blog Post Ideas
CONTENT: Blog Post
OPEN RATE: 19.86%
ANALYSIS: Remember what I said about our audience’s relationship with “Content” in number 9? The same thing applies to Blog Posts 🙂 Thus, if there was an “Ultimate List of Blog Post Ideas,” I had a hunch it wouldn’t make our subscribers like us any less. Again—no need to be clever when you’re transparently delivering EXACTLY what your audience is looking for.
6. video ads
CONTENT: Billy Gene Shaw Video Ads Workshop Sale
OPEN RATE: 19.9%
ANALYSIS: “BUT WHAT ABOUT VIDEO ADS????” ← In our minds, that was the ideal question on our subscribers’ minds when the subject line “video ads” arrived in their inbox. I took a gamble on the clumsy, vague audacity of combining an “it” marketing topic with an all-lower-case subject line. There was no thesis. There was no hint of where I was going with it. There was NOTHING fancy-schmancy. And it felt great.
REMEMBER: Pattern interrupts WORK.
5. [ANNOUNCING] Messenger Marketing with Molly Pittman
CONTENT: Molly Pittman Facebook Messenger Bot Workshop Sale
OPEN RATE: 20.38%
ANALYSIS: 2019 was a loud year in an already loud world. And while pattern interrupts are a great means to an attention-grabbing end, sometimes you’ve got to scream along with the crowd. And in the subject line world, [CAPS COMBINED WITH BRACKETS] has no substitute in the way of attention-getting. You put that together with another “it marketing topic” a la video ads AND an industry authority… and you’re going to get opens. This one played with elements of curiosity, offer, and self-interest.
4. Email Marketing Announcement: Enrollment is back open 🙂
CONTENT: Ryan Deiss/Richard Lindner Email Marketing Machine Workshop Sale
OPEN RATE: 21.56%
ANALYSIS: This one is a classic case of self-interest, offer, curiosity, and humanity, all wrapped into one simple, cohesive 7-word subject line. How’d I do it? I took our another one of the most POPULAR digital marketing topics (a.k.a. something our audience is greatly interested in), hinted at an offer by saying enrollment is open, NOT explicitly stating what the offer was, and adding a personal touch of humanity with a classic smiley face emoticon.
3. Netflix’s huge homepage fail
CONTENT: DM Insider Newsletter
OPEN RATE: 21.64%
ANALYSIS: In the past decade, the words “failure” and “Netflix” haven’t typically been used in the same sentence. So when the streaming service tested a lackluster homepage in 2019, I capitalized on it for our weekly email newsletter and in turn, a winning email subject line. As you can see, this one’s not fancy or clever. It’s neither loud, nor punctuative. It’s us getting out of our own way to present the information as concisely as possible and it’s exactly what it needs to be—because when you name-drop one of the most successful companies, hint at a misstep, and AVOID clickbaity bells and whistles, you’re going to garner genuine curiosity.
2. Ryan Deiss is FAKE
CONTENT: Aprils Fools Day Campaign
OPEN RATE: 23.64%
ANALYSIS: In case you’re unaware, Ryan Deiss is DigitalMarketer’s Co-Founder & CEO (and also the “from name” for about 98% of the company’s emails). So when our team came to the conclusion that the best April Fool’s prank we could pull was a campaign centered around Deiss existing as an entity somewhere between the Illuminati and the Tooth Fairy…
… I knew that one of the toughest challenges we’d face was how to hint at the humor in as believable a way as possible. And in this case, our subscribers decided for me. That’s to say, “Ryan Deiss is FAKE” earned the number 2 spot on this list because it won a 3-way split-test, determined by our email subscribers.
REMEMBER: If you get meta, do it self-deprecatingly.
CONTENT: Black Friday Sale Close
OPEN RATE: 27.28%
ANALYSIS: Sometimes all you need is CAPS LOCK and a single word that screams URGENCY about as loudly as it can be screamed in text form. Strangely, the word that screams URGENCY more effectively than the word “urgency” is not “urgency.”
Turns out, it’s “CANCELLED.”
“BUT WHAT’S BEING CANCELLED?????”
Apparently that ^ question burnt through people’s curiosity enough to earn this subject line the top spot in a year where DigitalMarketer sent more emails than it ever has.
Now that you know what made the top 10 the most opened, here are the other 91 top-of-the-line email subject lines that round us out to an even 101.
91 More Email Subject Lines to Swipe
• ⏰ my copy & paste email templates gone in 3…2…1…
• $200 DISCOUNT gone in 3…2…1…
• NAME, are you part of the 41%?
• [UPDATED MASTERY COURSE] I’m sorry, NAME
• [WEEKEND UPDATE] NAME’s traffic strategies for 2019
• Your ads (probably) suck
• TOP T&C 2019 Takeaways
• Your step-by-step gameplan for marketing’s next frontier
• 2.3 Billion leads for $7
• [SWIPE] My Updated FB Ad Templates
• Your free FB Ad Templates are waiting, NAME
• Your free download is waiting, NAME
• [OPEN] NAME’s invitation to Office Hours w/ Ryan Deiss
• How to Create a Video Studio on a Shoestring Budget
• video studio on a shoestring budget?
• [SWIPE] 15 viral-video templates
• I don’t see your name on my list, NAME
• The answer: Strong __ Marketing
• this email is about email 😱
• [EMAIL MARKETERS] Get Certified. Beat Amazon, Uber & Old Navy.
• Get EMAIL Certified for 80% Off
• The ONLY Email Metrics That Matter?
• ⏰ Hours left to get [EMAIL] certified at 80% off…
• [SWIPE FILE] Learn to Write Headlines That Get More Clicks
• [READ & SWIPE] Learn to Write Headlines That Get More Clicks
• [LAUNCH 🚀] How to Write a Pillar Blog Post that SELLS
• [NEW RELEASE] STOP publishing new content every day
• [VID] Write a “Pillar” Post That Flat Out sells
• [CONTENT MARKETERS] The Importance of a Unique Angle
• ICYMI: How to write a PILLAR Blog Post that Sells
• READ: Boost Conversions by Providing a Consistent Ad Experience
• Ad Scene: Boost Conversions by Providing a Consistent Ad Experience
• NAME’s second (and last) chance
• NAME – your 21-step Paid Traffic Plan is waiting
• 1 Day left to get a proven [TRAFFIC] rollout plan?
• [EARLY ACCESS] 4th of July Sale
• NAME’s special early access to our “4th of July Flash Sale”
• ANNOUNCING: Up to 90% OFF our best-selling products 🙂
• don’t say I didn’t warn you 😬
• the skill every copywriter should know (but most don’t)
• Want to perfect your LinkedIn profile? Check this out.
• Re: Want to perfect your LinkedIn profile? Check this out.
• [REMINDER] 2_ days left to save $400!
• [QUIZ] The SECOND Most Visited Website
• This email is not about Facebook.
• This is my (next to) last email about YouTube.
• This is awkward, but…
• this is it 🙂
• Ditch your “brand.” Create a “place” instead
• This email is about Retargeting Ads.
• “Your baby is ugly…”
• you’ve got 5(ish) hours —>
• This is an email about Paid Ads.
• This email is NOT about Halloween.
• Issue #7: Google rankings down? Blame BERT
• ⏰ LAST CHANCE: DigitalMarketer Lab goes off the Market in 3…2…1…
• say bye
• Your Black Friday Order
• NAME, got a few minutes for some 1-on-1 time with me?
• the “Blitz Launch”… defined
• It happens tomorrow…
• [URGENT] the 2020 marketing plan you’ve been waiting for
• CUT OFF
• the “nice” list
• NAME’s 4,400% ROI
• day 5: the most important skill in marketing
• Me holding an eagle = 4th of July savings for NAME
• snag Billy Gene’s step-by-step video ad formula?
• [ICYMI] Create a Video Ad that SELLS w/ Billy Gene Shaw
• [SWIPE] 15 fill-in-the-blank video ad templates + FREE Notes
• what is digital marketing?
• “The A-Team of Paid Traffic”
• [ANNOUNCING] Completely Re-Done Paid Traffic Mastery Course
• Paid Traffic: 2019 EDITION
• _ INVITATION: To the world’s best marketing Community
• [Last Reminder] Up to 85% off our best-selling products gone in 3…2…1…
• ⏰ 30 Minutes left to save Thousands?
• 🚀 a BRAND NEW launch model
• are “traditional” launches dead?
• Save $200 on Your BEST 2020 Marketing Strategy?
• NAME’s VIP Access to 12 Days of Deals!
• the HUSTLE & bustle
• this is not a “SALE!” email
• ✉️ Up to 80% OFF Our Best Email Trainings?
• grow your revenue 49% faster than the competition?
• [VIDEO MARKETERS] Save hundreds and stock up for 2020 NOW…
• 👉 Up to 85% OFF our best [COPYWRITING] strategies
• NEW DEAL: $944 OFF Our Best Traffic Strategies
• [TODAY] Save 83% on our Best Customer Acquisition Tactics
• Prep for 2020 w/ 85% OFF Our “Essential” Trainings
• 📢 [ANNOUNCEMENT] Every DigitalMarketer Product Now up to 85% OFF?
THAT. IS. IT.
If you’re tired of reading “NAME” and seeing “[BRACKETS WITH WORDS IN ALL CAPS],” it’s for a good reason:
Last year, those were [REALLY POPULAR FOR US, NAME].
In fact, out of our 101 best email subject lines of 2019, 23 used the [CAPS BRACKET] and 15 used the first name field.
Another cool find?
While our average subject line was 6 words, our TOP 3 of 2019 were all less than 5 words.
REMEMBER: AGAIN: Brevity is the soul of wit and pattern interrupts WORK.
There will never be a “golden subject line formula.”
And that’s GOOD news, because formulas lead to stagnation. And stagnation leads to your subject lines (and as a result, your email marketing strategy) being white noise.
For all I know, last year’s [CAPS BRACKETS] and sub-5-word email subject lines could be this year’s “all emoji” or “5 en-dashes and an ampersand” subject lines (whatever that is).
That being said, I won’t chalk it up to “who knows,” because there are CERTAINLY guidelines and best practices to follow.
And if you can combine said best practices, a little creativity, the power of split-testing, and the application of the scientific method…
…you’ve got yourself a pretty solid formula for consistently pumping out winning subject lines.
Huh. Maybe some formulas do work.
Food for thought.
Anyway, if the contents of this post can act as a staple for the best practices and creativity portion of my little spiel up ^ there, it’ll’ve done its job.
Now get to work. 🙂
(NOTE: Want to see what subject lines made the list last year? What about the year before? You can get the last 6 YEARS of top-ranking email subject lines—that’s more than 600 subject lines—in The Ultimate Email Subject Line Swipe File. Sign up for a FREE DM Insider account here to get instant access!)