20 Catchy Words That Make The Best Email Subject [1000+ Email Case Study]

By azfar on March 20, 2017

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best email subject

Writing best email subject for emails is tricky even for seasoned internet marketers like us – there’s a lot of guidelines and tips out there on email subject line best practices, but many of them aren’t necessarily universal.

That being said, today I’d like to share with you the top power words and phrases that worked for us in creating eye catching email subject lines, as well as an analysis of why we think each one managed to succeed.

Now, this list was a long time in the making. We sent over one thousand marketing emails to people on our lists before we pulled their performance data and started analyzing it.

You should be ready to do the same – we think our list of power words will be a good start, but the only way to truly succeed with email marketing is to see what’s working for you and do more of that.

Before we get to the list, though, we need to actually define the types of words we’re using.

Defining A Successful Word

In one of its articles, SmartBlogger outlined seven characteristics of “power words“, or words that tend to have an outsized impact on the reader. They can be briefly summarized as follows:

  • Words That Incite Fear: Deadly, Devastating, Nightmare. These kinds of words are used to suggest a genuine problem that the reader might want to deal with, especially if it could somehow affect their lives.
  • Words That Motivate: Amazing, Eye-opening, Spectacular. In contrast to the previous words, these are meant to help people think positively and suggest that the contents of the email are impressive and helpful.
  • Sexy Words: Brazen, Exposed, Steamy. Like it or not, sex sells – and so, in theory, do some of the terms associated with it.
  • Words That Incite Controversy: Beat Down, Lies, Crush. These words are often meant to make people feel offended – not personally, but on behalf of some ‘other’ who isn’t seeing justice done. After all, most people want injustices to be righted, don’t they?
  • Words That Trigger Greed: Billion, Jackpot, Quadruple. These are the sorts of words used to suggest something phenomenally ‘big’, and are especially focused on people who are looking for a big payoff.
  • Words To Give A Sense Of Security: Best-selling, Certified, Guaranteed. People are often doubtful, especially the first time they interact with a company, and these sorts of words are used to comfort them and make them believe others have found something trustworthy.
  • Curiosity-Inducing Forbidden Words: Bootleg, Hidden, Confidential. Many people like to be at least a little naughty, and there’s always something alluring about what’s forbidden.

Buffer suggested a few other methods of categorizing words and phrases, expanding on the seven above:

  • Cause and Effect Words: Accordingly, As a result, For this reason. These are words used to emphasize some kind of conclusion – and they may work better than you expect on people who emphasize their goals.
  • Exclusivity: Members only, ask for an invitation, login required. Some audiences are particularly focused on things other people can’t get, and these words are targeted towards them.
  • Scarcity: Limited offer, sale ends soon, only 3 left. The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real, and it’s been known to push people into buying.
  • Power Words: Immediately, powerful, proven. These are the most generic ‘strong’ words, and are often used for subject lines that have no other focus.

Now, aside from defining the kinds of catchy words we’d be checking for, we also had to define our criteria for success.

After some discussion, we decided to focus on words that showed up in emails with a 7-16% open rate – that is, the most successful words. Some of these words were used in more than one message, or sent more than one time, so you’ll see several numbers associated with those particular results.

The List

1. Thank You (7.1%)

"Thank You" is one of the catchy words that shows appreciation and hints a reward.

“Thank You” shows appreciation and hints a reward.

    Thank you for your support! Here’s what I have to say…

The clear emphasis here is on benefits and rewards – and more particularly, a sense of service. We sent this email out to people who’d actually done something like buying one of our products, and the second part of the email subject line was created as a teaser to let them know we had something say besides simply thanking them. That definitely added a sense of immediate value, and the message wound up with a very respectable open rate.

2. Live (7.3%,12.0%)

Live is one of the power words that means something new and current. It also tells the reader they'll miss it if they don't tune in soon.

Live means something new and current. It also tells the reader they’ll miss it if they don’t tune in soon.

    [IT’S LIVE!] Rank On Google Page 1 In Just 60 Seconds, Now 62% Off!
    We’re Going Live – waiting on you (Webinar details inside – 30 min..

This word focused on a sense of urgency, scarcity, and anticipation for our audience. The first one was a particularly exciting one, while the second – quite interestingly, in my view – actually had a higher open rate despite the lower energy.

3. Exciting (7.2%)

Exciting incites, well, excitement. It promises the readers something interesting!

Exciting incites, well, excitement. It promises the readers something interesting!

    Exciting New Changes On Your Local SEO Rank… Serplify Is Here To The Rescue!

This email subject line was focused on being emotional and invoking a sense of curiosity. I think “changes” was the real keyword here – it’s not a power word all by itself, but it’s the subject our power word applied to, and most people who are doing SEO care quite a lot about changes that could affect their ranks.

4. Reveals (7.5%)

Reveal taps into the readers' curiosity by hinting at something hidden and uncovering it.

Reveal taps into the readers’ curiosity by hinting at something hidden and uncovering it.

    [Research Tool] Reveals New Facebook Audiences Other Advertisers Could Not Find

For this subject line, we also focused on a sense of curiosity – as well as a certain degree of discovery. One thing we’ve noticed is that many people doing inbound marketing like the sorts of easy tricks and tips that can help them raise their rank, and this line proved how effective addressing that could be.

5. Last Chance (7.2%)

Last chance urges the readers to take immediate action or risk losing something of great value.

Last chance urges the readers to take immediate action or risk losing something of great value.

    [Closing In 24 Hours] Last Chance To Purchase Press Releases At 72% Discount

This was a clear fear of missing out subject line. Note the last two words, describing the actual savings people could expect to see – this was an email subject line targeted at people who saw budget as a concern, and it worked.

6. Grow (8%, 11.5%)

Grow is a catchy word that represent abundance and improvement.

Grow is a catchy word that represent abundance and improvement.

    [Traffic] Grow Returning, Repetitive, Relevant Organic Traffic with..

    SEOPressor now Grows your Page LIKES and Personal FOLLOWS, He..

This power word focuses on the benefit to the reader – that is, the way our product could help them achieve their goals. Everybody likes succeeding, after all.

7. Closing (7.5%, 7.2%)

Similar to Last Chance, closing urges the readers to at least take a look at what you got to offer to see if it's one worth losing.

Similar to Last Chance, closing urges the readers to at least take a look at what you got to offer to see if it’s one worth losing.

    [Closing in 24 Hours] Last Chance To Purchase Press Releases At 72

This was essentially another version of #5, sent multiple times, and it had a similar success rate. We also aimed for an element of curiosity by not finishing the subject – that is, we got people to ask “seventy-two what?” and open the email to find out.

8. Dying (7.4%)

Dying triggers the primal sense of fear and survival. The death or obsolescence of a practice you might be doing is not a thing you want to miss reading about.

Dying triggers the primal sense of fear and survival. The death or obsolescence of a practice you might be doing is not a thing you want to miss reading about.

    If Email Marketing Is Dying, Know This Replacement, Whoa 5x Better.

Many people wonder if email marketing is still worth it (yes, it is), and we targeted this email to people who weren’t entirely sure. Dying is a pretty strong word, and we followed it up with another power word – Whoa – to add an element of surprise and curiosity.

9. Final (7.5%)

Another power word similar to closing and last chance, Final is absolute, and often means you'll get a good bargain before it's gone.

Another power word similar to closing and last chance, Final is absolute, and often means you’ll get a good bargain before it’s gone.

    [Final 72 Hours] MarketersMEDIA Year End Sale CLOSING. Don’t miss..

This was a complicated line. We focused on scarcity (time limit) and benefit (the sale), but also on a kind of absoluteness with the word ‘final’. It ended up working out rather well.

10. Tik Tok (8.2%)

An informal word, Tik Tok is widely known as the word that symbolizes countdown. It tells the same story of time limitation in a subtle, and at times, dreadful way.

An informal word, Tik Tok is widely known as the word that symbolizes countdown. It tells the same story of time limitation in a subtle, and at times, dreadful way.

    Tik-Tok, Tik-Tok. Do You Know The Best Way To Generate Killer Copy In Minutes?

I thought my team was kidding when they approached me with this suggestion for an email subject line. Addressing the fear of wasting time turned out to be surprisingly effective, though, especially when we mixed in some curiosity about ways to succeed.

11. Complete (7.4%)

Complete conveys wholeness and value, leaving nothing missing behind, telling readers they'll get the most out of the deal.

Complete conveys wholeness and value, leaving nothing missing behind, telling readers they’ll get the most out of the deal.

    The Complete List of On-Page SEO Factors (Updated For 2016)

This was another benefit/reward subject. “Complete” isn’t very strong as far as power words – it arguably doesn’t even deserve the name – but it ended up with a very respectable open rate when we targeted people who were already doing SEO and wanted to stay up-to-date with it.

12. Free Upgrade (16.7%)

The word Free on its own is quite diluted as it implies something worthless. But use it with Upgrade, it tells readers it's an improvement over something they already have and spent on, restoring its appeal.

The word Free on its own is quite diluted as it implies something worthless. But use it with Upgrade, it tells readers it’s an improvement over something they already have and spent on, restoring its appeal.

    Upgrade SEOPressor V5 to SEOPressor Connect For Free!

Now this email subject line got people’s attention. This was one of our most-opened messages ever, and just goes to show how much people like getting things at little or no cost to themselves, especially when it’s a better version of something they already like and use.

13. Save (12.1%)

Any words related to money and finance is powerful and Save is one of the most potent one - telling readers they can avoid losing money on bad deals.

Any words related to money and finance is powerful and Save is one of the most potent one – telling readers they can avoid losing money on bad deals.

    Save $396 With SEOPressor Ebook Bundles

Here we have another standard benefit/reward email subject line, with a little bit of FOMO mixed in. Everyone knows sales don’t last forever, and that was enough to generate one of our higher open rates.

14. New (8.2%, 9.4%, 11.1%)

New is thought to be overused and cliche, but the numbers prove its evergreen value. People will always want to discover what's New and avoid feeling left out.

New is thought to be overused and cliche, but the numbers prove its evergreen value. People will always want to discover what’s New and avoid feeling left out.

    SEOPressor NEW Blog Title Generator – Generate A Year’s Worth of..

We ended up sending this email several times because it really did work. People generally like new things, and the exclusive benefit we were offering was strengthened by the suggestion of easily generating quite a lot of blog titles. (Despite the ellipsis at the end, the first part of the subject told them what they’d be getting – an important factor in its success.)

15. Secret (8.5%)

Secret is a powerful word to trigger curiosity and suggest a degree of exclusivity.

Secret is a powerful word to trigger curiosity and suggest a degree of exclusivity.

    Secret Technique Your Competition Won’t Tell You About Lead Ge..

Here’s another email subject line whose success surprised me – I mean, who actually expects their competition to tell them anything? Still, the exclusive and forbidden nature of the subject line clearly resonated with a part of our audience.

16. Urgent (11.8%)

Urgent demands attention from the reader and can work even better when accompanied  with exclamation symbol to emphasize the sense of urgency.

Urgent demands attention from the reader and can work even better when accompanied with exclamation symbol to emphasize the sense of urgency.

    [Urgent Webinar] Google First Page For 610 Keywords – Starting So..

This was a straightforward time-sensitive subject line, and I think the fact that it was a webinar (i.e. something involving a lot of effort to put together) helped to convince people this was worth paying attention to.

17. Latest (13.5%)

Similar to New, Latest gives readers a sense of progress and improvement.

Similar to New, Latest gives readers a sense of progress and improvement.

    Latest WordPress Theme – METRO: Improves Staying Time by 414%

Another “new” email subject line, this one focused on a degree of exclusivity and a measurable reward (staying time) that a good part of our audience wanted. Changing WordPress themes isn’t something done on a whim, but quite a few people were clearly willing to do it for the kind of benefit suggested.

18. Are You (12%)

A question begs to be answered, and prompts the reader to consider theirs. And you can't answer if you don't click and get the full info.

A question begs to be answered, and prompts the reader to consider theirs. And you can’t answer if you don’t click and get the full info.

    Are You Buying LocalAvenger – The Google LOCAL Ranking King?

This was a line focused on curiosity – indeed, directly asking the reader a question – and the strong concept of success in the second half of the subject served as a support to drive home the importance of the message.

19. Emotional (11.8%)

People expect cold, salesly tone in emails, so when word like Emotional shows up, it piques the reader's curiosity on how can the subject touch them emotionally.

People expect cold, salesly tone in emails, so when word like Emotional shows up, it piques the reader’s curiosity on how can the subject touch them emotionally.

    “Emotional” Link Building – Short and Long-Term Traffic Gain

“Emotional” is an unusual word to use in marketing, and our team at the office wondered if we could get people curious about what we meant. Going by the success rate of this email subject line, that was a resounding “yes”. I wouldn’t try it for every message, but sometimes, going outside the box pays off.

20. Give You (12.1%)

Give You is a benefit-oriented word, telling readers what they will gain upfront.

Give You is a benefit-oriented word, telling readers what they will gain upfront.

    Engaged Audiences Give What You Want (26.9% increased online tra..

This was another email subject line that got cut off, although we managed to provide enough contextual clues to make it clear we were talking about transactions (and, therefore, profit). Many people clearly reacted well to the idea of being given more profit.

Final Thoughts

Outside the use of catchy words, we noticed that some subjects always got higher open rates – things related to SEO, Google, and (unsurprisingly) our own products did the best, while somewhat less-related topics like social media and video marketing tended to score lower.

In the end, then, the best thing to do is see what words work best for your unique business and capitalize on them. The more you understand about why something’s working, the more successful your marketing campaigns are likely to become.

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Updated: 26 May 2017

Azfar Hisham

About Azfar Hisham

A copywriter with previous experience developing computer simulations, managing websites and being the social media guy. Interested in Google Patents, Knowledge Graph and questioning everything.

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