The 4 Words That Will Get Your Email Opened

The 4 Words That Will Get Your Email Opened

Reader Comments (148)

  1. I love the idea of jingling the keys to the kingdom. I’d probably do a little dance while my keys jingled.

    It’s really interesting that “you are not alone” is opened with such high rates.

    The need to know someone else understands you is a strong one indeed.

    Very good emphasis in this post.

    Now, to put it into action…

    • So does this subject line work equally well for regular worried people and paranoid people?
      Seriously, my first reaction to “You are not alone” was “Someone is watching you.”
      This is probably why I am NEVER part of any market I write for:-).

      I will remember this tip for a long time!
      Thank you!!!

  2. Sean:

    Short, snappy titles get email opened. They also get copy read. Marketer Ben Hart once mentioned that the ad, “7 Ways to Cure Corns,” ran in the National Enquirer for years.

    You need to think brevity, if you use something like Google Adwords. Here’s the restrictions they give you:
    1st line:34
    2nd line: 33

    I wonder how the title “You are not alone” would do? It probably will do well, given a snappy 1st and 2nd line. Good food for thought today.


  3. Congratulations Sean. This knocks it out of the park.

    I’ve got a question. I use MailChimp, which is pretty similar to Aweber. It shows opens and unique opens. Is that what you’re talking about here?

    I sent an email with a headline “I’m very sorry. :(” and it got an open rate of 119% and a unique open reate of 57%. I guess that means some people opened it twice?

    Stats are strange critters. I’m finding that an email that hits folks inboxes around 10:15 AM on a Saturday morning do better than any other time.

      • I’m a total newbie at this whole email thing. Is there a benchmark that marketers aim for? I guess ideally you’d get a 100% unique open rate, but it looks like expectations and reality are lower than that…

        and from the few I’ve done, it looks like breaking 50% uniques is doing good. Is that horrible or decent?

      • Yes, your metrics are excellent, Martyn. Industry average is 20-25% for opens and 5% for clicks. While that open rate is stellar, pay attention to clicks, too! Make sure people are interested enough to act on your emails.

        I will definitely have to try this with Blue Sky Factory’s campaigns, but I think it’s important to always be testing! I’d be interested to hear of cases where people A/B split tested this subject line against others. (Anyone?) Sounds like a good case study to me! Perhaps I’ll try it with this Friday’s BSF newsletter. Will be sure to report back!

        Amy Garland
        Marketing Manager, Blue Sky Factory

  4. I was shocked to see my open rate jump up when I used “Will You Be Hurt By These Google Changes?”

    Negative does get your email opened.

    I’ll have to try the “alone” theme. I wanted to open your email just when you said it in the article.


    • For anyone who doubts that negative headlines are effective, look at the “popular posts” list at the right. They’re not all negative, but off the top of my head I’d say that negative headlines are there in significantly greater percentage than on the site as a whole.

      It’s a truism among communication professionals that you should always state the positive rather than the negative, but that’s not good advice.

  5. Thanks for sharing Sean. Average open rate of 90% is pretty impressive, and I’m sure with the right angle this subject line could be effective for email campaigns in a wide range of industries. Looking forward to trying use it our future campaigns and seeing what results we’ll get.

  6. Thanks Sean,
    When readers see that someone else has passed through the same situations they fine themselves in, they are able to feel more at home. A better-than-thou attitude is the last feeling you want your audience to associate you with.

    • No, preaching from the mountaintop doesn’t help at all, and keeps the author talking AT their reader, rather than directly to them.

    • It’s always the little things, and it’s always worth moving the extra two millimeters to go from good to great.

  7. Great post Sean! Very interesting, as well. It does make sense, though, just like anything in life, I don’t believe people want to be alone. Everyone needs some kind of support or even a positive comment to keep them going.

  8. I think it’s amazing that this headline could get a 90% open rate. I will definitely be using this tip in my own marketing and test it on my own. Thanks for sharing.

  9. You want to know the 9 words that will also get your email opened and get people to click like crazy on Twitter?

    “The 4 Words That Will Get Your Email Opened”


  10. I guess being helpful is always the best way to stay alive whereever we are. I haven’t clicked on the emails where the headings or the title doesn’t sound good to me. So I assure having the right title or heading will be the right one to get our emails opened.

  11. I’m glad you touched on what comes after the subject line and fulfilling your readers needs. I know it’s basic and something Copyblogger goes over again and again, but I can’t tell you how many email newsetters I’ve unsubscribed from because they constantly kept hitting me over the head with manipulative subject lines that had nothing to do with the message.

    Yes, I opened it. No, I didn’t care. Their open rate is sky high but it doesn’t reflect the fact that their message annoyed me right off their list.

    • That’s actually the most important part. Getting a reader to open an email is one thing, getting them to look forward to your emails is something else entirely. That takes a LOT of work, but it’s work well worth doing.

  12. I read this post because Copyblogger tweets are a priority for me, but I dont’ get to read them all. Like Brian Clark said “The 4 Words That Will Get Your Email Opened” stood out. Must try the four words subjectline.

  13. What size list are you sending to that gets a 90+ % open rate?? The industry standard is about 20%, so that list must either be a really small group of subscribers, or you are extrememly meticulous about cleaning up unresponsive recipients.

    • These are usually relatively small lists, but the key isn’t their size, it’s their devotion.

      I’m a huge advocate of story driven autoresponders that compel readers to become fans of the emails themselves. This strategy is highly effective, giving us shockingly high open rates, regardless of the subject line. That subject line is a clear winner, though, every time.

      • Can you give a link to a post or something about explains “story driven autoresponders that compel readers to become fans of the emails themselves”? I would love to read more about this subject.

  14. Thanks for sharing that interesting article. 🙂 I’ve actually never seen that type of subject line in my inbox before, but sounds like something that would be very powerful. Will apply those tips in my future email marketing endeavors. 🙂

    Guess I will have to incorporate more of a story based series with open loops in order to get readers to look forward to reading the emails as well.

  15. Man, what a great article. People don’t like to feel they are alone, even though they are working at home and thanks for the tip on how to use that effectively as a subject line.
    Your emails are one that I definitely open and read through. Don’t know how you keep coming up with such great material.

    • “Selling” can be about more than just trading dollars for a product or service. Seth Godin does an amazing job selling his ideas, for example.

  16. I find it interesting that people find that phrase so compelling. To me, it feels so obvious – like all those late night public service commercials urging you to seek help about some problem or another.

    But hey, if it works, I’ll use it anyway.

    • I think whether to use those specific four words is a judgment call depending on the specific target market – undoubtedly, it won’t work as well for some as for others. The message, though, is the key – communicating to the audience that they are not alone – in whatever words will be most compelling to them – is always going to be effective.

      That’s how I read the post. Sean, did I miss the point?

  17. Danny’s 100% right.

    The subject line is extremely effective in the parenting niches, not as much in trading. However, the idea is every bit as relevant in trading, as people want to know that others have had the same trials and gone through the same pain points.

  18. At a constant struggle with my own idealistic marketing sense, when pertaining to “gimmicky” subject lines. Once I recognize that the person on the other end is not -YET- in tune w/ these tactics, I imagine my client’s emails will garner a higher open rate……for the next year-and-a-half.

  19. I read those words, “You are not alone”, and felt a little paranoid because I actually was alone when reading the article. 🙂

    Really though, awesome insight and thanks for sharing the open rates. It underscores the basic need to feel understood.

    I think it was Stephen Covey that said to seek first to understand then seek to be understood.

    We miss the boat all too often when working with customers and trying to push our understanding of where they are and what they want instead of seeking to understand first, showing that we then understand, and then helping to address their questions and wants.

  20. I have found the subject “I’m worried about you” seems to work quite well for me. I guess it gives a personal touch just like “you are not alone” makes you feel like someone is with you and the one I have used makes the reader feel taken care of.

  21. Thanks Sean, for sharing yet another gold nugget.

    Although my website host states that “Opened statistics for sent e-mails cannot be 100% accurate”,
    they indicate that of my last four newsletters, 46% were opened in December, the best month; and 39% in February, the worst.

    So, for my next newsletter, I’ll try “you are not alone”, or maybe flout the conventional wisdom to be always “positive”, by writing something negative. (“3 Things the Nursery Industry Doesn’t Want you to Know”, or “12 Questions the Nursery Industry Refuses to Answer”, or simply “Are You Being Conned?”)

    And to boost the numbers further, I’ll also follow Martyn Chamberlin’s suggestion, by sending it on a Sunday morning @ 10:15 a.m.

    I’ll let you know the outcome.

    • I’d go with “Are You Being Conned?”

      Short, simple, and immediately starts the reader wondering if they are, in fact, being taken for a fool.

  22. I think these 4 little words do so much to be credibility and trust with your readers…especially if it is really true (and can be backed up on your blog or with your products). This is a great reminder how our story is essential when building a business. Thanks!

  23. How funny. I wrote these words at the end of my blog last night.

    REPORT IT HERE! [it will make me feel less alone]

    Including people in your problem… and drawing the parallel between your experience and theirs is a great way to communicate. In fact… it’s the only way. This is how it works. We compare notes… share experiences… and have a lot in common. Online is no different. Honest open dialogue resonates truth. Truth is the essential element. I want you to open my email because you trust me. I tell the truth. I won’t let you down. I am the same as you.

    • Love this, Jean.

      “Truth is the essential element. I want you to open my email because you trust me. I tell the truth. I won’t let you down. I am the same as you.”

      That is all. 🙂

  24. You had me reading with the answer to question posed in the headline, but I love the bonus tip. I never thought specifically about negativity selling, but it makes sense. Thanks for the little reminder.

  25. That really works? I would love to test this out myself. The idea behind is great and I can recommend everyone to read ‘Influence’ by Cialdini.

  26. The human element of not wanting to be alone is quite powerful. At times, even though I am not physically alone, mentally and emotionally speaking, there are times when I feel very alone.

    What I mean is that I’ve been struggling with consistency in many areas of my life and often think that I must be the only one that struggles with procrastination, insecurity, or just a flat out lack of discipline. When it comes to knowledge of internet marketing, I’ve consumed a lot of information, just not applied very much. You could say that is my insecurity at work.

    Good news, with a post like this and gaining momentum on taking action with what I’ve learned over the years, I am looking forward to losing that feeling of being alone.

    • Hi Eric, You’re certainly not “the only one that struggles with procrastination, insecurity, or just a flat out lack of discipline.”

      And just like you, “When it comes to knowledge of internet marketing, I’ve consumed a lot of information, just not applied very much.”

      Are you hyperactive or impulsive, disorganised and easily distracted? Since childhood? If so, ‘More Attention, Less Deficit’ by Ari Tuckman may help you.

      • The impact of encouragement is simply amazing! I really appreciate your response. To answer the question, I am probably more disorganized more than anything.

        Having a toddler at home while my older two are at school can cause for some distraction. However, I’d probably call it more “work” interruption. I’ve not researched it thoroughly, but I have heard, that for every interruption in your work flow can set you back at least fifteen minute.

        I’ll have to put that book into my list of ones to read. Thanks for the suggestion!

  27. Well I never knew that! It just proves that deep down we all want to be cared about, appreciated, not be forgotten, and , yes, loved too. It’s not our head that opens the e-mail nor our business brain but our emotions and feeings. And these are where surefire success comes when they are understood and supported even in the business field. Stellar post this one, superb inside info!

  28. great post. There is a saying that the most personal problems are also the most common, I think this shows that to be true,


  29. Love the article and guess you are right expecting to see a flood of “you are not alone” emails headed my watt and….coming from me. Great tip that we will share as well. Thanks

  30. Great idea. Many people would probably expect “You won’t believe this!” “This is awesome!” “Make money today!” or something similar would be opened more. 🙂

    • Hi Dean although a relative “newbie” to the art of subject lines most of what I have seen is that those subject lines are a sure way to the spammer. I use Constant Contact and when I plugged those type in just to test i got bells and whistles going off on spam warning…I do like the You are not alone though

  31. Wonderful article, Sean. I am just getting started building my own email marketing campaigns. You can be sure I will use this subject line in the near future. This is just the kind of quality content I’ve come to expect from posts on Copyblogger. Thanks!

  32. As far as “negativity” selling… short term, I agree… but long-term I feel like people will turn on you. Something about being made to feel fear/depression/worry by a company over and over makes me less-inclined to want to hear from them or do business with them. I know it’s not that cut and dry, but still.

    • Obviously you can’t have a steady diet of gloom and misery. No one wants to spend time with that.

      But most business is about solving problems and pain points. If you’re scared to talk about that at all, you’re not going to reach the people you can best help.

      The way Sean is talking about using it here, it’s about opening a conversation, not the entirety of the conversation.

    • I am not alone! Haha – finding a strange solace in reading a comment in which I finally can agree with.
      However, still wouldn’t open your email if it contained any moniker similar to that of which spurred this laundry list of agreeance.

      Depending on your respective product/service, don’t allow yourself to skew your long term branding motive for an afternoon of successful emails.

  33. Incredible article! I can really see the possibilities. I’ve always asserted that people are primarily looking for love and if you can genuinely offer it you’ll succeed.

    If you’d ever like to write a guest blog article at we’d love to have you!

    Warm regards,


  34. Great post! Of course, as someone else mentioned, if your audience is paranoid “You are not alone” will make them NOT want to open the email. Unless they’re also a member of Extraterrestrials Anonymous, in which case they will have to attend an ETA meeting to help them deal with the temptation….

  35. In the late 1950s a London billboard advert featured a Richard Widmark (or Frank Sinatra?) look-alike smoking in a darkened doorway lit by street lights. The caption: ‘You’re never alone with a Strand.’

    The advert was a total failure, and Imperial Tobacco withdrew it. (I believe they’ve also withdrawn the brand.)

    Is there a cautionary message here?

  36. Subject line writing is an art within the email marketing discipline. Nice article. It gets that across but provides a couple examples almost anybody could test.

  37. After this week, I’m sure “Your not alone” will be the least opened email subject line. It will be the most widely used words for the next month and people will get sick seeing these words in their subject line.

    Give me the 2nd most used subject line.

    • If we did, wouldn’t the same thing happen? 🙂

      Why not write one of your own with that as the underlying theme?

      We’ll see a bit of a spate of these, just like there was a spate of email subject headers using “bad news” after Frank Kern mentioned that that was his best line. Don’t worry, spates don’t last.

  38. Really? While those open rates seem extremely high, even 50% of that number would be quite impressive. I’ll definitely give it a shot in my next send. Thanks…

    Best Regards,

    • It’s high, but I’ve seen it on my lists. It tends to happen more with a list that’s relatively new, as no matter how wonderful you are, some readers eventually peter out and their attention goes elsewhere.

      • Sonia: Very true… The newer people (most recently added to your list) are the ones most likely to click on your stuff. After all, the content is fresh to them at that point.

        Keeping their interest piqued is the challenge moving forward. Consistently writing timely, relevant content is your challenge.

  39. Possibly, another way to look at this headline is to realize that the subconscious mind does not understand the negative statements, so it drops the NOT and DON”T, and so on.. If that is true, then the headline reads: “You are alone”, and then the reaction….

  40. @Dimitri. Good point. ‘Don’t be a Tosser’, our local council signposts warn, and no one listens. Maybe, ‘Take your Rubbish Home’ or ‘Dispose of Rubbish in Bin’ would be more effective.

  41. Great post! Over the years one thing always piques my interest when online, whether looking at a blog post or buying merchandise and that is the headline. I have found myself reading articles that I never would have imagined taking the time to read because I was struck by the thoughts or emotions a good headline evokes.

    As you said that’s just the first step. After that is great content and copywriting. If you can’t keep them on the page after the first sentence you haven’t effectively converted them into a reader or fan.

  42. Very nice idea and I personally like opening email with HOT keywords like discount, offer….from the list that I subscribed to not the general words like “April Newsletter”

  43. Sean: Great write up! To me, if you can accomplish this in all areas of your content: “Be helpful, solve a problem, take a worry and turn it into a smile.” You’ll do great!

    Above all else, companies need to work on identifying that need first and foremost. Then, you can focus on creating focused, timely and relevant content that you’re readers not only read, but content they are willing to share.

  44. Sean, this is a brilliant article, and one I intend to share with my readers. i have read Robert Cialdini’s book “The Power Of Persuasion” and found it gave an excellent description of how our minds work.

    Another book that I found equally good was written by Ron Holland called Talk And Grow Rich.

    Both these books are a wonderful resource for understanding the art of persuasion.

    Keep up the good work.

    Mary Speller

  45. Subject lines are obviously a key variable in email marketing. On my blog ( ), I’ve recently discussed their importance from a “style” standpoint — i.e., keep it short and relevant.

    It’s very interesting to see data from a pyschographic perspective. In the end, it makes perfect sense to appeal to our inherent need of compassion and belonging and tap into the problem/solution paradigm. Thank you for sharing the insight!

  46. The line really works. I’ve entered to the home page of this blog and went thorugh all the post listed there and this one was the one I’ve opened. I don’t know exactly why but the line “You’re not alone” just got me curious.
    Nice writing, by the way!

  47. Sorry if I’m being literal minded here, but do you literally mean the best SL is You Are Not Alone, or is it that the best SLs are ones that convey the message You Are Not Alone but not necessarily using those exact words?

    For example, would something like Getting More from Your Relationships have a similar open rate?

    • Justin, both. The literal 4-word phrase is what has worked so well for Sean, but it’s the underlying emotional response that is the real lesson here, because that can be used over and over with different words in various contexts.

  48. LOL right after reading this I got an email with “your not alone” in the subject. Now that spammers have the info, they will soon overly abuse thins and it won’t work.

    • It’s hysterical!

      I’ve had a dozen people (I don’t know) forward me “You Are Not Alone” subject lines from the last week.

  49. The crazy thing is … this topic actually worked. I tried it on our monthly email blast that went out yesterday and swayed from the traditional boring topic we have been using for the last couple of years. So, I figured “what the heck”, let’s try it. Our open and click through rate doubled. Not sure the title “You are not alone” is completely on topic with the post itself, but, it worked. It also opened my eyes to the importance of email subject lines.

    Thanks Copyblogger.

    You can read the post here:


  50. The subject line of my April newsletter read, “You Are Not Alone”. The open rate equaled that of “Dancing With The Stars? How About Dancing With “No!”, one of the lowest open rates for this newsletter.

    I think there are some magical words but what’s at work here is not really magic, but context. In the right context, (read blog, newsletter, post, print ad) “You Are Not Alone” may get “magical” like results, but nothing is absolute. And that is as close to an absolutely magically statement we can come, at least so I believe. Perception is everything and perception is contextual.

    Read/look at the works of Edward Adelson on illusion ( and see for yourself how magical the mind can be.

  51. Very interesting post which leads to a number of ideas. I think the key is as you said to think about what keeps your audience up at night.

  52. I look forward to the next few weeks when all the marketing emails I receive start with “You are not alone”. It’ll be interesting to count how many.

  53. Negativity sells – very true. Using words like “hate” or talking about how much the government/big business/whatever is a horrible thing does tend to get people to open their email. People like commiserating together. It’s sad, but true!

  54. I have seen that the most opened emails I send out are the ones with a personal subject line, ie;
    Why my product? – A personal message!
    This heading, translated from turkish :), have worked at least 10 times better than my other email editions.
    Thanks for the tips.

  55. I’ve been having issues getting emails opened by people in my business. Whatever happened to “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”? I would rather focus on the positive and benefits, but I will give this a try. Thanks

  56. I never thought about it before this article because I review my SPAM box looking for legitimate emails based on senders that I know (including notifications from Facebook, Twitter, etc) and then I purge the entire SPAM box without ever opening the emails. Even though it doesn’t seem to work on me, it is good to know that negativity and FUD works to get people to open the email, if ever I do an email campaign to opt-in lists.

  57. A marketing writer friend told me that one of the best open rates came from a health-care product sales email titled “Read This Or Die.” Somehow “you are not alone” is a bit more positive, though I agree that it has paranoia-inducing undertones. I’ve gotten to the point where I automatically delete the ones that start with a number, such as “7 Ways to Fast Wealth.” I think the numbered points construct is incredibly overused and tired, and more often than not, irritating rather than helpful.

    • You might think so, but a glance at our email statistics would show that most readers don’t agree with you. 🙂

      As content writers, it’s easy for us to get burned out on numbered lists, but day-in and day-out, they still work better than almost anything else.

  58. This was an interesting post to read. I somehow can’t come to identify with such a Subject line though. Maybe it’s my marketing background, but if I were to receive an email with that Subject line I wouldn’t be compelled to open it. I’d feel that the sender is simply trying to manipulate me.

    • I tend to think likewise. I suspect the reaction depends on the person – it will catch with some and not others. It would be interesting to see survey results in this area to get an idea what percentage of people this works on.

  59. LOVE the article! LOVE the comments! LOVE the ideas! I discover more great ideas, info., knowledge with this network group than most. There are countless insights from the articles and your comments. Soooo… now I’m thinking that a zillion target markets will be getting “You are not alone” emails from zillions of us! LOL! And by the 10th time the readers see that caption, they might hate whatever we are marketing!?? ;-))) Just a funny thought that crossed my mind! The article and your comments provide plenty of angles/ideas to construct similarly powerful headings. Let’s go for it! Thanks for such great input everyone!

  60. Alright, this comment may not be relevant that much to the above post, but I want to congratulate each and every blogger who is contributing to this.

    It all started when I stumbled upon the article “58 Ways to Create Persuasive Content Your Audience Will Love”, and ever since I’ve been jumping from one hyperlink article to another within your blog! This is crazy! I have around 35 tabs open by just reading three articles here!

    Thank you again for providing an amazing content.

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