Words That Are Hurting Your Email Open Rates (And a Few That Can Boost Them)

So, we know the subject line is arguably the most important part of any email you send. For marketing emails, the subject line can make or break you, so you’ve got to double down and spend some time to craft 5-10 words that will stop the scroll and get your email opened.

At the same time, you have to ensure your email doesn’t go to spam or get reported as spam. The folks at OptinMonster say that a whopping 69% of email recipients report email as spam simply based on the subject line!

According to several studies and surveys from a variety of companies, there are definitely a few words that appear to do better than others at encouraging readers to open emails. Likewise, there are some words that can tank your opens as well. Let’s take a look at those first.

The first word is Newsletter. I have harped about the word newsletter in the subject line many times. In general, it screams “non-urgent” or “I’ll get to it later (if later ever comes).”  Using “newsletter” almost guarantees a non-open. But don’t take my word for it. According to Invesp, emails that have “newsletter” in their subject lines decrease their chances of being opened by 18.7%.

The next word is Invoice. I’m sure we can agree that the word invoice doesn’t necessarily give us the warm and fuzzy feeling. But more importantly, hackers like to use that word to deceive people. In fact, Statista shows that malicious emails have the word invoice in the subject line 13.2% of the time. You have been warned. Be careful with using “invoice.”

The third word that negatively impacts your email open rates is Mail. That one’s a bit of a surprise, right? I mean, what’s wrong with mail? If you’re old enough, you might recall AOL’s famous notification “You’ve Got Mail.” But according to Statista, 10.2% of potentially harmful emails have the word “Mail” in the subject line.

Now, before I share the three words that increase your email open rates, I want to point out a few phrases in subject lines that lead to fewer opens.

A study by Yesware found the following common phrases you might want to avoid:

  • “Trying to Connect”
  • “Something of Interest”
  • “Quick Question”
  • “Appropriate Person”
  • “Join Us For”
  • “Webinar”
  • “You’re invited to”
  • “Quick request”
  • “Can we chat”

Words for Subject Lines That Get Opened

The first word is Video. Ever since video became popular including the word video in email subject lines has resulted in significant lifts to open rates. Recent research from Syndacast indicates that “video” in the subject line boosts open rates by 19% and click through rates by a nice 65%. A bonus effect of the word video is that it drops unsubscribes by 26%!

The second word you want to consider using in your subject lines is Alert. It certainly has that sense of urgency but not a very sexy word to use. But research from OptinMonster shows that “alert” in the subject line increases open rates by a whopping 61.8%. Yep, it’s worth it to creatively weave alert into your subject line, for sure. Note: from a cybersecurity perspective, the phrase “security alert” is one of the top “phishing” subject lines.

The final word to use in your subject line is Free. Reportedly, when you use the word free in your subject lines the email is 10% more likely to be opened. The flip side of that, however, is the free is also high on the list of words that trigger spam filters.  Want to stay away from “free”? Try using the word “tomorrow.” It too nets a 10% likelihood of being opened.

Spend time on your subject lines. Carefully choose words that work. Pique curiosity but don’t be deceiving. I’ll leave you with these bonus ideas to boost email open rates: Use emojis. They increase the effectiveness of your subject line by 70%. Also, think about using movie titles or song lyrics, if it makes sense for your brand. Retention Science found that movies and song lyrics have an average open rate of 26%.