There were countless times when I thought I’d nailed my email, only to end up disappointed by an abysmal click-through rate. Doing all your email marketing by the book doesn’t guarantee email campaign success.After several failures, I decided to rethink my approach.

An ambitious email marketer Needs to know the the basics of email marketing, but still has to write better email copy. Over the following months, a little bit of experimentation got me far better results. Here’s what I’ve found to be helpful when trying to write a better email copy.

Tease Out a Strong Emotion With Your Subject Line

The subject line is the pillar of your email marketing campaign. No, I’m not exaggerating. Almost 50% of email recipients choose to open an email on the subject line alone. Do you know what drives people to take action? The answer is simple – emotion. I’ve found that teasing out a strong emotion in my email recipients results in a higher click-through rate.

In the past I didn’t pay attention to these much. I thought a simple “Company Name Weekly Newsletter” will get the job done. Once, I even tried stacking show-offy sales words to desperately get people’s attention. The click-through rate numbers screamed right back at my face. Knowing the importance of having a successful email newsletter campaign, something had to be done.

Fortunately I stumbled upon compiled Subject Line Data from MailChimp. These are the two data sets that I’ve found particularly interesting:

words open rate improvement

words pairs open rate improvement

I started playing around with evoking emotions with my subject lines. Depending on the marketing goals, I started using fear of missing out, pain point, curiosity, funny, and other types of subject lines. The results were far better than I expected. My subject lines became definitely more irresistible as open rates started climbing towards a healthier 15%.

I’ve found putting capsed words in brackets particularly handy. Particularly the ones that imply time sensitivity, such as [URGENT], [IMPORTANT], [WEEKEND ONLY], and thanking my recipients with a simple “Thank you” in the subject line. Make sure to take a look at creative email subject lines that can help you engage some of your “oldest” subscribers.

Personalization of subject lines also still works. Subject line research from AtomicReach showed that subject lines that include a personalization token get 23.6% higher open rates on average versus non-personalized subject lines. A personalization token allows you to add data to a bulk email message so that the email seems more personalized.

bulk email personalization token

Your Preview Text Needs a Bit of Wit And Humor

You may freely laugh, but at the start I had completely neglected the preview text. You know that piece of text to the right of your subject line? That’s the one. I used the most generic preview text in the world. When I look at it now, I’m impressed that my email campaigns were as successful as they were.

A lot of marketers tend to use this text as a mundane intro. People expect to find out what the email is about so feel free to continue clearing things up for them in the preview, but no one says you can’t combine wit and humor.

Look at it as a part of the text that continues on your subject line. This will help you to provide a consistent tone. One of my favorite funny preview lines is the one written by the PetCareRX Inc. team, referencing the popular Baha Men song.

The subject line “Fenway’s special treat” followed by the “Who let the dogs out?!” preview. Be careful with humor though and only pursue it if you know your target audiences’ preferences.

Look at it as a part of the text that continues on your subject line. This will help you to provide a consistent tone. One of my favorite funny preview lines is the one written by the PetCareRX Inc. team, referencing the popular Baha Men song.

The subject line “Fenway’s special treat” followed by the “Who let the dogs out?!” preview. Be careful with humor though and only pursue it if you know your target audiences’ preferences.
Focus on One or Two Main Ideas in Your Copy

The next thing that you have to revisit is your email text. Seduced by the power of email marketing, we can all easily make mistakes. This is what makes us spread our ideas too thin trying to convey several different messages to our target audience at the same time. But what this does is quite the opposite. Readers get easily confused and bounce off to other emails waiting in their inbox.

Not long ago I decided to start learning how to code. I stumbled upon John Morris on YouTube. I really like his tutorials and subscribed to his email list. His emails are awesome examples. Here are couple of them:

It’s best to focus on one or two main ideas in email copy. Put it as a unique offer and add a clear call to action. Usually, I stick to just explaining what the mail is about, a thing or two about the offer, and what makes this opportunity valuable.

Is there an absolute recipe for success? There is none, but the next closest thing is to keep the copy aligned to your subject line and preview text. Don’t mislead your target audience by getting them interested in the subject and then follow it with a text that has little to do with it.

Be incredibly picky about the words you use

We can not continue without mentioning the experience. Online everything is labeled as customer experience. The email you write contributes to this experience too. This is why you have to do everything in your power to make reading your emails a great experience for your target audience.

Personally, after I started being incredibly picky about the words I use, the click-through rates spiked.
I started by conducting some online research and looking for powerful and the most effective words to use in an email. Here is what I’ve found and started using. The word “Now” invokes urgency and, more importantly, action. It is often used in CTAs – the most common use case – like the “Shop Now” button.

A simple use of words “You” and “Your” can also help you make your emails more compelling. This creates a personal viewpoint for your email subscribers, something a text written in third person absolutely can’t.

The word “New” is known for its ability to invoke excitement. I’ve seen many sales emails with it. Use this one carefully though, because you really have to offer something new to your subscribers.

The next in line is the word “Easy”, which can help you instill confidence in you subscribers. This can be really helpful if you are talking to beginners in any field. For instance, you can use it to market a new online shop feature that makes shopping as easy as it gets.

Beside this, you should keep your copy short. Make every word count. Your hands are not tied here, as you can use analogies, as well as power and sensory words to paint the picture for your future customers.

For instance, in advertising the new and easy feature on your online store, you can invite subscribers to “Experience online shopping that’s as easy as if done in person”. The “in person” phrase here uses sensory words to make it easier for subscribers to relate to what you are trying to communicate.

There are other tricks for a better email marketing experience, psychological email marketing tactics for instance.

Segmenting your email list will help make it more personal

Segmentation is the cornerstone of modern marketing, as I’m sure you are very well aware of. And this is exactly why you should stop sending the same emails to everyone on your list. When I talk about personalization, I’m not talking about using people’s names in subject lines. I’m referring to one email for each one of your audience segments.

Since not every target audience is the same, I’m just going to mention that you can segment your emails by age, gender, location, and so on. To step up your game, you should consider using one of the CRM tools on the market. This will help you incorporate past interactions and purchase history for each lead, prospect and customer, informing your data set to send personalized emails.

I hope you’ve find something useful in this guide. Remember, abysmal click-through rates are not the end of the world. There is always something that you can do about it. Pursue any of the tips I’ve listed above and track the KPIs. I’m sure that you’ll find one that resonates the best with your target audience.

Anja Skrba

Anja Skrba


Anja Skrba is a Content Creation Manager for FirstSiteGuide, an educational website which provides tutorials and guides that help people create, grow and maintain their online presence. You can connect with her on Linkedin.