Creating Emails People Want To Open

I’ve subscribed to a lot of email lists in the last several months since I’ve been blogging about email marketing. And even though I spend my days discussing various aspects of email campaigns, I still end up deleting most of the emails I’m subscribed to without even opening them.

There are still some emails that stand out from the crowd. They’re the ones I feel compelled to open, like a message from a good friend. Sometimes the subject line draws me in, sometimes it’s the consistent promise of easily-digested content and sometimes it’s the design itself.

Here are three of my favorite campaigns, with a look at why they work so well and how you can translate their techniques into your own campaign.

Real Simple

True to their name, Real Simple uses simple, direct subject lines that entice me to open. They’re transparent enough about their content that I can quickly decide whether it’s worth my time to read. Since their emails promise a quick, light read from the start, I’m more likely to open their emails when they hit my inbox.

How To Entice With Your Own Subject Lines

Like Real Simple, be transparent about your message content. Your readers likely have plenty of other mail to sift through, so the quicker you can relay your message through the subject line, the better your chances of winning their attention (and an open!).

That’s not to say you should give all your message content away in the subject line. Give them enough to see the value in your message but not so much that they don’t feel the need to open and read more.


MySpoonful is a weekly music newsletter that introduces its readers to a new independent artist every week. As a music junkie, I’m already interested in their content, but that’s not the only reason I enjoy their emails. The main reason is the easily scannable information they include at the top of every email:

That’s everything I need to know in a neat 2 second summary. I instantly know if I want to spend time reading the rest of the music review or close the email and move on.

It’s the consistent promise of great content in an easily digestible format that keeps me opening all of MySpoonful’s emails.

How To Effectively Arrange Your Own Content

Be considerate of your readers’ time. If you have a lot to say, consider summarizing your most important points at the top. That way, the people who are interested can keep reading while the ones who are less interested will still see your most valuable content.

Jones Design Company

There’s something to be said for emails that just look pretty. I always enjoy eye candy in my inbox. That’s why I always open the blog broadcasts from Jones Design Company – an AWeber customer. They consistently deliver simple and lovely designs in their emails:

Now that’s some clean, simple and effective design. They brand their broadcasts with a banner and navigation links at the top and chose a graceful font for their message text.

Good design doesn’t always have to be flashy. Simple, clean and well-branded is just as pleasing to the eye as slick images can be.

How To Design Your Own Beautiful Campaign

Lucky for you, AWeber offers a whole library of free templates to make your design job easier. And our new message editor makes it drag-and-drop simple to arrange an appealing layout for your content.

If you’re comfortable enough with HTML to take a more do-it-yourself route, here are some resources and inspiration to help get you started:

42 HTML Email Design Resources from Email Marketing Reports

20 Email Design Best Practices and Resources for Beginners from Nettuts+

Rock Solid HTML Emails from 24 Ways
HTML Email Gallery
Inbox Award

Your Own Analysis

What have you learned from some of your favorite emails? Have any lessons to share?


  1. Liat Gat

    5/10/2012 9:55 am

    Rebekah, your blog post gave me a good idea! I decided to start a dummy email account where I just subscribe to newsletters, and THAT’S where I’ll send my test emails, to see if they really stand out or not. I always send them to my own inbox, which is nearly always empty. Thanks!

  2. Cheryl Winter

    5/10/2012 10:13 am

    As usual, great tips, Rebekah. Can’t wait to get my newsletter started and put these tips to use. Thanks!

  3. Kelsey

    5/10/2012 2:46 pm

    Great ideas! I’m about to launch an autoresponder campaign, so this is good timing. And you’re right, mainly, for me, I decide to open emails that have consistently shown me good content. And people who don’t bug me too often (multiple emails a day from a company instantly gets me unsubscribed from their list). Thanks for the ideas! P.S. I always open AWeber emails, because I know it’s excellent content. Can’t say that about too many companies!

  4. Andrew Stark

    5/11/2012 4:35 pm

    It sounds so simple, but you’d be amazed at how many people try to send me emails where the content has nothing to do with the subject line.

    I guess it depends on what sort of interests you have, but far too many people who claim to be internet marketers are the worst offenders. Sure a good headline will get the message opened, but if the content doesn’t match I’ll be clicking unsubscribe faster than I opened the message.

    For me I get the best open rates when I tell people about a new blog post and put the predix [New Blog Post] in the headline. As you say it’s important to remember and not clutter up people’s inbox and be relevant.



    5/12/2012 11:55 pm

    Thank you Rebekah for your great help, i think i am now going to win readers of my emails by the skills you gave me here. What an interesting stuff!

  6. Caroline

    5/13/2012 2:47 pm

    Thank you for a great post and list of design resources!

    Your 24 Ways link goes to the Net Tuts site. I dug a bit and found the correct link:

  7. Amanda Gagnon

    5/14/2012 8:00 am

    Caroline, thanks for catching that! Fixed.

  8. Bill Zipp

    5/15/2012 11:31 am

    Thanks, Rebecca, for the great post! I’ve noticed lately that I’m getting a lot of plain text email newslatters without any HTML design. When does this make sense? When does the “eye candy” get in the way in your opinion?

  9. Jon

    5/15/2012 1:24 pm

    Great post and tips, Rebekah! I am an AWeber customer and use your Blog Broadcast tool to send emails to my subscribers every day.

    The default subject line of my emails is something along the lines of “New Posts from May 15, 2012”, which certainly isn’t eye-catching.

    My question: Does AWeber offer a tool to easily create new eye-catching subject lines each day? I know I can log into my account and manually change it, however that would be a cumbersome process day after day.

  10. Rebekah Henson

    5/16/2012 8:46 am

    Bill – Thanks for your comment! Personally, I don’t think “eye candy” ever gets in the way. 😉 But practically speaking, I think it depends on your business and the message you’re trying to convey. Alerting your customers to any serious issues would probably work better in simple, straightforward plain text. A flashier html template would probably work best for a regular newsletter, special announcements or exciting news. It really depends on the tone of the message you’re trying to convey.

    Jon – You can change the subject line in your blog broadcast settings so that the subject automatically populates with the title of your most recent post instead of the default subject you have in place now. Just copy and paste these variables directly into the subject line of your blog broadcast:


    Hope that helps! 🙂

  11. Kelsey

    5/16/2012 12:01 pm

    I think one problem with HTML emails (and maybe why a lot of people are starting to send plain text) is that HTML emails are more likely to be seen as SPAM, so it may be harder to get to the inbox with HTML emails. Plus, I would think if you are sending plain text emails, you wouldn’t have the issue of it not being reported as opened if people don’t have their image blocker turned off, so maybe you get more accurate reporting with plain text emails? I don’t know. I’m torn between the two.

  12. Rebekah Henson

    5/16/2012 12:47 pm

    Kelsey – I have a few articles that might help clear things up for you. First, regarding HTML and deliverability. You’re only likely to get filtered into the spam folder if you don’t include a plain text version or if you send one big image with no text at all. This post goes into more detail about how that works:

    Second, you might find this comparison/contrast between plain text and HTML helpful. It lays out the pros and cons of both pretty clearly to help you decide what’s best for your campaign:

  13. Steve

    5/24/2012 3:00 am

    Thanks so much. I’m sure I am doing right. After following your tips, I’m getting my mails hit right in the inbox of my readers. My blog is really making headway.