Bonus Lesson 2


Lesson 12: Who else wants a 102% open rate?

Written by Joanna Wiebe at

Here’s a subject line that’s probably shown up in your inbox:

BOOM! This is how you get traffic… and convert it

That’s for the first email in Neil Patel’s Quick Sprout drip campaign.

It’s the welcome email.

I wrote it.

After thousands and thouuuuuusands of sends – I mean, it’s for Neil Patel’s list, and that list ain’t small – it currently has a 102% open rate.


Have you ever written a subject line that’s compelled a ton of your list to open not just once but 2x…

…with a click rate of 50.93%?

If you have, kudos – and what the hell are you reading this for? Go write more emails and make sick cash!

Still here?

Sure you are.

Because you’re curious, right?

How is that freakin’ subject line getting major opens?

What’s so effing great about “BOOM! Blah blah blah”, and what separates it from the subject lines you’ve been writing???

You might be thinking it’s the “boom.” And you might be right… But only partly right.

Noticeable words in subject lines – like “boom” – are very, very good. Because a subject line, like every form of advertising, needs to be noticed if it’s ever going to get people to act. So stand-up-and-notice-me words go a long way.

But it’s more than that.

See if you can pinpoint what it is – not by analyzing Neil’s subject line but by comparing these 3 subject lines against each other:

Get started with
Welcome to Flow
Can I ask you something?

I wrote those for Flow, that gorgeous project management solution designed by the fine folks at MetaLab (the team behind the design of Slack… yeah, Slack). Then MetaLab tested those 3 subject lines for Flow’s free trial welcome email…

…and guess which one got the highest open rate…

It wasn’t “Get started with Flow”.

That one got 39.6% of trial users to open. Not bad. Not great.

So it’s between “Welcome to Flow” and “Can I ask you something?”

Which one won?

I’ll tell you this much: the winner brought in 27% more opens than “Get started with Flow” did…

Any idea?

Quick guess?

Which subject line would you be more interested in opening?

If you said, “Can I ask you something?” – that’s the winning subject line.

It has an open rate of 54.0%.


Why did more people care to open that email than the other two?

For the same reason Neil’s subject line rocks it.

They’re both employing the same tactic – a tactic you’ve GOT to start using for your subject lines.

Some call it the Open Loop. Others call it the Curiosity Gap.

Doesn’t matter what you call it. Just matters that you use it.

The open loop is a tactic that, when employed as you’ve seen, is the subtler cousin of the headlines for Upworthy and Buzzfeed, which are amazing but which have been slightly overused online lately…

The idea with the open loop is to tell people just enough to pique their curiosity and leave them itching to close the loop (aka to find out what they’re missing).

With Neil’s subject, the pronoun “this” carries no noun. We need to open the email to find out what “this” is referring to. Classic li’l trick.

Very subtle but effective.

With Flow’s email, instead of saying what Flow’s CEO Andrew Wilkinson wants to ask, I used the word “something”… which will surely get most people to say, “Well what do you want to ask me?”

They then open the email to find out.

Open loop.

Requires closing.

It’s because of the open loop that you’re still reading this lesson instead of dropping off around the point where I switched to the Flow/MetaLab subject lines and further opened the loop. See, I’d told you most of the story about Neil Patel’s subject line, but I hadn’t told you everything. I hadn’t closed the loop. You needed to keep reading to close the loop, which is what’s happening right now… but it’s not closed yet.

What’s still missing – and what’s preventing the loop from closing entirely for most if not all of you – is this sticky little bit: How come, if they both employ the open loop, Neil’s open rate is nearly 2x that of Flow’s open rate?

You don’t have the full picture yet.

So let’s give it to you.

For starters, Flow’s open rate doesn’t account for multiple opens, whereas Neil’s does.

But to explain why Neil’s open rate is much higher than almost any open rate on the planet, let’s move now, very quickly, into the rules of writing kick-ass subject lines.

There are just 2 rules.

It’s not “use fewer than 50 characters.” It’s not “write for mobile.” It’s not “avoid spam words.”

These are the 2 rules by which you absolutely, positively must abide if you want to get stellar open rates… which lead to more eyeballs on your email body… which can then lead to more clicks, more sales, more shares, more forwards, more awesomeness.

Here they are:

  1. Get noticed
  2. Get opened

As I said earlier, every form of advertisement needs to be noticed – consciously or not – to make way for action to be taken.

Your subject line needs to be noticed in the inbox.

If people don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

Neil’s subject line gets noticed.

The Flow email could be further optimized by making it more noticeable. Of course, that doesn’t mean adding an all-caps “boom” + exclamation point to the front of every subject line. It means experimenting – continued testing – to see what Flow’s audience notices most.

From there, it’s all about getting opened… which is what the aptly named Open Loop can help you do.

So give it a shot!

Lesson 12 Task

  1. You want to test your subject line: What you can test depends on your email marketing platform. You can’t always A/B test your autoresponder subject lines, but you can test your newsletter subject lines.
  2. Write 25 subject lines: Don’t stop until you’ve written 25. Make them meaty.
  3. Shortlist the juiciest and “open loop” them: Let’s say you’ve come up with 25 subject lines that say things like, “We generated $25K in 2 days.” That’s perfectly good. But when you apply the open loop, it can get even more open-worthy:
    • When you see how little time it took for me to make $25k, you’ll probably get irritated
    • It takes most people a month to make $25K. With this trick, I did it in 2 days
    • Is this seriously all it takes to make that kinda money?
    • It only took me 2 days and this trick to buy a Harley in cash
    • 2 days. $25k. I want to tell you how.
    • This is what I did to make $25K in 2 days
  4. Now make them noticeable: Break them up with eye-catching, but not spammy, punctuation. Front-load the good stuff. Break long lines up visually. Knowing that long and short lines can stand out among the 40-char lines in an inbox, use a mix of both.
    • When you see how fast I made $25k, this will be your face: >:(
    • 30 days… or 2 days? How fast can 1 dude make $25k?
    • Is THIS seriously all it takes to make that kinda money? I wouldn’t have believed it either
    • This trick + 2 days = new Harley for me
    • 2 days. $25k in revenue. K, so, how?
    • TA-DA! Here’s what I did to make $25K in 2 days

  5. Choose 2… and test ‘em: Optimization is a cycle. So you’re never done. Once you find the winning subject line, push that further – make the next ones even more noticeable, or up the ante for the open loop.

    It’s important to watch your click rates and unsubscribes. If your subject line piques curiosity but your email body doesn’t satisfy that curiosity, you could have high unsubscribes. In all of the subject lines you’ve seen today, the winning subject line also brought in high click rates and had very low unsubscribes and almost no complaints.

Leave a comment below with your best open-loop subject line.

5 thoughts on “Bonus Lesson 2

  1. Holger

    My best performing (open loop?) email subject was:

    You have three days left

    Here are the numbers:
    Open rate 65.1%
    Unsubscribed 0

    28/43 recipients opened it. (Yes my list is still small…)
    BUT they opened it multiple times: Total opens 61

  2. Gabe Johansson

    Interestingly enough, my best performing subject line is “hey” with 43.1% unique opens. After that, it’s “Did you win?” for when I ran a contest at about 38%.

    Questions always work pretty well for me, but the phrasing is important. I’ve noticed that including these open loop terms (even accidentally) does make a big difference in open rate.

    For me, “How To” subject lines work pretty well too.

    Thanks for the awesome tips, now it’s time to apply them!
    -Gabe Johansson


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