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How to raise open rate of your cold emails. LeadGen Agency research | Upsail

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Even if your click-through rate is high, if your recipients aren’t opening your emails, you’re wasting your time and effort.
According to our most recent research, based on more than 3 million emails sent, the open rate for cold emails decreases as the email gets older. In fact, emails sent within 24 hours of being sent have a 21% open rate, while emails sent 2-3 days after being sent have only an 8% open rate.
So what can you do with your subject line to increase the open rate for cold emails? Check out our tips below!


Number of words

It might seem obvious, but so many sales folks do the same mistake over and over again. The subject lines are too heavy, so it becomes a challenge to understand what the email is about.

Make no mistake! Your prospects do not want to read through the entire novel in the subject line. They just want to understand what the email is about. So help them out with that!
Keep it up to the point and concise. Make sure you reflect the body of your email.
Remember that the email service provider will cover a long subject line in any case.

Other than that – keep it short. 2-5 words are ideal. 

Now, one important thing is about not using a subject line at all. Even though we tested a nearly 10% increase in open rate with (no subject), the response rate was significantly lower compared to the referential batch.


We were surprised that including a simple greeting in the subject line will drastically improve the open rate!

It might seem counterintuitive, as greetings are mostly used as the first line of the email body, but it works just fine. Our theory is that people are just getting used to generic subject lines and including greetings is just the thing to grab attention.


Now, this is a big one. We burned 4 domains to ashes trying to figure out if punctuation, numbers, or special characters has any influence on open rate.

It turns yes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Avoid punctuation and numbers if you can
  • Using a comma in combination with a long subject line (5+ words) will make recipient yawn
  • An exclamation mark is useful if you want to YELL YOUR PITCH TO HIS FACE! Seriously, it boosts opens just a bit, but we received many complaining responses.
  • Asterisks are risky. They boost open rates, but ESPs and spam filters don’t like it. Our 2 domains are buried and gone to email reputation heaven because of this little ****.

Use dot. It’s good.

Tone & company name usage

Next tip is about the tone of your subject line and thee usage of the company name in it.

Generally, you can easily use our company name in combination with the target company name.

The best subject line we still use in our outreach is:
{{companyName}} > Upsail. Intro call

Keep your emails short and sweet. There is no space for being overly positive, it will piss your prospect off. You’re not friends (yet, hopefully) and the 1st thing you should care about is to make sure your prospect can grasp the purpose of your email in no time.


Please avoid these open rate and domain reputation killers at all costs.

Best case scenario your email will be automatically marked as promotional.
Worst case – your lovely domain will join a few dozens of our burned domains in Deliverability Heaven.

Break-Ups and Direct Asks

Final and our favorite part. 
Use powerful language and be honest in your communication. If it’s a call you need – tell it. If it’s an interview – make sure to address it in the subject line.

It pays out. 

Remember that there’s a real person, just like you on the other side of your email. Value their time. Help them understand if they can and want to help you.
Email subject line is just a tool to achieve that.

Happy prospecting, and be amazing!

P.S. If you want to empower your outreach with buyer-intent prospecting book a call.

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