Your headline is the most important part of your email. If you don’t have a good headline, your email won’t be opened and the rest of the email won’t even matter.

How do you write headlines that are guaranteed to get your emails opened? Here are a few tips and formulas.

=> Start a Swipe File

Every list owner should have a swipe file of email headlines. It’s so easy to start a swipe file, there’s absolutely no reason not to. All you need to do is create an account with a free email service like Gmail, Yahoo Mail or MSN Mail and then sign up for all the email lists in your industry that you can find.

Pretty soon you’ll be getting dozens of marketing emails every week. Check this account periodically for headlines that grab your attention and “star” or “favorite” them for later use. When it’s time for you to write a headline, all you need to do is go back to your starred emails for ideas.

=> A Few Proven Headline Formulas

Here are a few email headline formulas proven to generate extremely high open rates.

* The challenge – This one works by directly calling out the user in a challenging manner. Example: “[Name], I’m Putting You on Notice!”

* The controversial opener – Hint that you’re going to share something very controversial in your email. Example: “I’m Gonna Tick Some People Off …”

* Answer a question on their mind – Answer a question people have been wondering about. Example: “Is Good Customer Service REALLY Important?”

* The compelling story – Make the catch phrase of a story the headline. Example: “The Man Who Divorced His Wife to Become a Spammer.”

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* A promising how to. Promise to teach the user something they really want to learn. Example: “How to Conquer Your Greatest Creativity Killer.”

* Give against the grain advice – Give someone tips that contradict what everyone else is saying. Example: “What you think is safe is risky – What you think is risky is safe.”

* Important news (or commentary) – Report on an important piece of news or give your opinion on an important piece of news. Example: “Why Facebook’s $50 billion valuation is inflated.”

These are just a few examples of proven headline templates. Writing great headlines is just a matter of figuring out what your users want and learning a few subtle switches that can help catch their attention.

Controversy tends to get mail opened. So does how-tos and direct benefits. In other words, if the user believes they’ll get something by opening the email, they’re much more likely to open it.

Get as many emails into your swipe file as possible. Cultivate it, as it can become one of your greatest assets in time. Use your swipe file along with your knowledge of copywriting and who your customers are to write headlines that catch attention and get emails opened.