9 Tips for Writing the Perfect Email Subject Line

writing effective email subject lines

Learn some best practices and trends when writing your email subject line to improve your email response rates.

Our Observations

We reviewed 5 million emails sent from Agent Legend campaigns. We analyzed the population as a whole and then compared that to the top 500 highest-performing campaigns.

The main differentiator between average campaigns and high-performing campaigns was the quality of email subject lines and the type of personalization used. There was a significant difference in subject line quality in the high performing campaigns. Take a look at the tables below to see a sample of actual email subject lines—both poor performers and high performers. Can you tell the difference?

Examples: Actual (Poor Performing) Email Subject Lines

  • Checking In?
  • Help
  • Your check
  • One last time
  • Contact me within the next 24 hours
  • Hi!
  • I’m sorry
  • Checking in Re:[[Property: Street Address]]
  • Follow Up
  • I am a real person…
  • Friendly Follow-up…
  • Zillow request
  • Only a few hours left
  • What do you really want?
  • How am I doing?
  • A long shot
  • In or out?
  • Re: property
  • Re: just left you a voicemail
  • Buy now before it’s too late
  • I’m not sure what you like
  • I’m puzzled

The Power Of A Good Email Subject Line

When contacting a new prospect, your email subject line is one of the most important things you can focus on to improve your response rates. The subject line is the first thing a prospect will see and spending a few extra minutes writing a good one can determine if your email gets opened or not. Let’s face it, you can send out hundreds of emails per day, but you’re wasting your time if they never get opened.

First, let’s answer the question, “why is it so important?”

If you had a previous relationship or conversation with a prospect, your name in the email is probably adequate, and the subject line is not as critical. You’ve already established a connection with the prospect, and your name alone will usually trigger the prospect to open your email. However, for argument sake, let’s assume that the prospect is new and they don’t have an existing relationship with you. This is often the case with many of your Agent Legend campaigns. In this instance, the prospect may not know you personally, or they may not remember your name. What will get them to open your email? Indisputably, email marketing professionals agree the subject line and preheader text are the most important things to get your email noticed when no relationship has been established.

Ok, so what makes a great email subject?

Do you include specific words? Is it a certain length? Is it personalized? Well, it’s unfortunately not that simple. There is no silver bullet for the single best email subject line.

Examples: Actual (High Performing) Email Subject Lines

  • [[FirstName]], your inquiry about [[Property: Street Address]]
  • Real estate question [[FirstName]]
  • [[FirstName]] I’m here when you’re ready
  • Checking in regarding [[Property: Street Address]]
  • [[FirstName]], am I sending you the wrong homes?
  • Property inquiry for [[Property: Street Address]]
  • [[FirstName, let’s talk about your property search
  • [[FirstName]], here are your neighborhood values
  • [Zillow]: [[Property: Street Address]]

Each of your Agent Legend campaigns may necessitate a different approach. That being said, here are a few best practices and trends to improve your response rates.

1) Keep It Short and Sweet

Are your prospects more likely to open the email on a desktop computer or on a mobile device? Mobile email clients usually show fewer characters on the subject line and preheader text. To keep from getting your subject cut off, keep subject lines short. If you’re not sure, it’s a safe assumption that your email will be opened on a mobile device. The table below shows open and clickthrough rates for mobile devices and desktop computers. In 2019, 41.11% of all real estate related emails were opened on a mobile device, and that number increases significantly every year.

Open Rate

(overall)

Open Rate

(mobile/tablet)

Open Rate

(desktop)

Click-Through Rate

(overall)

All Industries 14.79% 42.83% 57.17% 6.99%
Real Estate 14.15% 41.11% 58.89% 4.9%

OK, mobile is important. So, how short is the perfect subject line?

Aim for 4-7 words. If you can make your message stand out in just 2-3 words, even better.

Email marketing leader Constant Contact says, “most email providers cut off subject lines that are greater than 60 characters, and more and more users are opening their emails on mobile devices. To ensure your message comes across, your subject line should have no more than 4-7 words or 40 characters.”

2) Don’t Forget About Preheader Text

You may be asking what is “preheader text?” It’s the snippet of text that appears in the email client just below the subject line. Usually, it’s the first few words of the email body. Just like the subject line, this is usually a few characters less on a mobile device than when viewed on a desktop email client.

Preheader text can be a valuable asset to your subject line. In fact, you should think of it as an extended subject line. It should add additional value to the subject and entice the reader to click the email. The first 5-8 words are the most important. Watch the following video (around the 6:20 minute mark) to learn more about writing great preheader text.

3) Be Descriptive and 4) Don’t Repeat Yourself

You can go for something straightforward or get creative. Either way, you’ll want to entice the user to click the email to read more. It often requires some extra thought to be “short and sweet” yet “descriptive.”

There are a few common issues we regularly see which can be easily avoided. Here are a few tips.

  • Don’t add your name or company in the subject line. It’s repetitive as the user will see your email or name in the line above the subject.
  • Don’t use generic subjects like “August Newsletter.” It’s tired and nondescriptive.
  • The subject line and preheader should not be repetitive. They should build on each other.
  • Use numbers in your subject lines. Example: “5 Top Properties…”
  • Ask a question. Open-ended questions are good at getting prospects to open emails.
  • Craft a subject that indicates time-sensitivity. The fear of missing out (FOMO) factor can be a reliable trigger to increase open rates.
  • Read this HubSpot post for a few more ideas to create descriptive and engaging subject lines.

5) Change It Up

We get it…you’re busy. However, don’t pick a subject line and just stick with it just because it’s easy. Change it up and try different variations. Think about the words you use. Using different keywords and personalization approaches can make a huge difference.

Also, if you are sending multiple followups to the same prospect, make sure that each email has a unique subject (and message). Seeing the same subject over and over doesn’t feel very genuine. If it didn’t work the first time, why do you think it would work the third or fourth time?

6) Avoid Looking Like Spam

This one sounds pretty straightforward, and you’re probably thinking this tip doesn’t apply to you. However, we’ve seen many emails that get sent straight to a prospect’s spam folder because they looked too spammy to the prospect’s email client.

  • Don’t use RE: to imply an ongoing conversation when it’s the first email you’ve sent to a prospect. It’s considered misleading.
  • Don’t write SUBJECT LINES IN ALL CAPS. It’s the equivalent of yelling at someone, and it’s generally found to be found annoying by everyone except the person who wrote it.
  • Don’t go overboard with punctuation. Not everything needs an exclamation mark. And there’s probably no email you’ll ever send that needs multiple exclamation marks!!!
  • Avoid the use of spam trigger words.

See the following list for a few words that you’ll want to avoid. Better yet, go look at the spam folder in your own inbox. Notice the words used in the subject lines? You don’t want to end up in the spam folder. Do you?

Spam Trigger Words to Avoid Using in Your Emails

#1, $$$, $$, 100%, Act now, Action, Additional income, All natural, All new, Amazed, Avoid, Be amazed, your own boss, Beneficiary, Billing, Billion, Bonus, Boss, Buy, Call free, Cancel, Casino, Certified Cheap, Click here, Clearance, Collect, Congratulations, Credit card, Cures, Deal, Dear friend, Discount, Direct email, Don’t delete, Don’t hesitate, Double your income, Double your cash, Earn, Extra, Expire, Fantastic, Free access, Free money, Free gift, Freedom, Friend, Get it now, Get paid, Great, Hello, Income, Increase sales, Increase traffic, Junk, Limited, Lose, Luxury, Make $, Make money, Medicine, Name, No credit check, No experience, Now, Obligation, Only, Open, Order now, Please, Presently, Problem, Promise, Remove, Request, Risk-free, Sales, Satisfaction, Serious, Spam, Success, Supplies, Take action, Traffic, Trial, Unlimited, Weight, While supplies last, Win, and Winner

Common Spam Trigger Words Seen in Many Agent Legend Campaigns

Affordable, Apply now, Call now, Cash, Compare rates, Debt, Free, Get started, Guarantee, Investment, Lowest price, Instant, Money, Offer, Purchase, Quote, Rates, Refinance, Refund, Save, Score, Terms, and Urgent.

Obviously, this is not a completely exhaustive list, but you should now have a good idea of what is considered a spam trigger word. If you’re using any of these words in your emails, especially the subject lines. Take a few minutes to rewrite them using words that feel more genuine and less likely to trigger an email client from blocking your email.

If it even remotely looks like junk mail to you, your prospect’s email client will probably think the same.

Read more about spam filtering on our post Does Your Email Look Like Spam?

7) Personalize It

According to Yes Marketing research, emails with personalized subject lines generate 50% higher open rates than emails without personalization. Instapage claims that personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates. Yet 70% of marketers don’t use personalization in their emails. It’s a head-scratcher, right? Why wouldn’t you personalize your emails?

We recommend you to personalize (with merge tags) any Agent Legend campaign where you have enough data. Your prospects will feel like you are talking directly to them.

Even if you can’t personalize your subject lines with the prospect’s name, use words like “you” and “your” can still work with a similar effect. Campaign Monitor says that you can achieve a 22% increase in open rates when you personalize emails with words like “you” and “your.” If you can use the prospect’s first name, you can achieve around 24.2% increase (WorldData Research 2019, Retention Science Study 2014).

Read more about email personalization in our post Personalization Makes a Difference.

8) Try Using Brackets

A recent trend has seen marketers using brackets in email subject lines. They can help certain text stand out in your subjects. A few examples include:[Active], [Reminder], [Video], [Webinar], [Open House], etc.

Try it out to see how they work in your campaigns. If you do, keep in mind that many email clients may clip the characters inside of brackets. For example, Gmail will cut-off after 6 characters. So, keeps words in brackets very short.

9) Send a Test Email

When you’re using Agent Legend to create email followups for your campaigns, we highly encourage you to test each of your emails. There’s a feature in the email compose/edit pane where you can send a test email to any email address. Send a test email. Then take a look at how the email appears on both mobile and desktop devices. Did any important words get cut out of the subject line view?

In Summary

Creating a high-performing subject line can make a huge difference in your response rates. However, it does take some extra care and thought. Keep these ideas in mind when writing your next email subject line.

  • Keep it short. 4-7 words (40 characters) are good. 2-3 words can be even better.
  • Pay attention to your preheader text. The first 5-8 words are the most important.
  • Be descriptive and creative.
  • Don’t repeat yourself.
  • Try different variations to see which performs better.
  • If you’re sending multiple followups, have unique subject lines for each.
  • Avoid looking like spam.
  • Personalize whenever it’s possible and applicable.
  • Try using brackets.
  • Send a test email.

If you have any questions or would like assistance creating better emails, feel free to reach out to the Agent Legend customer success team. We’d be happy to help improve the performance of your campaigns.

Are you not a member yet and interested in learning how our world class service can help you with lead followup and engagement? Schedule an Agent Legend demo today.