Photo of Everett Tang
by on in Email Marketing

Let’s assume you’ve written a fantastic email (you’re reading this blog, you know you’re awesome). But when you send it, your open rate isn’t the best. It’s not the content, because it was expertly written. It’s not the subject line; it’s witty, original, and made your superiors laugh. What could it be? There’s a good chance you’ve overlooked your preheader text.


Wait, what is preheader text?

By default, in addition to the subject line and your name, your email will also show the first few lines of readable text content. Have you ever received an email that had the subject line doubled, or read, “having trouble reading this email”, like the ones circled below?

Examples of Bad Preheaders

What a missed opportunity! By optimizing your email to control this text, you can significantly boost the number of responses to your offer.


How can you make it work for you?

According to Litmus, “optimizing pre-header text is one of the most effective ways to increase open rates – sometimes up to 45%”, but only if you can make it work for you. Your pre-header isn’t a stand-alone phrase. It should be used to reinforce or compliment your offer.

As one of the first things the reader sees, it should carry the same messaging as your brand, or compliment the email’s tone in some way. It could be used to:

  • create a sense of urgency
  • offer personalization to the reader
  • emphasize a promotion or sale.

If you’re a masterful wordsmith, it could even do all three!

You should also consider how the user will read the text. By putting the most important phrases first, the most important parts of your message get seen even if it goes over the limit.


There’s a limit?

Unfortunately, unlike the sky, pre-header text has limits. As with all things email, different platforms will display text differently. While most providers display between 40 and 50 characters (Android’s Gmail app, iOS’s Yahoo! App, etc.), some outliers will show significantly more or less. Apple Mail clients will display almost a Tweet’s worth of characters at 140 visible, while Outlook 2003-2010 will not display any. If you have an idea where your audience is reading your email, you can easily tailor your message to take advantage of the space available. As long as you let your email designer know what you want it to say, you’ll never need to worry about missing an opportunity again.

What’s the most eye-catching preheader text you’ve ever seen? Let us know why it caught your eye in the comments below!


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