Email Preheaders — The Secret to Boosting Your Open Rates

Table of Contents

If your open rates aren’t where you want them to be, you might be ignoring one key element of your marketing emails: the email preheaders.

An email preheader (sometimes called the preview text) is an oft-underutilized tool in the world of email marketing. This is the line of text that appears under or in front of the subject line, depending on your email client and device.

If you don’t set an email preheader, the email service provider will likely prefill this space by pulling in your email’s first line of text and showing that as your preheader. In worse case scenarios, sometimes email clients pull in messing looking HTML, which looks horrible. Since these lines are not optimized to grab the reader’s attention, this is a waste of valuable space that could have been used much more efficiently if the preheader had been given its due diligence.

The importance of the email preheader cannot be understated. Most people only read the subject line and preheader to determine whether the email is worth their time, so an effective preheader can be the difference between an unsubscribe or a sale.

To: Sarah Shopify
From: Sam at Quantum Lifecycle Marketing
Subject Line: Don’t Make These 7 Email Preheader Mistakes
Preheader: Boost your open rates with these preheader best practices.

Email Preheader Basics

Some marketers spend hours studying email subject lines and then fill in the preheader as an afterthought.

Enough is enough!

We’re here to fight for email preheaders and give them the attention they deserve. A good email preheader can improve your open rates and other email marketing KPIs. Let’s start with some basics so you can start optimizing 100% of your email campaigns with effective email preheaders.

Optimize the Length of Your Preheader Text

The amount of email preheader text that is shown to your subscribers will vary depending on email service providers, mobile devices and computers. For example, on your iPhone’s Gmail app, the preheader shows up under the subject line. Hence, the character count is predetermined, whereas, on the Yahoo web app, the preheader shows up in front of the subject line, so a longer subject line usurps the preheader.

You can’t hope to control all these factors, so it is recommended that the preheader should be around 50-100 characters, and your subject line shouldn’t be so long that it cuts off the preheader.

Also, just like with the subject line, get all of the important information in the beginning, so it is less likely to be cut off.

Work with the Subject Line

The subject line and the preheader are the dynamic duo that works together to move your email marketing campaign forward. They can be considered the digital equivalent of an elevator pitch, so you have only a few seconds to leave enough of an impact so that in the sea of emails your customers receive every day, yours is one that stands out.

A big DON’T of email marketing is repeating the subject line in the preheader. This makes the email look like automated spam and wastes valuable space.

You should ideally build on the subject line with your preheader to give a flavor of the email as a prelude without giving the whole story away.

Personalize the Email Preheader

One of the cardinal rules of email marketing is that people respond better to content that is personalized.

It’s always a good idea to include the recipient’s name in the email preheader since this invokes the feeling of being directly addressed to and implores people to open the email.

Apart from the name, personalization can also be done based on your audience segments. For instance, if you are sending an email to your returning customers, mention how much you miss them!

Optimize your email preheaders to increase open rates.

Build Curiosity

Good old human curiosity has always been the benefactor of the marketer. If your email preheader can make someone curious enough to know what the rest of the email says, you can bet that they will be giving the contents of your email a good look.

You can pique curiosity by asking an intriguing question in the email preheader, implying that there is some valuable knowledge in the email that your reader needs to know, or simply posing a challenge to the reader.

There is a fine line to be walked here since people have become sensitive to spam and clickbait, so you have to use curiosity to your advantage in a natural way.

For example, here are some sample preheaders that could be used to spark interest among subscribers interested in fashion and modeling:

  1. How To Become a Fashion Model
  2. Fashion Industry Secrets From Top Models
  3. Do You Have What It Takes To Be an International Supermodel?

Even if someone doesn’t have any interest in modeling, these preheaders still suggest that an interesting story is waiting.

Test out Emojis

In the dull and usually monotone email inbox, emojis in the subject line and/or preheader can visually grab the reader’s attention. Emojis might not display correctly in everyone’s mailbox, though. So make sure you still have supporting text.

Determining the Effectiveness of Your Preheaders

Once you’ve done the heavy lifting of narrowing down the best possible subject lines and preheaders, how do you figure out which of these is the most effective at increasing your open rate?

If you’re running an ongoing campaign (like automated abandoned cart messages), A/B testing helps measure and compare small changes in preheader text.

Remember, when A/B testing, make sure there is only one change per variant.