3 Tips To Better Email Preheader Text…& Other Insights.


In my last post on this series, I said I would be writing a 5 part series on 5 elements of effective mobile optimized email creative. Before I get into the 2nd topic on the series, I want to share some context and tools you might use to help you do mobile optimized email marketing better.

The fact is, when you think about email marketing, you should be thinking about mobile marketing. Each brand or email list will be different of course, so you should be keeping a regular eye on both your own list’s “device of open” metrics, as well as general trends.

Your List
If you’re using MailChimp, you can go to the list screen, and click on the “stat” link on the right of the list in question. Most of the top email service provider should be able to provide you with this basic metrics to help you determine whether your audience has gone mobile or not. It just so happens that with my list, most of my current readers are still going to their desktop first to see these emails.

General Benchmark Stats:
Litmus has created a website where they publish monthly device of open metrics calculated from 552 million opens tracked by Litmus Email Analytic. You can see the numbers calculated for June by going to http://emailclientmarketshare.com.

Just one last comment on this topic — if you’re sending emails internationally, or your market is other than the US, your trends are going to be different.

Back to Preheader Text:
For those of you wondering what is a “preheader text”, let me break it down for you. Generally, the preheader are the 1 or 2 lines of copy you usually see at the top of some emails. I’m amazed at how many come without one, considering the impact they have on open rates. Too many times, I see a preheader with the default or standard language such as “Can’t view images? View as a webpage” link to provide recipients with an alternative way to view the email. While this used to be useful back in the early days of email, nowadays it presents a negative messaging as a first thing your users see.

You should be taking a more strategic approach to this key element.

Common Use for the Preheader Text Space

Email senders use this space for various functional or utilitarian purposes, some which may be worth considering depending on your audience. Here is a list that Litmus provided, which includes:

  • Permission reminder (often phrased as “you’re receiving this email because…”)
  • Whitelist or add to address book request (i.e. “please add offers@brand.com to your address book or safe sender list”)
  • Link to unsubscribe or edit subscription preferences
  • Forward to a friend, Facebook, Twitter or other links that enable sharing
  • Links to a mobile or text version
  • Link to mobile-optimized site (especially if you see a lot of mobile web traffic coming from email)

Some of these may be useful, but I think the best use of the space is with a complementary marketing copy that reinforces the  subject line, and that includes a clear call-t0-action and a link. Tests that I’ve done have shown significant lift (increase) in open rates and click rates. Test it on your audience and with your list. As with everything, results may vary.


Why Does It Matter:

If there is one thing you remember about this email, it should be the following. Some of the most popular email clients such as Gmail, Gmail mobile app, Outlook, iPhone, and Windows Mobile 7 display a portion of your preheader text as “preview” or “snippet” text. Here is an imageof what that looks like in the Gmail mobile email app.

And this is what it looks like in the iPhone.

3 Important Tips For Optimal Preheader Text

For the most part, your pre-header should not be a repeat of your subject line. It should suplement and complement your subject line. So, here are 3 important factors to keep in mind as you work to craft your preheader text lines.

  • Keep the preheader to no more than 80 characters to fit within most email clients.
  • Keep it to below 40 characters or less to fit within ALL email clients.
  • Provide a clear call-to-action link at the end of the sentence or copy to complete your message.

According to a 2010 Lyris statistic, 30% of email recipients are influenced to open an email by the preheader text. This is a significant number, and with the rise in mobile as the first device of open, it only grows in importance.


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