Email Preheader Text: 10 Examples and Ideas to Boost Opens and Clicks
Is your email preheader text the ‘Robin’ to the subject line’s ‘Batman’? Just the overlooked sidekick who exclaims “Holy open rates Batman” whenever an email gets a particularly good response?
From the looks of it, many companies seem to think so, because a great number of them still aren’t writing anything for their email preview text. Instead, they’re following their subject lines with the uninspiring “view in web browser” or other technical phrases.
The problem with ignoring Robin – I mean, email preheader text – is that you’re probably missing out on higher open and click rates. As cool as he is, the Dark Knight gets a little better with the Boy Wonder by his side. It’s the same with subject lines and email preheaders.
One prominent test of the impact of preheaders found consistently higher open rates, and click rates too, which is where the real money is made.
What is preview text in email?
Let’s clarify a few terms here. Email preview text is the same thing as preheader text. It’s soda vs pop (or Coke if you’re from down south).
Preview text is the copy – usually non-bolded and sometimes grayed – that appears in your inbox right after the subject line. If you don’t write anything for the preheader, the mailbox provider will pull text from the first place it can find words in the email. This might be the “view in web browser” line, something about images, or sometimes even a URL.
In other words, it can be a disaster if you don’t write preheader text.
The subject line and preheader text shown above don’t give the subscriber a compelling reason to open this email. The user can’t even tell where he or she might be able to win a trip. Timbuktu? Tahiti? Tasmania? Turkmenistan?
Repeating your subject line text (as shown below) won’t win you any points, either. It’s a waste of space and a waste of words.
Adding email preview text in your email service provider (ESP) is usually very easy. It’s often just another field right next to the subject line. Here’s a quick animation showing how easy it is to do using Mailjet by Sinch as your ESP. If including preview text in your campaigns, is this simple – why skip it?
If your emails use custom-coded templates, you can still add email preview text. Here’s how to write code for email preheader text to ensure your best marketing messages show up in your subscribers’ inboxes.
10 examples of effective email preheader text
What should you write in your email preheader? Here are ten things you can do that will enhance the message of your lonely subject line and produce more opens and engagement.
1. Provide key details
Subject lines can only be so long, and in some situations, a few more details beyond the subject line will be enough to increase opens. Preheader text gives you extra room for at least one juicy detail. Plus, the preheader is like a subheading. It’s a chance to give a complementary message.
- Subject: Valentine’s Day footwear sale
- Preheader: Save an extra 10% in-store
The preheader adds an incentivizing detail, beyond just the sale announcement.
2. Elaborate or expand on the subject line
Some emails, especially newsletters, tend to be longer and touch on multiple topics. For a subject line, there’s no good way to address everything. That’s disappointing because, for different subscribers, any one of the topics could be what compels them to open the email.
Email preview text gives you the extra room you need to fit that information in.
- Subject: Meet the new CEO at an upcoming event
- Preheader: Plus, how to use the new HR software
This example would be for an internal staff newsletter. But the idea is, in the subject, you find out that the new CEO is at an upcoming event, and the preheader gives useful information about a different topic.
3. Tease an incentive in the preheader text
One of the great ways to use preheaders is to play it against the subject line. Both of them tease the curiosity of the subscriber, but the preheader just increases the urge to open. This is the opposite of the first strategy that provides key details. Here, you are withholding the key details, but making them even more desirable.
In marketing terminology, the subject states the problem, and the preheader agitates it.
- Subject: Our biggest complaint from homeowners
- Preheader: Do this one thing to avoid the problem
In this example, recipients are made to wonder what homeowners complain about the most to this business. But then, if you don’t take some specific action, you’ll be complaining about it too! What is it?? The preheader increases the need to know.
4. Personalize the preview text
Personalization should be an ongoing part of your email marketing strategy. And in certain situations, you can use it in the subject line or preheader text.
The idea is to help the subscriber feel like this email is just for them – because you know them and their personal needs.
- Subject: Need some sunscreen for your boating trip?
- Preheader: We’ve got you covered, Dave
This personalization is based on past purchase behavior and incorporates the subscriber’s first name. This customer, “Dave,” bought something related to boating in the recent past, so the company can assume that Dave likes to go out boating in the warm weather. That means Dave will need some sunscreen.
If your company is collecting past purchase information and knows some interests and preferences for your customers, you can use personalization like this to speak more directly to their needs.
5. Show your sense of humor
Humor can be tough in marketing, but when it works, it works well. The preheader can act as sort of a punchline to whatever appears in the subject line.
You might use this when you don’t want to spell out exactly what’s in the email, but want to use curiosity in a more creative and fun way. So instead of stating a problem and using the preheader to agitate it, you’re lowering barriers and resistance. This is what humor does best.
Another way to look at humor is to let it flow from your personality. If you’re a trusted source for your subscribers (which you should be), humor can flow out of that quite naturally.
- Subject: Y’all, we are breaking the internet
- Preheader: But who needed it anyway?
Again, this is basically a version of curiosity. Why are they breaking the internet? And the preheader punchline just adds to the intrigue. Credit for this subject goes to Kim Phillips.
6. Ask a question
There are at least five ways to use curiosity in any type of sales copy.
- Imply you have information the reader doesn’t have
- Imply they used to know something they’ve since forgotten
- Violate expectations
- Start a sequence or story, but don’t finish it
- Ask a question that includes curiosity
The example above about breaking the internet uses number three. ‘Breaking the internet’ violates expectations for what should happen in normal life. So, it makes us curious.
But any good question does the same thing – it must be a question that the subscriber just cannot leave unanswered. A bad question would be something like, “Want to hear about our sale?” Uh.. no, I don’t. Go away. That’s not a curiosity-producing question.
You can put the question in the subject, and then add intrigue in the email preview text. Or vice versa.
- Subject: Jen boosted her conversions by 84%
- Preheader: Want to see how she did it?
7. Add a sense of urgency
This tried and true marketing strategy is easier to use with an email preheader, because now you don’t have to cram the whole message in one subject line. Urgency can come from time deadlines, limited supplies, limited openings, peer pressure, fear of missing out, and several other sources.
- Subject: 50% off this weekend
- Preheader: But only for the first 100 customers
8. Include a call-to-action
Sometimes, the offer is the reason to open the email. So rather than beat around the bush with curiosity and intrigue, just give it to them straight and make them open it by putting the CTA right in the email preview text.
- Subject: 3 new flavors now in stock
- Preheader: Buy all 3, and get 3 more free
The subject line announces the news – and it’s good news – but the email preheader gives the reason to open the email, a spectacular offer presented as a call-to-action.
9. Use preheader text for branding
Here, you’re attempting to stay on the minds of your subscribers whether they open the email or not. The problem with curiosity subjects and preheaders is that for the people who don’t open them, unless your sender name is your company name, they may not even know who the email was from.
- Subject: Are you ready for Christmas?
- Preheader: Come to BigStore before it’s too late
Even for subscribers who don’t open that particular email, BigStore has reminded anyone who sees the email in their inbox that BigStore exists, and that they’re a great choice for Christmas shopping. It plants a seed. Much like a display ad, billboard, or certain TV commercials can do.
10. Use emojis in preview text
Lastly, you can use emojis in your preheader text simply to draw attention to your email among the thousands of others crowding the inbox. You shouldn’t do this every time, but it can be an effective tool when used well.
For your preheader, include an emoji’s HTML entity in the email’s code, for example, `🍔` for the cheeseburger(🍔 ) emoji in your HTML tag.
Here’s more on using emojis in emails, including in email preheader text.
6 bonus tips for writing email preheader text
So that’s a good list of what you can do with email preheader text. But what should you not do? And what other tips and strategies do you need to know? Here are six.
1. Don’t just repeat the subject line
What’s the point of that? It’s wasted space. Preheaders and subject lines are complementary. One way or another, they need to play off each other.
2. Don’t use the same preheader text in every email
Again, what’s the point? Subscribers will quickly catch on and begin to ignore it. This is just a different version of “view in web browser.”
3. Do use the appropriate preheader text length
The specifics of this are up for debate, partly because different devices and mailbox providers allow for different lengths of email preview text. Why might this matter?
If your subject and preheader combine to have fewer characters than the inbox will show, then at the end of preheader text, your subscribers will once again be greeted with “view in web browser” or some similar monstrosity. That may not matter to you. But if it does, consider writing some of your preview text knowing that it will not show up on every device.
4. Do put important info first
Because of length limitations on some devices – particularly mobile devices where a significant portion of your emails will be opened – you want to put the most important preheader information first, knowing that the end of it might get cut off.
5. Do hide longer preheader text in the actual email
Make sure you hide the preview text if you’re coding your emails, because you don’t want to use up valuable space on mobile devices by having the preheader text show up twice – in the preheader and the email. See the article about coding preheaders for email for more information.
6. Do preview inbox display
This is probably the most important tip of all. You need to take a look at how the subject line, preview text/preheader, and sender name look together in different mailboxes and on different screen sizes.
However you envision these three inbox elements working together, they may look different than you expect in certain mailbox providers or on mobile vs desktop. How much of each item shows up? It’s tough to know for sure unless you preview it using email testing software.
Optimize inbox display with Email on Acid
As you just saw, testing your email is the critical step in the process. What good does it do to spend all that time creating terrific subject lines and preheader text (not to mention the rest of the email), only to have it show up incorrectly for your subscribers?
There are tons of places and ways for emails to show for your subscribers. And they all look different. The Inbox Display step of our automated pre-send email checklist is the perfect solution. It shows how you can expect your subject line, preview text, and sender name will appear on the most popular email clients and devices. You don’t need to know HTML to use the tool, and the Email on Acid platform makes it easy to fix any mistakes.
Want to find out even more about the power of the email preview text? Check out our Definitive Guide to Preheader Text in Email.
This post was updated on March 9, 2022. It was also updated in November of 2018 and originally published in October 2015.
Author: The Email on Acid Team
The Email on Acid content team is made up of digital marketers, content creators, and straight-up email geeks. Connect with us on LinkedIn, follow us on Facebook, and tweet at @EmailonAcid on Twitter for more sweet stuff and great convos on email marketing.