What is an Email Preheader And How To Write Them?

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In the last five years, emails that are opened on mobile devices have surged over 30%. The number of emails opened on mobile devices has increased to more than those opened on computers.

As more consumers move to mobile, preheader text has become an important consideration for marketers using email. The preheader is a set of characters placed in the subject line above your main subject line. It allows you to catch readers’ attention when they scan their inboxes. 

Using a strong preheader can help you get more opens, clickthroughs, and sales when compared to emails with weak preheaders. In this article, you will be able to know what an email preheader is, why it’s important, and give some hints on how to write a great one.

What is an Email Preheader?

Email preheaders are a summary of an email’s contents that appear after the subject line. They appear differently on web and mobile email clients. Preheaders, also called “email preview text,” can be added to your emails by using HTML and CSS. Or you can choose email software that lets you customize your preheader text without writing any code.

This is just an example of what an email preheader looks like in Gmail.

Email Preheader

The email preview text appears differently in different email clients. Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook, and other different mobile clients have different ways of showing previews.  Let’s have a look at an example of what preview text can look like on mobile.

email preview

Email preheaders are a newer version of the Johnson Box technique, which was popular in the direct response copywriting era to preview the subject of a sales letter.

In the same way, a preheader is a summary in an email to entice people to open them. A preheader should be between 30 and 80 characters long to be read on mobile devices.

DesktopPreview Text SupportAverage Characters Displayed
Apple MailIncluded140
Outlook 2003Not IncludedN/A
Outlook 2007Not IncludedN/A
Outlook 2010Not IncludedN/A
Outlook 2013Included35
Outlook For MAC 2015Included55
MobilePreview Text SupportAverage Characters Displayed
Android Native AppIncluded40
Android Yahoo AppIncluded45
BlackberryNot IncludedN/A
IOS Native AppIncluded90
IOS Gmail AppIncluded50
IOS yahoo AppIncluded50
Windows PhoneIncluded40

How to Build an Effective Preheaders

Let’s dive deep into the five best practices for designing email preheaders. 

Create Anticipation

The goal of the preheader text is to make the reader want to open the email and find out what’s inside. They want to make sure that it’s worth their time to click through.

It could be a provocative question such as-

Subject- Did you catch these trending reads in your feed?

PreHeader- October’s Social Media Stars from your favorite brand. Want to check them out now?

A shocking story could be as-

Subject- Micheal finalizes 150+ deals every financial year.

Preheader- Seeking financial excellence, Micheal Jr became a financial analyst… and never liked it…

A mind-blowing promise could be as-

Subject- Choose your tees – 2 for $20

Preheader- Trendy shades for fall with bundle sale of 2 for $20.

Always keep in mind these three criteria before crafting a preheader :

  • ask an interesting question. 
  • Narrate a provocative story.
  • Commit a mind-blowing promise?

Make It Under 55 Characters

Well, bearing in mind that your preheader needs to show up on both mobile and desktop inboxes, the ideal length for your email preheader should be under 55 characters. 

This way the preheader will show up correctly on mobile and desktop. Always send a test email to your inbox to check if the preheader will show up right on mobile. 

Support The Subject Line

The Subject Line

According to Google, the subject line is the most important part of an email as 80% of people will read your subject line while only 20% will read your content. So, never lose sight of the subject line while crafting your preheader. 

The ultimate asset for getting people to open your emails is to strengthen the subject line. 

For instance, 

Subject Line: SKKKYYYMMMPPP

Preheader: Nothing but net new

In this, the preheader is supporting and strengthening the subject line but should not replace the subject line. 

Never Repeat The Subject Line

Never include the same content in the preheader that is included in the subject line. Add some creativity and make it interesting that will grab the attention of the user. 

Personalize Preheader

Personalizing your preheaders will increase engagement for your email campaigns and build a stronger relationship with your audience. Personalization doesn’t just include the person’s name. Instead, it should talk about a person’s specific interests, demographics, behaviors, or recent actions. 

For instance,

Subject- Latest trends are launched

Preheader- Buy from our online outlet created just for you

Why is optimizing your preheader text important?

Let’s go through the reasons why there is a need to optimize your preheader text.

Preheader Text Are Used as a Prescreening Tool

Preheader text is the first thing subscribers encounter. So, from preheaders users decide whether to open your campaign without getting your email opened. To get people to click-through and take your desired conversion action make sure that subscribers have opened your email. 

Use of Preheader text As a subliminal advertising

Subject lines decide if subscribers will open your email or not. People see your subject line as a subject line that builds your brand reputation. It is a psychological connection between your subject line and your brand. 

Thus if a subscriber is reading your subject line, they will read the beginning of your preheader text and then the content. 

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