Email essentials

The email preheader: what it is and 10 best practices

Reading Time: 8 minutes

How does a brand break through a noisy email inbox—or junk folder, for that matter—and entice an open?

Brand name alone may do the job. But in a lot of cases, your subject line is the proverbial carrot.

Correction: subject line AND preheader text.

They’re a tag team. A dazzling subject line is great. That same subject line with a rock star preheader is excellent.

You may be saying to yourself, “Wait, I’m a little lost. Where, exactly, can I find this preheader text in an email?” Read on to understand its physical place in an email, along with the importance of this short text snippet, the mechanics, and our top-recommended email preheader best practices.

In this post:

What is an email preheader?

Sometimes called email preview text, a preheader is that muted text, shaded gray, that appears immediately after the subject line. It helps to enhance open rates by showing email recipients a glimpse of the content that awaits them inside the email before they open it, or it can act as a secondary subject line.

Below is how an email preheader appears on two different devices, as indicated by the boxed portion. Depending on the device and email service used by the recipient, it can appear next to the subject line or underneath it.

Here’s how the email preheader looks in Gmail, as viewed on a desktop, as well as in Apple Mail iOS:

Why adding preheader text is important

  • Increases open rates. Email preheaders present a chance to capture the attention and curiosity of your subscribers. Tailor them to highlight value, create urgency, or tease a solution. Use a compelling message that complements your subject line, as this enhances the curiosity that drives opens.
  • Improves your emails’ accessibility. Services like Alexa read preheaders aloud. Avoid awkward scenarios by sidestepping generic content that might lead to an unintended voice reading mishap.
  • Ensures relevance. Adding preheader text helps you match your audience’s expectations. If you don’t customize it, your email service provider (ESP) automatically fills it with some content from your email body. This could be less-than-ideal text that’s irrelevant or unappealing, like in the example below.

How to add a preheader text to an email

Before we launch into preheader text best practices, here’s how to add an email preheader to your email:

  • Make a new email
  • Add the preheader text
  • Complete the rest of the email
  • Save and test

1. Make a new email

We’ll use Omnisend for this tutorial, as it’s a top-rated email marketing platform with over 4.8K 5-star reviews on Shopify. Omnisend makes adding preheader text simple.

In the Omnisend dashboard, go to Campaigns > +New campaign :

Next, choose Create email . This launches the email builder.

Create email option in the Omnisend dashboard

2. Add the preheader text

In the Omnisend editor, find the Preheader section—this is where you’ll enter your custom preview text. It’s below the Sender name and Sender email address sections.

Omnisend provides a real-time preview on the right side of its editor. Use it to visualize how your subject line and preheader text work together.

For more help, this video explains how to create, design and send your first email campaign with Omnisend. The tip about preheader text is shown in the first 45 seconds of the video.

3. Complete the rest of the email

With your preheader text complete, shift focus to finalizing other key elements of your email .

Give your campaign a name. Though your subscribers won’t see this, a distinctive name makes it easy for you to track and analyze performance.

Next, choose from the Standard, Themed, or your Saved templates the one you like most.

This will take you to the drag-and-drop editor. Omnisend’s editor makes it easy to add, reposition, or remove various content blocks.

4. Save and test

Before sending your email to your subscribers, save your work and test how it looks.

Omnisend allows you to save your email as a draft, so you can return to it later and make any changes you want. You can save your changes at any point during the email design process. Just click on Save & Exit at the top right of your editor.

To test your email, review the live inbox preview. You can also send a test email to yourself or a colleague in the contact selection ( Who should we send to? ) stage.

Email preheader best practices

There’s no magical formula for success when it comes to email preheaders. Here are several effective preheader text best practices we’ll be exploring:

  1. Differentiate from your subject line
  2. Incorporate a CTA
  3. Tease an incentive
  4. Summarize the email content
  5. Elaborate
  6. Build curiosity
  7. Use FOMO
  8. Sprinkle in emojis
  9. Personalize
  10. Be concise

Let’s get into it.

1. Differentiate from your subject line

If you adhere to only one email preheader best practice, it’s this one. Repeating the same message is a waste of space, and may create the perception that your brand is lazy or sloppy. That goes for a slight variation as well. Francesca’s preheader text uses different words but provides the same information.

2. Incorporate a CTA

Here’s another preheader best practice we highly recommend, if you aren’t already accomplishing it with the subjeHere’s another preheader best practice we highly recommend, if you aren’t already accomplishing it with the subject line. We always stress the importance of including a strong call to action (CTA) within the email. It’s an equally fantastic email marketing strategy to slip it into the “envelope” of your email.

Aussie Gardener is very clear about what they want you to do: buy an apron for yourself and someone else.

3. Tease an incentive

If your email campaign includes a discount, use the email preheader rather than the subject line to announce it . In the email preheader example below, we like how Team Bake reserves the first half of its message to ask a question.

A 60% off sale is a huge deal for the consumer. This brand proves that such a lucrative offer doesn’t always need to take the lead.

4. Summarize the email content

Give a Cliff’s Notes version of your message. Listing sales products or new arrivals is popular. Many merchants also include brand names.

Or, use it for identifying your recurring newsletter, like Nourish Natural Pro does. Their branded newsletter title, “Nourish Together,” doesn’t mean anything on its own. But the preheader text of “Weekly Newsletter” clearly identifies this isn’t a sales promo.

5. Elaborate

Not to be confused with the summary approach in the tip above, the “elaborate” angle speaks to the preheader text’s extension role. Go all-in with your subject line and preheader by revealing the best parts of your campaign.

The LOFT uses its preheader to explain what the Cyber Event encompasses: a sale plus free shipping.

6. Build curiosity

Consider the opposite of #5 by creating anticipation with some mystery. Provoking curiosity by being cryptic or scant on details, but we’re sure that Breeze Balm piqued the interest of at least some of its subscriber base.

7. Use FOMO

Fear of missing out is a powerful motivator. It’s why brands occasionally run a flash sale . Take a “this is limited and will sell fast” approach, or play to the emotions in a more subtle way. Here’s one from Smartwatch for Less:

8. Sprinkle in emojis

Emojis aren’t necessarily right for every brand. If they work for you, toss them into a preheader. Emojis draw attention and can convey emotion more efficiently than words.

The brand Distorted People, as shown by each of the email preheader examples below, likes to spice up the preheader with emojis. They tactically use them to separate ideas.

Subject lines with emojis

PS: Read about the pros and cons of using emojis in subject lines , along with tips.

9. Personalize

Some brands see a significant increase in open rates when using personalization. In other cases, it doesn’t work so well. Try sliding your recipient’s name into the preheader—like Buffalo Audubon Society does—instead of putting it front and center in the subject line. It’s a less aggressive way to personalize.

10. Be concise

As in the email preheader examples above, it’s OK to give details. However, the idea is to do it with minimal verbiage. Email subscribers will only give you a second of their attention, so be succinct.

The added benefit of short preheader text is that you leave some white space around your email, which can help you stand out in a crowded inbox. Does your eye gravitate to Merce & Me and Pierrebuy in the example below?

Summary

Email preheaders are a crucial component of email marketing campaigns. A good preheader can encourage readers to open your email, while a bad one leads to ignored emails.

Adding preheader text can intrigue your subscribers, enhance accessibility, and boost open rates. Thankfully, email marketing platforms like Omnisend allow you to create and send stunning emails with custom preheader text.

Just ensure you use our examples and tips to create your own effective preheader texts. Follow these best practices, and you’ll be writing attention-grabbing, highly-converting preheaders in no time.



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