The Importance of Email Preview Text

Many email marketers carefully write and design their emails to have the exact message that they want to convey to their audience and a look that appeals to the recipients.  However, most people get a lot of emails in a day and have a limited amount of time to check and read them.  If the messages from your email campaign are never opened because they get buried in people’s inboxes, then the design and content of your emails makes little difference.  As an email marketer you may be wondering, “How do I make my emails stand out in the inboxes of those on my email list to help improve the open rate?”

One of the most effective ways to improve the open rate of your email marketing campaigns is with preview text.  The preview text is an often-ignored aspect of email marketing, but using it properly can entice more of the recipients on your email lists to open and read your messages.   This guide explains what email preview text is, why it is important, and the best ways to use preview text to improve the open rate of your email marketing campaign.

email preview text

Email Preview Text – What is it?

Email preview text, or the pre-header, is the text that is visible in most email inboxes after the sender and subject lines that introduces the content of the message.  The preview text is often extracted right from the email message, but marketers can also create unique preview text for a more effective or enticing introduction.  The purpose of writing unique preview text is to inform the recipients of the main point of the message right in their inboxes.  Many email marketers overlook this aspect of the email message and when an email does not have unique preview text, most email clients will default and display the first bit of text from the message as the preview.

How Long is the Preview Text?

The answer to this question depends on the email client used by those on your email lists.  Email preview text is generally between 35-90 characters, while some email clients may show up to 140 characters.  There are also email clients that don’t display any preview text.  You can consider sending multiple versions of your email message with preview text of various length to display in different email clients.  However, it is difficult to know what email clients those on your list use to read their emails.  When sending an email blast with the same message, keep it at a length that will display in most email clients.

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Why worry about preview text?

Email preview text provides you with a great opportunity to grab the attention of your recipients as they peruse their inboxes.  An enticing bit of email preview text will not only help your email stand out in their inboxes, but also compel them to open and read the email instead of simply deleting it.  It also helps to have unique preview text, otherwise email clients will pull the first bit of text from your message to display as a preview which could include alt tags and URLs.  Writing effective preview text that interests your recipients can drastically increase open rates.

Pre-Header vs Hidden Preview Text

When writing unique preview text, you have a couple of different options.  Putting the preview text in the pre-header of your email will ensure that it displays as the preview text in most email clients, but the pre-header text can also be seen within the body of the email.  Hidden preview text appears as the preview in the inbox, but does not display within the body of the email.  Creating hidden preview text involves HTML or CSS coding, and it can help keep the header and design of the email much cleaner.

How to Create Effective Email Preview Text

The importance of email preview text cannot be overstated, but the preview text is only effective if it entices the recipients enough to open your message.  The following tips will help you write good attention-grabbing email preview text.

1. Write Straightforward Teaser

Your recipients see your email as one of many in their inbox which is why your preview text must get straight to your main point.  You can write an effective teaser with a good summary of the email message that intrigues your audience to learn more.

2. Expand on the Subject

It is best to leave the subject line of your email messages short and concise.  If you want to expand further on the subject of your email because it is short, you can use the preview text for elaboration.

3. Use Action Words

Using strong action words in your preview text will convince more of your recipients of the importance of your message.  Action verbs can compel them to open your email right away, instead of skipping over it for later when it will be buried deeper by new emails.

4. Be Aware of Characters and Length

While there is technically no character limit for preview text, most inboxes will only display up to a certain amount of characters.  As discussed above, the display limit is generally between 35 and 90 characters.  You should keep your preview text to about 35-40 characters if you want all of your recipients to see it in its entirety.  If your preview text goes longer than 40 characters, just keep in mind that some of your recipients will not see the entire text.  Some other things to keep in mind regarding preview text length include the following:

  • Two lines of preview text display in AOL and Gmail inboxes.
  • The iPhone 6 email client can display three lines of preview text.
  • Only 40 characters of preview text displays on Windows phones.

5. A/B Test Preview Text

To determine what works best for your audience, come up with a couple of different ways to word the preview text and test them.  Send half of your emails with one wording and half with the other and see which half has a higher open rate.  Testing your preview text will help you learn more about your audience and improve your open rate.

Additional Tips

  • Personalize your preview text to help it stand out in the inbox.
  • Put any special offers or promotions in the preview text to grab attention.
  • Use emojis to make your preview text more unique.
  • Consider mobile users; make sure your preview text is short enough and formatted correctly to display properly on mobile devices.

Email preview text is one of the most under-utilized aspects of email marketing, but it has enormous potential to increase the overall effectiveness of your email campaign.  Well-crafted preview text can make your email messages stand out in the inbox of your recipients and better reach your audience which will help improve your open rates.  Incorporating good email preview text into your email marketing strategy is a great way to maximize your campaign and gain a competitive edge.


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