What is an Email Preheader?

Melanie Balke
March 14, 2023

How does a brand enter a crowded inbox or spam folder? Maybe you think of the answer as "luck," but it isn't. Your subject line and preheader text will do the job. Both the subject line and preheader text serve as the hook to grab the best first impression from your subscribers. But what is an email preheader text?

This blog will answer that question, along with the steps in adding and writing preheader text that you can use to level up your email marketing campaigns. Keep reading to learn more!

The Preheader Text

Preheader, often known as email preview text, is the muted shaded grey text following the subject line. Although the preheader of your emails may not seem important, it's among the first things recipients see when they open their inbox.

Email preheaders are displayed differently in the recipient's inbox, whether Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo. Here's how an email preheader preview text appears on a mobile device. It may be displayed above or below the subject line.

Arrow pointing at the preheader text in the email.

Generally, email preheaders are the modern version of the traditional "Johnson Box." The Johnson box is a copywriting method invented by Frank H. Johnson to preview the subject of a sales letter.

What is a Subject Line?

Many misunderstand preheader text as a subject line, but these two are entirely different. The email subject line is the first single line you'll see when you open an email.

Here's an example of an email subject line.

Arrow pointing at the subject line in the email.

Subject lines are used to convey the potential benefit. Generally, your subject line should convince the reader that the email contains something interesting to them.

What are Web Email Clients?

A web email client is an email system accessed online through an internet browser. All emails, contacts, and other data for a web email client are accessible online. The common web email clients are Microsoft Outlook, iOS Mail, Gmail, and Yahoo. 

Preheader Text for an Email Campaign: How to Add?

Preheader text can be automatically added to an email by your email CRM program or manually using a hidden div style in your HTML code. Auto-generated email preheaders can be sufficient in some cases.

But why do you add email preheaders when there's a subject line?

Basically, it's entirely your choice whether or not you'll add an email preheader text. However, adding one is a great choice to rule out many possibilities. You can generate more interest and increase email open rates with an email preheader text.

Preheader Length

Most marketers use 40 to 130 characters in their preheader text since this range guarantees that desktop and mobile email clients display the preheader text.

If you're wondering if there's an exact length, there isn't.

One is certain; there's no exact preheader length because it depends on the email client. However, when making one, ensure that the most important information is at the start of your email preheader.

The following three considerations should be made when deciding on the length of your preheader text:

  • How much preview text is shown varies depending on your email subject line length
  • Usually, the preheader content in mobile email applications is less visible. Typically, preheader text for mobile devices has 30 to 55 characters
  • Email clients use the text from the start of your email when the preview text is too short

Because of varying character limits, the preview text is often cropped in different places, and you can't always control how the text is clipped.

Writing in manageable pieces can help you account for these variations. As shown in the example below, you can use symbols to divide the pieces, such as (| and -).

Email from Jane @Your Company. The text says, "Your summer wardrobe has arrived."

Ten Email Preheader Best Practices: How to Write Effective Email Preheaders?

Indeed, email preheaders aim to persuade more people to read your letter. But of course, an email preheader is not enough; it should be a good preheader with a perfect message enough to entice curiosity.

You can write a good preheader using the email preheader best practices below.

1. Don't Forget the Call to Action

Sometimes all it takes is a simple question. In the same way that your email preview text should have a call to action. Including a call to action in the preheader of your email might encourage more recipients to open it, increasing the email open rates.

You can use the following guidelines to include a call to action in your preheader text.

  • You don't have much room, so keep it brief
  • Make it seem simple.
  • Ensure a benefit
  • Alternatively, if all else doesn't work, please ask that people read your email

2. Avoid Repeating the Subject Line and Preheader Text

"Don't Repeat: Avoid Repetition in Your Preheader Text."

Your email preheader and subject line shouldn't be similar. The email preheader allows you to expand your topic line by adding information and increasing curiosity. Don't waste this opportunity!

The subject line typically only has between 30 and 75 characters; by adding preheader text, you gain an additional 100 characters. You can use this opportunity to create a first impression and add important points.

Although email preheaders are often not noticeable on many desktop clients, they are almost as noticeable as the subject line on most mobile devices.

3. Complement the Subject Line and Preheader

Connect your email's preheader and subject line to make your message more impactful. It doesn't mean you must rephrase your subject line or make the preheader text entirely different.

Complement the two to make a strong subject line; you can also relate it to the latest trends to make people curious.

4. Keep the Email Preheader Text Short and Concise

The preheader text must be concise since there's a character limit. A long preheader could lose its punch if it is too long. In the same way, if it is too short, it doesn't provide the reader with useful information.

You can add preheader text with proper length and valuable information to capture the reader's interest.

5. Personalized Email Preheader Text

Adding a personal touch to the email preheader can help your email campaign stand out.

You should add personalization to the preheader text to engage the reader and make your email stand out among the numerous marketing emails your subscriber receives daily.

6. Add Emoji to Stand Out

Customize preheaders using emojis to attract more readers. Subject lines and email preheaders with emojis appeal more than the regular or actual email preheaders. However, emojis are also included in the character limit, so use them well in your email campaigns and don't overuse them.

7. Convince Readers From the First Line

An effective email preheader engages readers in several ways.

You can use the email preheader in a few ways to get more interest from the first line. Here's an example:

  • To generate attention, ask the following question: "Still Hesitating? "New study on the ROI of email marketing!"
  • Put a deadline on your message: "Today is the last day for free shipping!"

In this short line of email content, you can use various psychological strategies, such as fear of missing out (FOMO), to entice subscribers to open the email and read more. By doing this, you can attract customers and generate more sales.

8. Explore Various Formats

Test the email preheader before sending it out. By testing first, you'll know how the preview text appears and what you need to adjust in your email preheader, like font size, to make it look enticing.

9. Summarize Email Content

No one wants to read an email that is too long. Your subscribers choose to open your email in their inbox because of their curiosity and interest, don't waste this opportunity!

Provide a summary of your email message. This way, your reader will instantly understand what you're saying, making your email marketing effective.

10. Use A/B Testing

An email preheader can be improved in several ways. To determine which email preheader wording works best with your subscribers, A/B tests it. Examine your email campaign analytics after trying the preheader best practices mentioned above to determine which email preheader performs the best.

You can A/B test different preview texts using various email marketing software tools to help you send the most effective campaigns.

Email Preheader Examples

Here's an example of an email preheader and subject line that generates interest.

Email from Chain Reaction Cycles. The text says "Spring Steals Starts NOW!"
Email from G2 Crowd. The text says "What's your software horoscope?"

Level Up Your Email Marketing Campaigns With Effective Preheaders

Email preheaders level up common email marketing. They add more context, which makes it more enticing for readers. But, of course, the effectiveness varies. That's why exploring various formats is important to know what's best.

Hiring an email service provider like The Email Marketers is also good if you struggle with your email campaigns. They have the expertise and experience when it comes to handling campaigns. You can guarantee the success of your marketing campaigns while also worrying less.