Use Preheaders to Improve Open Rates

Tick. Tick. Tick.

That’s how long it takes subscribers to decide if they are willing to open your email.

Tick: Sender Name
Who sent this? Do I know or recognize the sender?

Tick: Subject Line
Do I find this interesting or provocative?

Tick: Preheader Text
Does the rest of the text visible in my inbox compel me to open?

A preheader is the first set of text in the body of your email — the part that your recipients’ email applications will display as a one- or two-line preview in the inbox.

Many email marketers use pre-built templates that include a “view in browser”  or “share-on-social” line. Those are good things to include in an email, but not in the preheader.

Creatively using the preheader can be the difference between an open or delete.

Here are some items directly from my inbox:


Click to enlarge

First item…

From: Liguori Publications
Subject: No Time for Lenten meditation? We can help!

So far, so good, but then this…

Preheader: Click here to view this message in a browser window…

Compare that to the second item…

From: UMSL Nonprofit Management
Subject: Understanding Personality Style
Preheader: Learn how to become a better manager…

“Click here to view this message in a browser window…” does nothing to motivate a recipient to open the email.

“Learn to become a better manager…” Now that’s a reason to open an email.

Below are some more examples of strong preheaders:


Preheader: Translatable trends, a furniture sale, and ways to save are just a few reasons to read this

Rung and Sprung Boutique nails it with both the preheader, which lets me know what I’ll find in the mailing, and the subject line “The Best Email You’ll Get All Week,” which grabs recipients’ attention and piques their curiosity.  This approach works great for newsletters, especially when combined with either a provocative subject line, or if your subject line simply consists of the name of your newsletter.


LOFT Preheader: Or stop by a store and get 50% off… | Old Navy: Save 30% today online online + take $10 off in-store…

Old Navy and LOFT use short subject lines then use the preheader text to expand on them.


Preheader: Never miss an offer from Stanley Steemer! Add to your…

Stanley Steamer wants to helps its subscribers not miss deals (while also helping their inbox placement) by suggesting adding its address to subscriber’s contact lists.

marketing profs

Preheader: Join us at #mpb2b for the best pre-conference workshops….

Marketing Profs encourages registrations at its upcoming events and simultaneously integrates social media by promoting its hashtag.

Writing a good preheader is simple. With most email service providers, you can add text at the top of the email, above the view-in-browser text or other built-in content. Typically preheader text is the first 100-140 characters found in a mailing. If you use an image first, the alt text will be used in the preheader. More advanced email coders can even hide preheader text in the mailing by using a div tag with a display set to none.

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