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There are varying opinions on the importance of adding a preheader to your email template. When done right, it is not necessary to add a visible line of text at the top of your email, but it is very important to pay close attention to how this omission appears in your reader’s inbox.

We’re going to break down the elements of email, review how they appear in the inbox and give you the tools you need to get the very best results in your email’s preview text. But first…

What is a preheader?

Sometimes referred to as a Johnson Box, the preheader is a line of text offering a short summary of what is contained in your email. While the term preheader and preview text are sometimes used interchangeably, preview text is a bit different. The preview text displays the first string of text it finds within your email. This could be a headline, a greeting, or a preheader, if one is in place.

Why is it important?

There are situations where your preview text can display in an unfortunate way, even if you’re very careful to create engaging content at the beginning of your email. For example, I received an email that appeared this way in my phone’s inbox:

Preheaders in email

My eyes immediately read this:

Preheader in Email

Oops. Let’s break down how this happened. To do that, we’ll first take a look at how this email appears when opened on a desktop.

Preheader in email

There are three issues with the preview of this email:

  1. The preview text first picks up my name from the right-hand side of the header. While, personalizing your email and/or adding the recipient’s name in the preheader is a GREAT idea, i.e.: “Hey Jane, our newest release is available now”, in the case above, it’s not working as planned.
  2. The preview text is grabbing the first headline in the email, which unfortunately, is also the subject line. This appears redundant and lacks creativity.
  3. The preview text picks up the line under the image stating that “2 people are talking about this”.

The end result is an inbox blunder that could have easily been avoided with a simple preheader.

Hidden or visible?

One concern when working with preheaders is the visibility. Often times, people feel the line of text directly on top of their email distracts from the content. If you’re in this camp, there are a few ways to hide the preheader.

When building a new template with Lasso’s design editor, we have a preheader in place by default. The simplest way to hide this line of text is to change the color of the text to match the background of your email template. You can find the background color in the style settings on the sidebar.

Preheader in email

This is an effective, yet simple method. However, the text is still technically there, and the recipient will be able to highlight it in their inbox.

Preheader in email

Not a complete deal breaker, but there is a more advanced way to hide the preheader that requires a bit of modification to the HTML. To make this change:

  1. Open the source code (HTML) for your email template by selecting the Tools tab on the top menu.
  2. Scroll down to line 45, you’ll see a line that reads:
  3. Add “; display:none;” to that line, so it will read:.
    .preheader{padding-bottom:10px;font-size:12px;color:#333333; display:none;}

Preheader in email

NOTE: If you re-use the same template for another mailing, just be sure that you change your pre-header text in the HTML source code.

Writing a good preheader

With an estimated 24% of respondents looking at the preview text before deciding to open the email, it is essential to carefully consider what you include in your preheader. While Gmail will preview over 100 characters, mobile devices average about 50 characters. It’s recommended to highlight your most important information and use your most creative buzzwords within the first 35-45 characters. At the very least, you want to focus on key content within the first half of your preheader.

Here are some mistakes to avoid when writing a preheader:

  1. Repeating your subject line. This usually happens in the absence of a preheader when the headline is the same as your subject line. When viewing it from the inbox, it looks like a mistake or, at the very least, lack of creativity. Your preheader should complement the subject line, not copy it.
  2. Including an unsubscribe link in the preheader. You have to make it easy for your readers to unsubscribe, and it should be prominent, to show recipients that you have nothing to hide. The preheader is definitely the wrong place for it. In one moment, you’re telling them something exciting about your newest community, and in the next you’re telling them to remove themselves from your list. This move will effectively kill the momentum created in your subject line.
  3. Mismatching the subject line and preheader. No matter how well written your preheader is, if it doesn’t compliment your subject line, it will be jarring for readers. Marrying the 2 messages will increase your chances of your email getting opened.
  4. Not testing. Along with testing your subject line and preheaders in multiple inboxes and email clients, we advise that you split test your mailings. Try out various angles and variants of subject lines and preheaders. Keep testing and tweaking until you see a substantial uptick in opens. Once you have a grasp of what works best, do it again!

Not putting careful thought into your preheaders, whether hidden or visible, can have a huge impact on your open rates. When done right, it can lead to opens, which lead to click-throughs, and ultimately conversions.

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