The preheader: a forgotten element to optimize your open rate

Apr 22
5 min read
Few options optimize your open rates besides the subject line and the sender's name. When marketers try to improve their open rate, they'll often miss an element that is within their grasp: the preheader. When the preheader is not optimized, you are losing precious space to communicate. And that’s a shame on a mobile device.
Preheader - lady with a wooden Open sign

The preheader is more or less visible depending on the email service used. And more or less valued depending on the device used (desktop, tablet or mobile). It represents the extension of the promise given in the title. It increases your desire to open the email.

An often neglected lever for opening

Yes, it’s the preheader... so often neglected. It includes the first characters of the content of your template.

The preheader you'll see most in the wild is "If this message doesn't display correctly, click here." You swap this text for more interesting editorial choice. Something more in line with marketing. You can use this space for some text that makes eager to read more. Also consider using elements of personalization here!

How many characters?

It's hard to know how short to keep your preheader. How many characters should you limit it to? And for good reason, it will depend on:

The length of the subject and the sender
On computers webmail often displays everything in one line. If the subject line is too long, your preheader will get cut

The email service
Outlook highlights them in its tooltip. While Inbox by Gmail makes it a bit more faded by graying it out and displaying a photo/logo of the sender.

The device
The iPhone puts the preheader in front of the message, on several lines.

As a general rule, try to limit the preheader to around 40 characters (if your subject is 30 or 40 characters long). For more precision, study your statistics. Check the email services and devices used by your audience. This will allow you to more accurately optimize the length of your preheader.

Optimize your content

As you can see, the preheader is within your reach. How effective it will be is relative to the following elements:

  • The subject line is the most impactful element for your open rate. Along with the sender's name and the preheader, it must follow strict rules of length, text and marketing,
  • The way your template is coded also impacts deliverability. Also, notions of responsive or plain-text are to be expected,
  • Finally, make sure you have the right content in the body of your email. This is a list of best practices to adopt as soon as you start email marketing.

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