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Email Pre-Headers for Better Open Rates and Engagement
Create Short and Sweet Teasers for Your Newsletter
If your email subject line is similar to a title, the email pre-header is like the movie trailer or book blurb.
It’s the taste designed to get you to consume the full product — the best scene, a rave review, or a compelling premise. Along with the subject line, it’s a key part of getting your emails the attention they deserve.
That little snippet of text can be a game-changer, but a lot of people miss the opportunity, forcing email clients to pull the first words from the body. Let's dive into how you can optimize your email pre-headers to boost your open rates and engagement.
What Is the Pre-Header Text in an Email?
An email pre-header is the short summary text that follows the subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox. It's like a sneak peek into your content. It can provide additional context and nudge recipients to open your email. It’s sometimes known as preview text or a "Johnson box," after one of the first marketers to popularize it.
Unless you create a designated pre-header, most clients will preview the first line of your content. That’s fine for personal correspondence but not great for a brand.
Does a Pre-Header Show Up in an Email?
It appears under the subject line but before the header. In other words, your recipient can see it as part of the display on their screen, but it won’t appear as part of the body of your newsletter.
The Importance of Email Pre-Headers
A strong subject line may be the star of your appeal to readers, but the pre-header occupies a key supporting role. They complement the subject line, offer more information, and significantly impact your email open rates. They’ll help keep you among the 60% of email marketers reporting average open rates of 20% or higher.
Pre-headers can also enhance engagement with your content by offering valuable information right off the bat. For instance, if you're running a sale, mentioning it in the pre-header can entice those interested in snagging a deal to click on the link to your store.
Prefer numbers to generalizations? In one study, 22% of participants claimed the preheader text is the biggest potential influence on their decision to click through or not.
Best Practices for Writing Effective Email Pre-Headers
The best pre-headers are clear, compelling, and aligned with your subject line. They should intrigue the reader while accurately representing the email content.
A few tips on writing high-quality preview text:
Keep it concise and mobile-friendly. Most email clients display between 40 and 55 characters of the preheader, so edit yours to fit. If you do need to go over this length, make sure your primary message is clear, even if cut off.
Entice your audience. Give readers a reason to click. Tease the content, offer value, or create urgency.
Complement your subject line. Your pre-header should add context to your subject line, not just repeat it.
Make it actionable. Use action words to inspire your audience to open the email.
Add a personal touch. Like personalized subject lines, personalized pre-headers can increase open rates. Consider using the recipient's name or referencing their past behavior or preferences.
Be true to your brand. Showcase your personality and consider reusing subheader phrases to identify certain forms of content for your regular readers.
Ask yourself what would compel your interest. What’s the selling point of this particular email?
Optimize Email Pre-Headers with A/B Testing
Take advantage of A/B testing to refine your pre-headers. Creating A/B tests with beehiiv is easy, and you can schedule the better-performing email to send automatically.
Not yet a member of the hive? You can still experiment with different pre-headers to see what resonates best with your audience. Just create two distinct versions and send them out to small, random segments of your list ahead of general publication.
Then, analyze your results. Which version had a higher open rate? Which one led to more clicks or conversions? Send out the best-performing version.
Analyze Email Metrics
One of the beautiful things about publishing a newsletter or running a campaign is the wealth of data available. Pay attention to key email marketing metrics, including:
Open Rate. What percentage of recipients opened your email?
Click-Through Rate (CTR). How many people clicked on a link within your email?
Conversions. How many people took the desired course of action — making a purchase, downloading a resource, sharing content, etc.?
High numbers in these areas indicate that your pre-header, along with the rest of your email, hit the mark. It helped invite readers to open the email, explore links, and take action based on your content.
Examples of Clear and Compelling Pre-Headers
General guidelines are well and good, but I’m a big fan of concrete examples, so I made up some potential email subject lines and accompanying pre-headers.
Get More Done with [X software]
Don’t take our word for it. Try a free demo!
A New Recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie
Plus, 5 ways to update this classic dessert.
Fall into Fall Style!
Be the first to explore our autumn fashion tips.
The Race Is On! Secure your discount on [X] before it's too late.
Only available to the first 50 customers, so act fast!
An Exclusive Interview with [X]
Find out what they really think about [Y]
Pack Your Bags for Mexico!
The vacation package you were eying just went on sale.
The Results Are In.
Email marketing beats out social. Here’s why.
Your brand might use the pre-header to introduce a special offer or tease a major point covered in a newsletter. Try different pre-header strategies and find out which ones work for you.
Be a Tease. Add a Compelling Pre-Header Text to Your Newsletter
Every element of your email contributes to its success, but pre-headers play a special role in convincing readers to engage. Invest the time needed to develop the right preview of the exciting material inside the publication.
A great pre-header might just be the secret ingredient you need to make your emails stand out in a crowded inbox. Just keep the text short and sweet and include information designed to appeal to your audience.
beehiiv’s editor allows you to customize every element of your newsletter. Then, you can use in-platform analytical tools to evaluate the performance of every aspect of your email.
Ready to write your first (or next) pre-header? Ask yourself what makes this piece of content extra special and find a way to drop a hint in the few words available.
Why Trust Us?
We know good emails. beehiiv is the email solution devised by the creators of content empire The Morning Brew. As for me, I’m a digital marketing nerd who loves unpacking email tips and tricks for personal clients and in published articles.