How to Create Perfect Email Subject Line and Preheader Pairings
Knowing how to craft an eye-catching email subject line can mean the difference between the delete folder and loyal subscribers. In fact, according to Convince & Convert research, 33% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on subject line alone.
That’s why it’s so important to craft subject lines that are compelling enough to get people to click through.
So, what features should an effective subject line possess? According to MailChimp, the most effective email subject lines are brief, descriptive, and include a compelling reason for the user to click ‘open’.
By contrast, like a persistently overlooked but deeply capable younger sibling, preheader text has been overshadowed by the subject line for too long. In brief, a preheader is a text that comes after the subject line when an email is viewed in your inbox. It’s often used to give your email list a taste of what’s inside the body of your email.
Here’s what subject line and preheader look like if you’re accessing emails using a laptop:
and if you are accessing your emails from mobile:
In this post, we’ll explain why should you use preheader text, how to write effective preheader text and subject line and how to pair them together to help your email marketing campaigns get opened and acted upon.
Think about the whole picture
Always think about your email’s preheader in conjunction with its subject line, and vice versa. Reason being, the two sit side by side in the inbox and are therefore registered in a recipient’s mind in relation to one another. These two components are a team, therefore need to work together to pique subscribers’ interest and get that email opened!
Here’s a good example of subject line/ preheader collaboration from Swedish brand & Other Stories.
Subject Line: Summer dress code.
Preheader: Take your pick from our bouquet of charming summer styles. Click here to view it online
In this example, the subject line and preheader are cleverly used together to initiate a conversation with the email’s recipient.
Subject Line: Do you like it shirty?
Preheader: We bet you do! Here’re 6 summer shirt icons you need to know about
Keep it short to ensure proper display across different devices
How much of your preheader or your subject line a subscriber sees depends heavily on which device and email client they use. Even on a desktop, how much preheader text is visible depends on how wide a subscriber has set their browser window.
So how long should your preheader text be?
To give you some guidelines for how to write preheader text for different devices, here is the preheader character counts visible on some of those most popular email clients, created by Litmus.
Here is also a perfect example of a short yet meaningful subject line and preheader that doesn’t immediately reveal the content of the message. But here, the length actually works to this brand’s advantage by helping it stand out in the inbox.
Subject line: Beach, please.
Preheader text: Meet the JT Beach Jogger. Crisp, lightweight, and built for lazy days and epic adventures.
Use personalization tokens
Using personalization tokens like name or location in the subject line adds a feeling of rapport — especially when it’s a name. Everyone loves the sound of their own name. Plus, it increases clickthrough rate: According to the Science of Email Marketing, emails that included the first name of the recipient in their subject line had higher clickthrough rates than emails that did not.
Consider how your preheader text will look in your email campaign
Preheader text should be in the top left of the email. This way it will show up in the inbox. Then your more functional preheader text (such as add to address book, unsubscribe, forward to a friend) should be in the top right corner.
So when creating your email marketing campaign, you also need to consider how your preheader text will look in the body of your campaign when combined with all the other elements of your email.
In fact, Shopify goes as far as making their preheader text the same color as the email background, effectively hiding it from view and ensuring readers focus on the most important parts of their campaign.
Regardless of whether you choose to make it small and discrete or hide it altogether, make sure the preheader doesn’t distract them from those.
Include a call to action or an offer they cannot resist
Do something different to catch your reader’s eye and entice them to open your email. Tell a joke that they have to open the email to complete. Use emojis to stand out from rows and rows of text. Many subject line experts will tell you to merely tease whatever deal you’re offering to inspire curiosity, but sometimes, when the deal is this good, why not just state it outright, like in the examples below?
Subject line: Dinner’s on us tonight. Enjoy $7 OFF delivery!
Preheader text: Your neighborhood, your favorite flavors. Grubhub delivers the best local bites, straight to you.
Subject line: Calendar Notification: New Favorites Are Arriving
Preheader text: Searching for something? Change can be a really good thing.
Test, test, test
Like everything else in email marketing, your preheader line and the subject line needs to be tested. It`s always good to try an A/B split with different pre-headers and test to see which emails get the most opens and conversions.
What`s more, in MailChimp, there is a Subject Line Researcher, that uses an extensive collection of subject line data to help you write a subject line, and A/B Testing Campaigns test the performance of up to three different subject lines.
To use the Subject Line Researcher, follow these steps.
- Navigate to the Setup step of the Campaign Builder.
- Click the How do I write a good subject line? link under the Email subject field.
- In the pop-up modal, click Subject line researcher.
- Type several phrases into the Subject line terms field and click Search to populate results. For best results, enter one term or phrase per line and limit phrases to three words and keep the search broad.
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