Boost Your Response Rate With Preheaders!

Kellie Boggs, Senior Marketing Strategist

Author Bio

With her experience in developing and growing email and cross-channel marketing programs to drive revenue, Kellie brings a track record of success in building multi-channel campaigns across a variety of industries. By working one-on-one with clients to understand their business model and goals, Kellie provides strategic marketing guidance to increase revenue. Kellie offers experience in providing clients with industry best practices, message design, campaign optimization, list growth tactics, segmentation strategies and detailed analyses of marketing campaigns.

It’s always important to make sure your email campaigns stand out in the inbox. A great way to do just that and get high response rates is to implement a preheader in your email campaigns. A preheader is the first piece of text in the html code of your email that shows up in the inbox right behind the subject line. They’re often referred to as second subject lines as they serve as another opportunity to entice the reader to the open.

Here is an example in Gmail:

Gmail Screen Shot

Adding a meaningful preheader to your email campaigns can potentially raise open rates, click rates, and improve overall deliverability ratings. For the preheader text, I encourage you to summarize your offer and make it meaningful. Preheaders are also important on a mobile device because it can mean the difference between someone opening or deleting an email.

Here is an example on a mobile device:

iPhone Screen Shot

As you can see, the email app on an iPhone gives you space for a preheader too. Need I remind you that mobile marketing is evolving?! Check out this post on Optimizing for Mobile.

Now let’s discuss some quick tips on creating the preheader text for your email campaigns:

  1. Short and Simple: The text is meant to grab the subscriber’s attention, so remember to keep it short. One line is perfect. But don’t just repeat your subject line. Remember, you want to grab the subscribers’ attention!
  2. Proper Alignment: I recommend that you left-align the call to action or secondary offer to ensure it shows up in the inbox. Then, right-align the contact info, whitelisting instructions, or online versions. This will help visually separate the most important information.
  3. Easy to Read: The text shouldn’t take away from the rest of the email, so use a standard font, readable color, and appropriate font size. You can bold the call to action and make it clickable. The idea here is to deliver the key information.
  4. Call to Action: The preheader text should support the subject line, but also include the call to action that is linked back to the appropriate landing page. This proves to be valuable when images are not displayed.
  5. Test: Try different A/B split tests with preheaders to really see what gets you the best response rates and what is appealing to your subscribers.

As a marketing strategist, I recommend all of my clients use preheaders as they are a useful tool that can make a big impact. Are preheaders effective for you? If so, I would love to hear what you put in them?



I received a great comment asking for more clarity on the placement of preheaders:

“Can you show an example of an actual email to see how this works? You say it’s the “first piece of text in the html code of your email,” so is it a hidden piece of code or is it the first line in the first paragraph of my email?”

To clarify, the text that you have furthest to the left in your email template at the very top is the first thing the preheader text will pick up.  So, the preheader needs to be the first piece of text in the html code. Check out this email from REI with images turned off.

The first bit of text here at the top of this email that says “Urban Cycling, Cycling Savings at” is the preheader text and will be the first thing that shows up in the email client right behind the subject line.Preheader

Here is another example. Unfortunately, this is a real missed opportunity as the text is way too long and pushes the email down. It’s also missing a clickable call to action. Please remember that the idea is to keep the preheader text short and simple with a call to action that links back to the appropriate landing page.

Adriano Goldschmied Preheader

Here’s how this email shows up in Gmail. You can see that the preheader text it grabbed is “the email was sent by AG Jeans.”  Another huge missed opportunity here! It would be nice if this preheader was used as second subject and really enticed the reader to open.

Preheader in mail reader

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any further questions. I’d love to hear about your success with preheaders when you start using them!

  • Phil

    Hi Kellie,

    Can you show an example of an actual email to see how this works?

    You say its the “first piece of text in the html code of your email” so is it a hidden piece of code or is it the first line in the first paragraph of my email?

    I would like to start using this.



  • Kellie Boggs

    Hey Phil,

    I responded to your question at the bottom of my post, so be sure to check it out. I hope this is helpful and I look forward to hearing about your success with preheaders.