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Neglecting the Preheader May Be Costing You Clicks

Lynette Rambo | April 5, 2016 

Does this look familiar?

It’s surprising how many times this message still crops up in the email Preheader. And, it’s a wasted opportunity, because the Preheader is prime real estate in email marketing.

The Preheader, also known as “snippet” or “preview” text, is a small piece of copy pulled in from the body of your email and displayed beneath the from name and subject line once it hits the inbox.

Here are some examples of Preheaders as they’ve shown up in my Gmail account. Each of these emails tells me a bit more about the subject (in bold) of the email. This additional text is like a second subject line and should be used to encourage me to open the email and read further.


Studies have shown that we have about 3 seconds to capture someone’s attention as they are scrolling through the day’s emails and deciding which ones to open. Both the Subject Line and Preheader are critical for grabbing the reader’s attention and determining whether an email gets opened or not. So, use this space wisely!

To populate the Preheader, both HTML and text-only emails pull from the first line of readable text. If the first text that shows up under the opening <body> tag is the URL source for an image, then that’s what you’ll see. Or, if it’s the infamous “If you are having problems viewing this email …,” that’s what will show.

Let’s look at a few of the preheaders in my Gmail example above. They:

  • Summarize the email message. In the Subject Line “Tech News & Tips for Business,” the Preheader gives me a snippet about the subject matter inside – the case between FBI and Apple, self-driving vehicles, and information about doing business in the cloud. That’s interesting information – especially if I’m in a tech field (which I am).
  • Expand upon the subject line. In the “Order Receipt from Network for Good,” if the Preheader hadn’t stated it was from Google reminding me I had donated to a cause, I probably would have thought this was junk mail, because I had already forgotten.
  • Create a sense of urgency. In the email “New Davis Spec Home Listings,” the Preheader creates a sense of urgency by letting the Realtors who received this email know there are only 10 homes left, and they need to hurry.
  • Personalize the message. The fact that the email from Google was personalized with my name made me feel even safer about opening the email. Generally, I would recommend using only a person’s First Name and only if it makes sense. Don’t force personalization.


There are several ways you can insert a Preheader into your email.

  • Use the Preheader functionality built into your email platform, if it has one. The email example below was coded using the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which makes it easy to insert a Preheader into the email without having to use HTML code. In the example below, we personalized it with the subscriber’s first name.
  • If you don’t have access to a built-in Preheader, then you can manually code it into the line of text at the top of your email. In the example below, it’s the centered text in the first row.

Here’s how it looks in the code.

SIDE NOTE: If, for some reason, you are using any type of image above the text line (even a spacer.gif), the image URL will show up as the first line of readable text instead of your intended Preheader. So, be sure and test it carefully.

  • If you don’t want the Preheader to appear in the email itself, use a non-displaying <div> right after the <body> tag … like this:

<div style=”font-size: 1px; color: #f4f4f4; display: none !important; mso-hide:all;”>Preheader snippet text here.</div>

So, even though my Preheader is blank on the setup screen in my email client …

It still shows up in the email once it’s sent.

And, it doesn’t show up in the email itself. In the event the “hide” command doesn’t work on an old email version, I’ve made the font the same color as the body background – #f4f4f4 – so it won’t show.



A Preheader should ideally be kept between 85 and 100 characters. Test your email over a variety of email clients and devices so you can see what your readers see.

While many desktop emails show the entire Preheader, some mobile clients will not. You may only have 30 characters max to work with before the rest get cut off. So, make sure your message doesn’t sound strange in that event. I like the example Meera Sapra, Zoho Senior Marketing Manager, gave in her blog post about subject lines.

LONG VERSION: “Summer’s here. Drown yourself in our soothing summer sorbet!”

CUT OFF VERSION: “Summer’s here. Drown yourself…”

To fix this, Meera suggests making the Subject “Our soothing summer sorbet is here!” That way, if it gets cut off, you still know the email is about sorbet. The same is true for the Preheader. Even though you can use a longer string of text, you still want the most important part of it up front.

EXAMPLE: Our soothing summer sorbet is here! Choose from 10 different flavors.

As you’re working to optimize your emails, think about what gets you to open and read the ones in your inbox. Write down ideas you see other people using and try something similar. Then start doing some A/B testing and see what works best with your customers.

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Lynette Rambo | Marketing Consultant

Lynette Rambo is a Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant, Administrator, Email Specialist, and Trainer. She has worked in marketing and communications for more than 20 years and with Salesforce Marketing Cloud since 2012. As a Marketing Consultant and Trainer for ListEngage, Lynette helps clients learn Marketing Cloud functionality, email marketing best practices, and effective campaign management. She also works with the Salesforce CRM and connecting Sales and Marketing initiatives. You can contact Lynette at