December 11, 2019

5 Simple Answers to Email Preview Text FAQs

Reading time about 9 min

Here we’ll answer five frequently asked questions about the preview text. And in doing so, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to hit the ball out of the park with the preview text of your next email campaign.

The preview text is a short message that displays below the subject line in many email clients, such as Gmail and Outlook. It’s that teaser that gives more info about the email.

In regular email exchanges, it often relays the email’s opening. “Dear Katja, Thanks for your email…” In most email marketing software, however, you have the chance to choose your own preview text. Email open rates increase when you use a preview text. Why? Because you have additional space to draw in your readers.

As an email marketer, the last thing you want to do is waste this vital space. It’s your last chance to impress your readers before they scroll on by, leaving your email campaign unopened.

Here’s all you need to know about preview text so you can get the most out of it.

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What’s the difference between a preheader and a preview text?

“Wait, wait,” you say, “I thought it was called the preheader!”

Most marketers use the phrases “preview text” and “preheader” interchangeably. That’s because in many emails, these are one and the same.

But …

If you want to get technical about it, they actually are different things. You’ll often find subtle differences in what your email marketing software lets you do with your preview text and your preheader.

The preview text is the text that displays in your inbox. It shows you a brief preview of the email you’re about to read. Typically, it displays whatever the first line of the email is.

The preheader is the small text that appears within the body of your email, at the very top. In most email marketing software, it is a link to the browser version of the email, by default. Which is why unless you change it manually, your preview text will read, “View this email in your browser.” C’mon. You can do better than that!

The preheader is the tiny text that appears above the header within the email body. In this case it is “View in browser.”

What should I write in the preview text?

The preview text should complement the subject line, not complete it.

When writing preview text, remember that it doesn’t display in all email clients. This means you want to avoid including information necessary to understanding the subject line because then some subscribers will miss it. Don’t make the message of the subject line + preview text dependant on the preview text.

Tell yourself: Complement, not complete.

Now, don’t confuse supplemental with boring! Use the exact same methods you use for crafting a subject line:

  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Spark curiosity
  • Put key terms at the beginning
  • Keep it short

One common practice is to put an additional CTA in the preview text.

Another idea is to use the preview text to summarize the content of your mailing. This shows the recipient at a glance what awaits them upon opening.

Note that this strategy is particularly good for those who send a traditional newsletter – a regular mailing with news items. From nonprofits to news sources that send out daily bulletins, just listing the top four or five stories included in your mailing can go a long way to increase open rates.

Now, if you ignore the preview text, by default it will usually show text linking to the web version of your mailing. With Sendinblue software, this will happen automatically if you don’t set the preview text. We suggest you go above and beyond the default, though.

The dos and don’ts of email preview text

Do ✅

  • Add an additional product-specific CTA, e.g. ‘10% off Shoes ⏳ Offer Ends Today!’ or ‘Taylor, find the right sandals for summer!’
  • Entice with personalized preferences: ‘Regan, Get Your Vans Before They Sell Out!’
  • Give more details about the subject line: ‘Get Your Free Shipping While It Lasts ?’, ‘All orders of $20.00 and above’
  • Complement a question in the subject line: ‘Sam, do you need to convince your boss? New study on email marketing ROI!’
  • ? Sketch out an overview of topics: ‘The Hometown Garden Association News. Read about the community beautification program and new curb planters on Main St.’

Don’t ❌

  • Answer the question from subject line:
    ‘What are we offering 10% off on?’ – ‘All Shoes!!!’
  • Repeat the subject line’s message
  • Complete the subject line: ‘Book your…’ – ‘Last-minute airfare today!’
  • Cause unintentional word association: ‘Book your last-minute flights today.’ – ‘Prices are crashing.’
  • Let your code show:
    ‘The Hometown Garden Association News’ – ‘<html><head><title>Howard T. Pennicut elected new board member…’

3 Expert Tricks to Knock the Ball Out of the Park

  1. Personalizing the preview text has proven to be effective. The more personal something is, the more it appeals to people on an individual level. Even something as simple as a name tied to a call to action or a brand the customer buys often can have a compelling effect.
  2. Use emojis to add color and draw the eye.
  3. A/B test various approaches to the preview text until you find one that works for your target group.

Tip: Remember to avoid the spam filter! Just like with subject lines, you have to watch out for anything that could be perceived as spammy behavior in preview text. This means you should avoid writing in all caps, using excessive exclamation points or stuffing it with too many emojis.

What are the preview text character limits for email clients?

Did you know that the preview text does not display in all email clients?

There’s something else you have to know, too. Each email client displays a different number of characters in its preview text. These range between 40 and 140.

The table below gives you an overview of current display limits in the most popular email clients.

Provider Displays Preview Text? Maximum Character Count
Apple iPhone Yes 81 (vertical); 137 (horizontal)
Gmail Yes 97 (web); 90 (iOS app); Varies (Android app)
Outlook 2013 and up Yes 35 (Windows); 55 (Mac); Varies (web)
Outlook 2010 and earlier No
Apple iPad Yes 87
Apple Mail Yes 140
Yahoo! Yes Varies (web); 45–50 (mobile app)
Thunderbird No
AOL mail Yes 75
Android & Windows phones Yes 40
Blackberry No

What do I do about the fact that email clients all have different character limits?

Wouldn’t it be nice if all email clients displayed mailings exactly the same way?

Well, they don’t. Just look at this sample of emails from my inbox and how the preview text length varies each time:

There are four recommended approaches to varying character length:

  1. Write bite-sized chunks. (Not pictured above.) You can choose to write a long text that can be cut off anywhere. The way to do this is to string together many bite-sized chunks. Separate those chunks with a symbol, such as | or – . You can see this technique in the image of an email inbox at the top of this blog.
  2. Let it flow into the opening. In the first email above, the preview text is short and it flows into the greeting. It states, “Read about the improved mobile apps and new summary reports Hey there! Here’s some of the stuff …” For this to work well, you have to remove any text in the actual preheader, such as “View in browser.” Also you might want to include a punctuation mark to signal the end of the preview text and the beginning of the email.
  3. Repeat stuff. In the third email above, you’ll see that Facebook uses this common tactic. Simply insert the same text multiple times to account for varying character lengths.
  4. Insert a lot of blank space. Two of the emails above tried to do this. One succeeded, the other not so much. Look at the fourth email “Top Picks for Mara – Yin yoga restores energy and eases anxiety.” It has a nice clean look after its preview text. All that blank space actually draws your attention to that email. The second email tried to do that, too, but they didn’t insert enough blank space. This creates a random gap between the preview text “See an overview …” and the email greeting “Hi, Mara!”

Tip: “But how do I create blank space after the preview text,” you ask? Warning: Inserting blank space after the preview text is known as the “preview text hack.” Like all hacks, it has some drawbacks. There are several ways to do this, and none of them is foolproof. There will always be some email client that doesn’t display this properly. These preview text hacks revolve around inserting a long line of alternating zero-width nonjoiners with nonbreaking spaces. Whether you do it in HTML or in Unicode, some email clients will display the former as code and the latter as boxes. So you have to choose, based on your target groups’ email client preferences whether you want to use this hack.

How do I use the preview text with Sendinblue?

Campaign creation for Sendinblue is done in four steps: Setup, Design, Recipients, and Confirmation.

When you’re editing the email content in the Design phase, you’ll have the option to set a preview text. This is located on the right-hand side of the editor under the heading ‘General’, as shown in the image below:

In Sum …

The preview text offers you a range of possibilities for boosting your open rate. Don’t pass these up! Use it to convey information that complements the subject line’s message, not information that completes it.

Preview text length ranges between 40 and 140 characters, depending on email client. Before you press send, come up with a strategy for handling this varying text length.

Ready to start using preview text to increase your open rates? Open your free Sendinblue account today.

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