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5 Simple Answers to Preview Text FAQs

November 15, 2018

email preview text

You Can Do Better Than “View This Email in Your Browser.”

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.

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 mailing.

Preview text on an iphone

1️⃣ 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 absolutely fine!

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!

Even though these terms are used interchangeably, the preview text and the preheader are technically different parts of an email. #TheMoreYouKnow #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet
preheader text
The preheader is the tiny text that appears above the header within the email body. In this case it is "View in browser." The term preheader is used interchangeably with preview text because in many emails, these are one and the same.

📧 Tip: With Newsletter2Go, you can put whatever you please in the preheader.

And you can easily program your preview text so it’s different from the preheader.

And you can personalize your preview text.

What can I say? We’re control freaks who want to give you granular control over exactly how your mailing appears.

2️⃣ What Should I Write in the Preview Text?

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

Remember a preview text does not 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 your 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.

Tell yourself: The preview text should complement, not complete, your subject line. #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet

Now, if you ignore the preview text, by default it will usually show text linking to the web version of your mailing. With Newsletter2Go software, this will happen automatically if you don’t set the preview text. We suggest you go above and beyond the default, though.

Here are some examples for inspiration:

👍 YES

👍 Add additional CTA – product specific
10% off Shoes ⏳ Offer Ends Today!
Taylor, find the right sandals for summer!

👍 Entice with personalized preferences
Regan, Get Your Tix Before They Sell Out!
“Shoegaze Tooth” will be in town!

👍 Give more details about subject line
Get Your Free Shipping While It Lasts
📦 All orders of $20.00 and above

👍 Give more details about subject line
Book Your Last-Minute Asia Getaway Today
Deals on airfare to Bali, Chiang Mai and Kuala Lumpur ✈

👍Complement question in the subject line 
Sam, do you need to convince your boss?
New study on email marketing ROI!

👍Sketch out overview of topics
The Hometown Garden Association News
Read about the community beautification program and new curb planters on Main St.

👍Sketch out overview of topics
Your Tuesday Briefing
California, Stan Lee, U.S. stock market

👎 NO

👎 Answer question from subject line
What are we offering 10% off on?
All Shoes!!!

👎 Repeat subject line’s message
Regan, Get Your Tix Before It’s Too Late!
Get your tickets now! 🎟

👎 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…

📧 Tip: If you use Newsletter2Go software, you’ll never have to worry about the preview text accidentally showing code. If you leave the preview text field blank, the email client will display whatever text starts your email.

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.

But, most importantly, it means that the best thing you can do is write compelling content in your preview text.

Write something that will encourage your readers to open the email, and you won’t be at risk of getting reported as spam. If you’re still unsure, you can use our spam test feature.

3️⃣ What Are the Preview Text Character Limits for Email Clients?

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.
Each email client displays a different number of characters ranging between 40 and 140 in its preview text. #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet

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

ProviderDisplay Preview Text?Maximum Character Count?
Apple iPhone✔️81 (vertical); 137 (horizontal)
Gmail✔️97 (web); 90 (iOS app); Varies (Android app)
Outlook 2013 and up✔️35 (Windows); 55 (Mac); Varies (web)
Oulook 2010 and earlier
Apple iPad✔️87
Apple Mail✔️140
Yahoo!✔️Varies (web); 45–50 (mobile app)
Thunderbird
AOL Mail✔️75
Android & Windows phones✔️40
Blackberry

4️⃣ 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. So, how do you handle that as a marketer?

There are four recommended approaches to varying character length.

Email clients all have a different character limit for their preview text. What are the four recommended approaches to handling character limit variation? #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet

First, let’s take a look at four emails from my inbox.

4 emails from an inbox

4 Approaches to the Character Limit Problem

  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?

Before we tell you, an important 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 client 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.

5️⃣ How Do I Use the Preview Text With Newsletter2Go?

preview text

Our campaign creation has five steps. The second step of campaign creation, the Details screen, is where you can enter an optional preview text.

The personalization button next to the field lets you insert a message perfectly tailored to each recipient. Don’t overlook this important feature.

📧 Tip: Here’s how to create blank space in the Preview Text field with Newsletter2Go:

Use Unicode to insert a long line of alternating zero-width nonjoiners and nonbreaking spaces in 5 simple steps:

  1. Go to the Unicode entry for zero-width nonjoiner. Hit the purple copy button.
  2. Paste this blank space into your Preview Text field. You will see the cursor move forward one space.
  3. Now go to this Unicode entry for nonbreaking space. Hit the purple copy button.
  4. Paste this blank space into your Preview Text field. You will see the cursor move forward one space.
  5. Select those two blank spaces you just inserted, copy them and paste them ad infinitum. (Actually we recommend pasting these two invisible characters around 70 times. That way you hit the max amount of preview text, such as you see in some Apple apps).

👉 But heed our warning above about email clients. Outlook, in particular, has default settings that do not display Unicode. In Outlook, instead of seeing blank spaces, your subscribers will see ☐☐☐.

Before using this hack, check the reports for the last few emails you’ve sent. What percentage of your subscribers usually read their emails in Outlook? If the percentage is high, then we recommend not using this hack.

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.

Are you ready to get total control over your preview text and your preheader text? Open your free Newsletter2Go account today.

Send better email. Sell more!

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