Is the Email Preheader the New Subject Line?

Email Preheader

I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying, “I have a hard enough time creating a subject line and now you’re throwing more at me! Pre-headers are for the birds!” Well, unfortunately, those birds are some darn good marketers!

Before we get down to it, it may help to address what a pre-header actually is. We’ve all seen them, but have we paid attention? A pre-header is the line of text that can be seen after the subject line in your inbox.


With the increase of open rates on mobile devices, pre-header text has become essential in email marketing. More customers than ever are opening email on increasingly smaller screens, and it’s been proven that a strong pre-header will significantly increase open rates among mobile users.


Oftentimes, the pre-header is an afterthought; if it’s not customized, the content is taken from the body of the email. Inaccurately, many people assume that a pre-header is simply the beginning of the email.

But this assumption is causing many marketers to miss out on an added bonus to their email marketing. A pre-header is as an extension of your subject line and gives marketers one additional line of copy to entice potential customers.  The one-columned layout of mobile screens allows a properly formatted pre-header to be read almost as often as a subject line. Ignoring a pre-header or sending an email without one is almost as ludicrous as sending one without a subject line!

Studies show that by optimizing the pre-header to a short description summarizing the content of the email can lead to higher open rates and fewer spam complaints. You can use a pre-header to do many different things, including:

  • Reinforcing the subject line – Rephrase or expand on what you are stating
  • Use a standalone CTA – Direct a subscriber towards your website without them having to open your email
  • Unsubscribe link – Confidence is key.  Giving your subscribers the option to unsubscribe immediately boosts user confidence and transparency.

It’s important to keep in mind that a pre-header is one line of text. Anything longer will be cut off, which gives your pre-header a lack of professionalism and less credibility with your subscribers. Depending on your subject line and the user’s email client, the pre-header may only display three to four words, so be sure to test how your message will show up in different inboxes.

The days of neglecting pre-header copy are behind us. It’s more important now than ever before to incorporate a pre-header into your email marketing strategies. It may only be a few words, but those words are vital and can give you the boost you need to convert subscribers into customers.