The Ultimate Guide to Preview Text

Image of mobile phone with preview text


It’s as easy as that.

If your preview text is shorter than the inbox space you’re given or you want to make sure there is empty space after your preview text, there’s an easy hack for that. It’ll end up looking something like this:


Without the hack, the inbox will pull in more of your email content to fill the extra space after your preview text, like so:


See the “View this email in your browser” bit after the intended preview text? Yikes.

If you’re nervous about adding code in your email, add preview text in with Visual Editor in Litmus Builder.

Visual Editor in Litmus Builder.

Here’s how:

  1. Create or add your email in Litmus Builder.
  2. Hop over to the Visual view and click on the subject line and preview text module in the preview pane.
  3. Add or edit your preview text in the editor on the left side. That’s it!

How much is too much?

Now you know how to add preview text. But if you’re like me and you like a good ramble, it’s probably a good idea to know when to stop. How long should preview text be? Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule about email preview text length.

As preview text settings can be changed by your subscriber in their email client, your subscriber could see anywhere from 5 lines of preview text (that’s about 278 characters) to 0 lines of preview text. Even Gmail allows users to turn off snippets (friendly reminder, that’s what they call preview text).

With no way to track how much preview text shows up, we recommend keeping the preview text under 90 characters. Keep in mind, sometimes shorter or no preview text may be just the thing to make your email stand out in the inbox.

However long you decide to go, make sure the most important part is near or at the beginning so your message comes across—even if it gets cut off. We’ve got more tips up next.

4 tips to optimize your preview text (and draw people in)

Now that you know how to add preview text to your email, what should you even say? With these tips, you’ll craft the perfect message that’ll have your subscribers opening!

Think of it as your subject line’s best friend

Peanut butter and jelly. Chicken and waffles. Some things just go better together. The same can be said of your subject line and preview text. They should work together and flow seamlessly from one to the other. Think of the preview text as an extension of the subject line. You can use it to create urgency or inject humor into the inbox. If you’re leery of using emojis or personalization in your subject line, add them to the preview text.

Chubbies is notorious for their delightful, sometimes hilarious, subject line and preview text combos. Subscribe to their emails, even just to witness them for yourself. For example:

Like Justin Timberlake completes Jessica Biel, this preview text literally completes the subject line, so it reads like one sentence altogether.

Don’t lose your message

In webmail clients like Gmail, you only have so much space for both the subject line and the preview text together. So if you’ve got a long subject line, think about keeping the preview text nice and short. Notice how in this snapshot of a Gmail inbox, some preview texts aren’t fully displayed? Yet others have a lot more space left to make an impact.

And don’t forget to test in as many places as you can to avoid any unfortunate cropping. Words like “associate”, “assume”, “assembly”, and “assorted” may be cut in compromising places if you’re not careful.


Avoid repetition

It can be tempting to re-use existing subject and headline copy in your preview text, especially if you’re in a rush. But reusing the same copy in all those places is going to make for one repetitive inbox message. Plus, if your subject line doesn’t hook someone, then using that copy in your preview text, too, is missing a second chance at reeling your subscribers in.

Get creative, using this extra space to play off of the subject line and further encourage your subscribers to open the email.

  • Use personalization: If you’ve had success with using personalization in other parts of your campaigns, try personalizing preview text, too.
  • Sum up the email: If your subject line includes a call-to-action (CTA), use preview text to include more details. For example, if your subject line is “50% off new arrivals,” use preview text to explain what type of merchandise has arrived.
  • Include a CTA or secondary CTA: Does your email have a few CTAs? If they pair well with the subject line, consider showcasing them in your preview text.
  • Be honest: As always, you should never trick your subscribers into opening your emails. The sender name, subject line, and preview text should work together so subscribers know what to expect when they open.
  • Encourage scrolling: If you’re sending a newsletter, highlight a featured article (or two).

A/B test to increase performance

Learn what works—and what doesn’t—with continuous email A/B testing. Add preview text to your A/B testing rotation. Test different preview text and subject line combinations. You might find that some strategies produce higher open rates while others generate more clicks.

Speaking of open rates, you may not be able to rely on that as a success metric anymore after Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection launches (as early as September 2021). So take advantage of the time you have now to optimize your preview text (and the rest of your email) for maximum opens.

Originally published on February 8, 2017, by Lauren Smith. Last updated July 28, 2021.


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