We all know how important it is to have all of your best stuff “above the fold,” a traditional newspaper term that means everything you can see without unfolding your paper. For websites, it refers to what your visitors can see without scrolling down the page. But what does it mean for an email or email newsletter?
You definitely want your emails and email newsletters to follow the same design principles as other collateral, where the very best attention-getting and most relevant material is above the fold. But emails aren’t viewed the same as newspapers and websites, are they? Where does an email fold?
The subject line and preview pane represent the “above the fold” real estate in an email or email newsletter.
Crafting Ingenious Subject Lines
The vital importance of subject lines has been widely documented. The subject line may very well determine whether or not your email will be opened or read (assuming your email makes it past the spam and junk filters, which also analyze the subject line as part of the filtering process). Here are three of the very best tips for writing effective subject lines, particularly for professional audiences:
- “What’s in it for me?” – Tell your readers exactly what they can expect in your email, leading with why they should read it
- Keep your subject line short and concise, while directly correlating to the subject matter of your email or email newsletter
- Use a question that not only relates to the topic of your email but also intrigues readers by posing a question that either already plagues them or one that they should be asking themselves
Want more subject line tips? We’ve reviewed subject line attributes and characteristics in greater detail in other blog posts, including Email Subject Lines That Get Better Results and Subject Line Station from our Cruising Through e-Marketing whitepaper.
Designing For The Preview Pane
What is visible in the preview pane may be just as important as the subject line, so don’t assume that just because you have crafted an ingenious subject line that your recipients will automatically open and read your email. More than 85% of B2B and B2C emails are previewed prior to being opened.
While different email programs will show more or less of your email in the preview pane (depending on the individual user’s settings as well as the specific program’s functionality), you should expect that at least the first few lines of copy from your email will be seen in the preview pane.
Here are a few tips for creating preview pane content that will inspire your readers to further investigate your email:
- Lead with a benefit or story – Starting with the first line of copy, present a great offer that is of interest to your readers or begin an intriguing story that you’re sharing in your message.
- Think about where to position your salutation – Remember that it is possible only the first two or three lines of text will appear in the preview pane. Start your email off with the best content, whether a special offer, story or headline that speaks to your recipients, and include the salutation after your initial text so that the preview pane doesn’t only display “Dear XXX”.
- Presume that images will not render (as they are entirely dependent on the recipients’ settings) – Make sure that your first few lines of text introduce your topic even if an image at the top of your email does so as well. While some recipients will see your eye-catching graphic at the top of the email, many others will not. It may seem redundant, but repeat any verbiage in your text that you may include in your catchy image.
Testing your subject lines and preview panes for optimal “above the fold” design is critical. A formal process like A/B split testing is best. But perhaps you don’t have the resources to perform formal A/B testing. Set up a few different test email accounts on Hotmail, Gmail, through your local internet cable provider, Windows Live Mail and other free email platforms and send yourself test emails to see exactly how they render in each program. Ask a few colleagues or friends to participate in your testing process and put them on your distribution list. Ask them to send you screenshots or tell you what they see in their inboxes. The same email will look substantially different across different email platforms – even emails that look terrific in Outlook 2010 might look wonky in Outlook 2007 or Outlook’s Web Mail.
Maximize the effectiveness of all of your marketing collateral by taking full advantage of “above the fold” real estate regardless of the medium you are designing: emails and email newsletters, websites and landing pages, or brochures and other print materials.
Becca Fieler is an Online Marketing Specialist for BizActions | PDI Global Marketing Solutions, a division of Thomson Reuters. She provides strategic planning and oversight for our online marketing and email marketing initiatives. Becca also works with clients, developing comprehensive marketing and lead generation programs for professional service providers, including attorneys, accountants, banks and credit unions, human resource companies and others, through her role at BizActions | PDI Global, Thomson Reuters. She is a prolific writer when she has time. Read more of Becca’s blog posts here.
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