5 Ways to Optimize the Email Preview Pane.

E-mail marketers are accustomed to change. Most of it proves challenging, but some of it can be good. Two such developments appear to be coinciding. The new ubiquity of preview panes may help direct marketers retain customers, despite the looming deadline of altered algorithms that may keep senders of regularly unopened messages out of opt-in recipients’ inboxes.

A lot of the research says 80 [percent to] 90 percent of people use a preview pane. And 60 [percent to] 70 percent of them say they frequently or always use it.

“Even if the e-mail’s coming from a reputable sender, but nobody’s opening up the messages, [the ISPs are] going to start considering. What it’s really forcing e-mail marketers to do is make sure that what they send to their subscribers is something that they care about… They’re tweaking the algorithms. This year the ISPs e-mail delivery will be based on open rates. Here are five tactics for getting recipients to engage with e-mails in their preview panes.

1. Keep preheaders short, in terms of height.
This text, often hyperlinked, is directly below the subject line. The preheaders should be considered an extension of the subject line and should only be one or two lines long. So it would again reinforce that content within your message that you’re saying to the recipient is most important. The text also can be a call to action and should be words rather than images due to image suppression defaults.
It’s the first thing that shows up in the e-mail, and it has a big impact on mobile platforms, as well. Because for [BlackBerry devices] and some of the older readers that don’t render HTML, they’ll still see that text right there at the top of the message and the link will be there so they can direct people to the Web site.
2. Use HTML wherever possible, as opposed to graphics.
Because of spam blocking systems, image suppression still dominates as the first way recipients see messages.
3. Ensure the logo is above the fold.
The most important elements of an e-mail should remain in the top-left corner. You’ve got 350 pixels wide by 200 pixels tall as your primary real estate. Some have their preview panes set vertically, most are set horizontally.
4. Place the most important message content above the fold.
So the preheader, logo and navigation (probably in the preheader) are already placed.
Now consider the main message content. If it’s a newsletter, consider placing the table of contents above the fold. If there’s a primary message or a call to action, that should be up top.
5. Move extraneous information out of the preview pane.
It’s a balancing act of not putting in too much content that would force the main body of your message further down, or your entire call to action would be suppressed.
If all people can see when they click on the message to render it in the preview pane is a tall header, recipients may begin skipping over that sender’s messages.

Anything that you can do to get as much information on top of your message will help you get your message clicked on and read and taken out of the preview pane.
-MarketingSherpa, March 2010

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