Use Snippets For More Opens

email snippetsDid you know that your “from” and subject lines aren’t the only inbox tools you have to convince subscribers to open your email marketing messages?

Some email programs also display an auto-preview of the top of your email, sometimes called a snippet.

That snippet could be the extra nudge subscribers need to open and investigate further. To get started, here are four ways to set up a snippet-friendly version in under five minutes.

Extend Your Subject Line

If your emails are topped with a line of text, those words will also display after your subject in the inbox.

So choose these words carefully. They’ll act as an introduction to your content, and you can also use them supplement your subject line with a tease of what’s inside.

Remember, snippet length will vary depending on each reader’s screen size, so frontload the important words.

Programs this will show in:

Gmail Outlook iPhone

email Viewed on iPhoneViewed on iPhone

Relegate Requests to Sidebars

You may have housekeeping items at the top of your email, such as a whitelisting request or a link to unsubscribe.

To keep them from monopolizing auto-preview space, shift them slightly from the main body to the top of a sidebar. They’ll still be easily accessible, and they’ll give you room to put snippet-worthy text where it needs to go.

Programs this will show in:

Gmail Outlook iPhone

Sidebar example

Snippet-ize Your Images

Your message may be designed with a logo, header or other image at the top. These won’t show in a snippet, but if you set alt text, some programs will show that instead.

So write this text in a way that serves two purposes. It will need to stand in for the picture in case images don’t display, and it should also be able to pick up where your subject line leaves off.

Programs this will show in:

Gmail Outlook

email Viewed in OutlookViewed in Outlook

A Secret Strategy: Slip It In

It’s possible that you’re thinking, “These ideas don’t work for me. I don’t want text or an image at the top of my design, and I don’t want to move anything. Can’t my snippet just disappear once the email is opened?”

Actually, in some places it can. There’s an easy way to make a snippet that doesn’t show in your email. The mechanics? Assign alt text to a tiny image – then render it invisible by matching it to your background color.

If you’d like more specific directions, they’re available here.

Programs this will show in:

Gmail Outlook

email opened in GmailViewed in Gmail


Let us know your thoughts on creating snippets in the comment section below!


  1. Jack Liang

    8/24/2010 9:02 am

    Thanks for the great tip.

    I always had a problem with my template since I have this on top "Trouble viewing email? Open in HTML Format" I guess I’ll move it to the side bar or switch the phrase around. Maybe that will look better on gmail. I’m not sure if it really affects my open rate though.

    Keep it up =)

  2. Robert Deveau

    8/25/2010 7:53 am

    I tried it and my open rate on the Snippet version was almost 40% higher than the standard one. This has been very good for me since not only have my open rates been dropping but my complaint rate has been rising.

  3. Amanda Gagnon

    8/25/2010 8:11 am

    Jack ~ Let us know how it goes!

    Robert ~ That’s fantastic! I’d love to hear if those results stay consistent – come back and let us know!

  4. Kirk Gray

    8/25/2010 12:20 pm

    We have just recently started to run snippets in our newsletters, and we actually are using them for lead generation efforts. We place it right above the "can’t read this" statement. There have been some instances with these one liners that have received more attention and clicks and overall conversion into leads then the actual story.

    We are beginning to see it trend downward, so before we kill the momentum on them, we are going to start using them as traffic drivers or other sections of our web site.

    These things are great non-traditional sources of traffic and volume for us. And even better we are not seeing an overall decline in CTR on the rest of the newsletter or negative effect on our open rates.

  5. robinteractive

    8/26/2010 9:20 am

    I never send out e-mail campaigns without including snippet text, and have taken this approach for years. Not including snippet text is a wasted opportunity, imo. It offers an additional chance to persuade a recipient to open the message.

    Even for individual sends I include a static marketing "bullet" about my company (a college in my case) as snippet text in the banner image. I use Gmail for e-mail along with the Blank Canvas Gmail Signatures browser extension, but this can also be done with Outlook and Thunderbird.

    When something takes so little effort, offers little-to-no-risk, and can be beneficial, it is tough to come up with a reason not to include a snippet.

    On a related note, I use snippet text almost exclusively when deciding whether or not to move messages from the spam folder to my inbox.

  6. Neil Gogate

    9/3/2010 1:27 pm

    How do you account for Legal Header Text with some of these snippets? I like the idea of this, but not sure how I can use this in coordination with the standard "You are receiving this email…"

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  9. Joseph

    5/30/2012 7:11 pm

    The final solution here would result in ugly image-boxes if the user has images disabled by default. I think you might still be able to use style=”display:none;” to get around it.