Optimizing for Preview Panes

Dear E-mail Diva,

We would like to know whether (and how) marketers and publishers are altering their creative/placement to be seen better in Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo and other e-mail preview panes. Do you have any insight for us on this matter?

Pat Carroll

Dear Pat,

While all e-mail marketers should be optimizing for the preview pane, not all of us are. The preview pane gives the busy reader a choice: open or delete? Even the most loyal subscribers may be too busy to dig deeper if we don't give them a good reason to do so. With blocked images, which should be considered the norm, the problem is compounded. Here are my recommendations to make a good first impression:

  1. Pack your punch in the upper left corner. While we are all tempted to put a big image and graphic headlines at the top of the e-mail, it more often than not comes through as boxes with red Xs in the corners. Determine what makes your e-mail a "must read" and put those reader benefits in the top left corner of your e-mail in HTML (not graphic!) text.



  1. Work to get on the Friends/Safe list. Make sure that you ask consumers to put you on their Friends or Safe list a) on the registration confirmation screen, b) in the confirmation or welcome e-mail, and c) in every single e-mail. While only a small percentage of subscribers will bother, those who do will see your message in its intended format.

  1. Consider Goodmail for AOL and Yahoo addresses. Although the E-mail Diva was at first very critical of this company and its potential impact on the e-mail channel, she has subsequently seen the light. As the test results described in Bill McCloskey's column demonstrate, response improves when the e-mail is delivered intact. It only makes sense. We pride ourselves on creating a beautiful, compelling message--why should we be surprised that it performs significantly better when displayed as intended (instead of those boxes with red Xs)? Goodmail certification also allows copywriters to curtail self-censorship--"free" is no longer a dirty word.

As any direct marketer will tell you - focus on the benefits, not the features, and make sure all your readers can see them.

Good luck!

The E-mail Diva

Send your questions or submit your e-mail for critique to Melinda Krueger, the E-mail Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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