Increase Your Email’s Impact! Part 2: Header


Having discussed the email hors d’oeuvre in my last post, I would like to propose another course from the „Increase your email’s impact!” menu today: the header.

How do you plan this section effectively? Where does it belong on your email layout map? What does „above-the-fold” mean? Can header design have an impact on click-thru rates and ROI?


The Challenge Ahead

Right, so you’ve planned out your preheader and made sure it contains a concise call-to-action and  link to open the message in a new browser window, as we discussed in the preheader post.


Now you’re facing the real challenge: how to design the „above-the-fold” in your sales message section in a way that will make subscribers click on the call-to-action and explore the whole message.



Email Headers 101

Let me start with a short definition before proceeding to the nitty-gritty of header design.


The aforementioned „above-the-fold” is simply the 400-450 pixel high space that subscribers see right after they open the message. It’s also the typical size of the „preview panes” in most popular email clients. Certainly, the size can vary depending on your subscribers’ screen resolution.


Studies show that 1024×768 is still the most popular resolution these days, so fitting the header into the first 400-450 pixels is the best path to follow. You can also perform your own study and scrutinize which screen resolution is the most common among the subscribers on your list. This can be achieved by means of a survey or any web tracking system.


The key point here is to design it in a way that will engage the recipients quickly and make them interact with rest of the special offer content. Otherwise they might  abandon the message, or worse, mark it as spam.


Unfortunately, the industry stats also show us that not every subscriber will scroll down your email. In fact, 51% of them will delete the message within two seconds of opening it.


Therefore, email marketers should always begin their email template design from the top and work through to the bottom (not the other way around).



How to Create an Effective Email Header

Successful email creative, just like first pages of a book, should start off with a smart title, eye-catching cover and the name of the author, or party communicating with the recipient.


Due to the limited size of most preview panes, the sender needs to pack all 3 elements into the „above-the-fold” section to entice the recipient to engage further. With this in mind, here’s what you should typically include in the template header:


  • The name of the company, brand or person responsible for sending the offer. It is highly advisable to include the logo in this section to increase trust and the probability of being recognized by subscribers. Trust is the key to successful email communication!
  • The purpose of the message: Provide explicit information in the header as to the intent of the email (whether it’s transactional, event-related, a product campaign or a newsletter). It’s helpful at this stage to re-evaluate the relevance of your email to make sure it’s what your subscribers expect.
  • A large, clear and enticing call-to-action: The CTA in the „above-the-fold” area is your big chance to create subscriber interest, encourage them to read the whole message and, eventually, convert them into paying customers.

The point here is to avoid vagueness and obscure slogans like „Great Sale”, „New Products!”, etc. Instead, pin down the exact benefits a recipient could gain upon further reading of the email: „15% OFF on all electronic devices!”, „Buy one book, get the second one free!”.


Keep in mind that most people these days are flooded with offers every day via email, snail mail, robo calls, social media, etc. Using an incentive (like a discount, bonus or gift) makes your email marketing campaigns more likely to stand out among all the noise and inbox clutter.


Here’s how some experienced marketers handle this:



None of these headers causes doubt or confusion as to why it’s worthwhile to click on the call-to-action: „25% OFF on Car Speakers and Subs”, „Accessories Sale, Ends Tuesday!”, „New Arrivals Make Great Presents for Father’s Day”, etc.


The strongest selling point of your offer needs to be prominently displayed if you want to make a big impact on click-through and conversion rates.




The Elements of an Effective Header

Now let’s break the header into a few components, and consider how to make them as effective as possible:


  • Easily recognizable logo of your brand, website, product or company. Do not forget to use alt-attribute to give subscribers a hint as to the image content, even if it’s blocked by their email client;


  • Crystal clear and concise call-to-action which will communicate from the very start: „Here’s the exact benefit you’ll obtain once you scroll down / click on the CTA.”


  • A  navigation bar that lists the products offered on your website by category. You can easily hyperlink each category to facilitate the subscriber browsing experience and take them directly to the page they’re interested in.


In practice, make sure that if you are selling ebooks and recipients click on the „Getting-things-done” category within the email, they are taken straight to those offers.


Some marketers make the mistake of hyperlinking all of the segments to one landing page, which is usually the home page, making recipients browse further and often losing sales opportunities.


  • A „Share This” option with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. integrations. With so many social media users out there, you can’t afford to lose an opportunity to push your latest offer or newsletter out of the inbox and across the Internet to gain more exposure.



Wrapping it up

A well-designed header should be about clarity, transparency and order. Marketers ought to keep this in the back of their heads when trying to design headers with all the elements I’m suggesting.


Although the format should be orderly, the goal is a reasonable balance of text and images and overall proportion, so the content is both accessible and attention grabbing.


Remember, the content located below the top 420 pixels will not be visible to any subscribers unless they scroll down the email.


This is the default size of most email client preview panes (at 1024×768 resolution). To make sure recipients see exactly what you want them to see above-the-fold, I strongly recommend testing the HTML templates before the actual newsletter is sent. You can do this by sending an email to your Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail and AOL accounts, and analyzing how it looks. Then simply adjust to deliver the best header deisgn to all subscriber inboxes.


Last but not least, if you are sending monthly newsletters that do not contain any sales pitches or promo offers and coupons, it’s a good idea to include the summary of the message content in the header. It will give your subscribers a hint as to what’s included in this “issue” so they can decide whether they’re interested to scroll further or not.



Does Your Header Grab Attention?

An effective header should be like a movie trailer.


It’s an excerpt from the offer and sums up the most desirable, interesting and enticing passages of the message.


Make your subscribers want to read more and you’ll increase your email marketing campaign ROI. Instead of highlighting 4 random products in the header, pack it with the hottest, most exclusive (or cheapest) offers. Once subscribers scroll down to check out the rest of the offer, you’ll know the header’s done its job!


What are your experiences with email headers? Let us know in the comments below.

Look for the next installment of this „Email Impact” series coming soon to the GetResponse Blog.



Maciej is an Email Solutions Specialist for GetResponse, focused on optimizing email deliverability, improving conversion rates, and increasing email marketing ROI for our customers.

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