Optimizing for Gmail's snippets and Outlook's AutoPreview
Posted by David Greiner on October 25, 2006
Inspired by Jeanne Jennings great write-up on designing emails for Gmail's snippets and Outlook's auto-preview, I decided to run a few tests of my own.
First things first, a Gmail snippet is that small chunk of light grey text immediately following your email subject in the Gmail inbox. It usually includes the first few lines from your email to give the recipient a sample of what's to come. Outlook's AutoPreview feature is a very similar concept.
Problem is, the first few lines of your email might be a link to your web-based version or an unsubscribe link - probably not the optimal text to encourage your recipient to dive into the email. Then Jeanne came out with this gem:
Yes, you can simply place your fabulously engaging snippet/AutoPreview phrase at the very top of the e-mail where all will see it. Or you can use alt tags and place it beneath an image at the top of your e-mail (say, your logo). The alt tag text will come through in the snippet or AutoPreview area, but it won't be seen once the reader opens the e-mail.
What a top idea! We decided to have a go at this technique with the latest version of the Campaign Monitor newsletter, which of course, was sent a few hours before we saw this article.
We left the original email completely untouched, but added the following single pixel transparent image to the top of our email with some alt text that gave a good overview of the email contents, like such:
14 new email designs in the gallery, loads of tips and the latest updates for Campaign Monitor" src="explanation.gif" width="1" height="1" />
Here's a before and after sample of the original version of the email in both Gmail and Outlook and the updated version with the transparent image:
The alt text version now gives the recipients a much better idea about what to expect from our newsletter.
For some reason Outlook was inserting a weird line-break in our alt text that we couldn't avoid. If anyone knows the reasoning behind this we'd love to hear it. Either way though, a much improved bit of teaser text.
As you can see, that small hidden image gave our recipients a much better teaser about the content of the email, which would hopefully encourage more of our subscribers to check the email out. Big props to Jeanne for introducing us to the concept. I'd say we'll be using this approach for all our newsletters moving forward, and encourage you to do the same.