Jul 16, 2007

10 Emails with Images-Off

Here’s a great review of 10 HTML emails from 10 different retailers, and how they all looked with images turned off:

http://www.banane.com/workblog/?p=32

Most of us know that when you receive HTML email, the images are turned off by default. You have to click a button to display them. But I’m surprised by how many new email marketers think that won’t apply to them for some reason.

They call us up and ask us, "Before I join MailChimp, how can you guarantee that all my images will display, so that I don’t have to click some button?"

Or, after they send their first campaign, they call us up with a
frantic tone in their voice, and ask us why all their images are broken
in their email program.

"Well, you know how you have to click the Show Images button for all the other emails you receive? Same goes for yours."

Images-Off is a real bummer for the new email marketer.

There are ways to deal with image blocking:

1. Get added to your recipients’ address books, or "trusted senders" lists. This is otherwise known as "getting whitelisted"

  • When people opt-in to your list, ask them to add your email
    address to their address books so that your future emails don’t get
    accidentally spam filtered.
  • This requires that you setup an email address for your
    newsletters, and that you stick to it. Don’t change your reply-to
    address often.
  • This also requires that your email campaigns have good, relevant content (make it worth their time to whitelist you)

2. Pay for email certification.

  • If you’re Goodmail certified, images are displayed ON by default in AOL, Yahoo, and more. Details at Goodmail
     
  • If you’re SenderScore certified, images and links are ON by default in Hotmail
     
  • Certification in general requires that you send from your own
    dedicated IP address (so that emails from other businesses don’t
    influence your reputation). So long as you have some good sending
    history under your belt, and pay the monthly fees (based on delivery
    volume), your IP gets added to a global "trusted" list.
  • Typically, email certification is too expensive for most small business.
  • More info on email certification

3. Use alt-text effectively.

  • Alt-text is the description you add to your images when you code web pages. They get displayed while an image is loading. Because they’re usually a "web-page-thing" they sometimes get ignored in HTML email. Big mistake. Always include alt-text, because it tells recipients, "Hey, there’s an image here, and you should really want to see it" Here’s an example from a recent Gap HTML email.
  • Use CSS on your images to make alt-text look huge and colorful. It’s a hack we detailed here.
  • We’ve seen some marketers use paragraphs and paragraphs of alt-text on a single 1×1 pixel transparent .GIF at the top of the email. Once images are turned on, the image goes away, along with the alt-text. It’s a hack, and we wouldn’t go too far with it (spend more time on quality content, please) but it’s an idea that might be useful for one of your campaigns. Keep it in your back pocket.

4. Don’t worry too much.

  • Images being turned off is a fact of life now. Most people are trained to click the button if they want to see your images (just make sure they know that there are actually images to be turned on).
  • Always include a link to "View this email in your browser." MailChimp makes a copy of your newsletter, and links to it automatically for you. It’s consistently in the top 3 most clicked links in all the campaigns we send to our own customers.

No matter what: always be relevant. Make it useful, and they will open. Send useless stuff, too often, and you’ll start to be ignored.