HTML Emails: How To Use Images Effectively

HTML messages offer several advantages to senders:

  • they can be customized to include colors, formatted text and tables
  • they enable the sender to track message open rates
  • they allow the sender to hyperlink words and phrases rather than typing out full URLs

However, many email programs by default block HTML images from being displayed, including the following popular software and web-based email clients:

  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Mozilla Thunderbird (unless sender is in Personal Address Book)
  • AOL (for non whitelisted senders or sender IP’s not on the enhanced whitelist)
  • Yahoo (for messages that Yahoo’s SpamGuard believes are spam)
  • Hotmail (for messages in Junk folder)
  • Gmail

If your messages are image-heavy, image blocking can cause them to look significantly different than the way you envision them. It can also cause your open rates to appear artificially low, since if images are blocked, the image used for open rate tracking is blocked.

What Can You Do?

1. Give Subscribers An Online Version

I know, I’ve hit on this previously, but I like it. It drives subscribers back to your site, it lets them read (and re-read) your content in whatever format they prefer, and you can simply do more with a web page, such as stream audio or video, than you can in an email.

2. Inform Subscribers About Your Images

Your subscribers may or may not know that their email clients block images. They may simply think that “broken” images mean you’ve screwed up your message. Provide a section near the top of the message that addresses this, something like:

Can’t See Pictures?

Use the link to direct subscribers either to an online version of the message, or to a page of your site where you explain to them how to enable/display the images in your message/s.

3. Avoid HTML Messages That Need Images To Be Effective

Images are a great tool to use to enhance the effectiveness of your messages. They shouldn’t be the heart of your messages, though.

HTML messages that rely primarily on the strength of the text you provide, and supplement that text with graphics, will be more readable in an inbox than an image-heavy message that looks awkward or blank when images are blocked.

4. Test Your Messages

Set yourself up free email accounts at the major web-based ISPs:

  • Yahoo
  • Hotmail
  • AOL
  • Gmail

Test your messages to each account. Leave all settings at their defaults. This will let you see what your subscribers, particularly those who don’t know or don’t care how to adjust their email settings, see when they get your mail. Then, make whatever changes you feel are necessary to your messages.