By Alyssa Nahatis, Director of Deliverability for Adobe:
Remember that old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words”? That made great sense in the world of print, but in the email world, it may not hold up. The highly visual nature of the Internet makes it tempting to fill your email marketing pieces with colorful imagery, but my advice is to use restraint.
Here’s the problem. Our human minds love pictures and the right image can create a brand association that is extremely valuable to your business. Images can evoke a memorable emotional response and add important aesthetic elements. Unfortunately, in an effort to control spam, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) sometimes focus on how you use images, and as a result, the way you use images can affect your emails’ deliverability.
Images can create a strong emotional response by reminding us of a brand of product, but they must be used carefully or you may wind up in the spam folder.
Here are some general principles to make sure your email gets to its intended recipient.
Don’t Design Your Email Like You Would a Print Mailer
It may be tempting to design your email like it was a printed brochure, flyer, or catalog, but resist that temptation! Most of the principles of design for print mailers will get you into trouble in the email world. The fact is that some ISPs default to NOT displaying images, so unless the user knows how to turn them on, they may never see your images. In fact, Litmus recently reported that “data analysis reveals image blocking affects 43% of Gmail emails.” Your email needs to include alt text so that your primary message and call to action are visible, even when images are disabled.
Keep Them on Top!
If you limit your use of images to the top two inches of your email template, you will be pretty safe. Most people scan email for less than two seconds before deciding if they will read it or move on and a great image can convince them to stay. But don’t forget that half your readers may not see your images, so be sure to have compelling text in those first two inches as well!
Don’t Send One Big Image
Your image may look great, but half your readers won’t see it and some ISPs will classify you as a spammer if your email is just one big image. Try to maintain a good balance with 40 percent images and 60 percent text in your HTML.
Don’t Put the Important Message in an Image
As I have said, half your viewers won’t see it, so put your important messages in the text. Also, don’t use images to link readers to your website. Rather, use formatted text links to redirect your readers.
Use “Alt Text”
Be sure you’ve designed your email piece so that when the reader hovers over the image with their cursor, they will see a text description of the image or whatever message you want them to see. Even if the image doesn’t load, you can still convey an important message or description.
Keep Them Small
Keep your image files as small as possible. Large files take longer to load and your reader may not wait around. You can also be flagged as a spammer if your image files are too large or you use too many images.
Images can help make your email more fun, readable, and memorable, but they must be used appropriately or they can keep your message from reaching your customers.
Alyssa Nahatis is Director of Deliverability for Adobe, where she’s responsible for leading the deliverability function for the company’s North American client base, including reputation management strategies and services, and deliverability operations.