Best Practices for Using Images in Email Marketing

images_emailUsing images in an email can be tricky. You want your email to be eye-catching, but images are a liability. 60% of people have their images turned off in webmail — i.e., blocked from downloading — and 20% of people read email on their phones, which prevent images from download improperly, if they can view images at all.

As a general design tip, don’t devote more than 25% of your email’s content to images, and don’t hide important information in images. When you do use images, ensure your message is still heard by following these tips.

Coding Images

There are two ways to include images in an email: embedded and referenced with the img tag. Embedding, or using “inline” image attachments, is how you typically include images in business and personal email. The image is dropped or attached into the email and sent with the email. Your email marketing software provider uploads the image and your recipient downloads the image.

Photos are large amounts of data to upload, and when you are sending mass emails, that’s possibly gigabytes of data you’re transmitting in a single email blast. Further, your recipients may not appreciate having to download an image in order to receive your email; many email users block images in webmail because of privacy or virus concerns and others regularly read email on smartphones, which have data restrictions. Some older phones and Blackberries don’t allow image downloading at all. You want to avoid sending too many large image files because they may increase your spam score with your ESP (unfortunately, since the algorithm to determine how an email is spam is private information, there’s no way to know how big or how many images are okay).

Instead, link to your images with the img tag, the way you insert images into web pages. When you do this, images are saved on your web server, and you can edit or change the image after the email is sent. This won’t help you get around people who have their email images turned off, but if you include descriptive alt text, a human being in the From field, personalized subject headings, and useful content, you may entice them to turn on images for your emails.

Incorporating Images into Your Format

Always make sure your email looks professional, readable, and interesting without the images. To make a plain email look visually interesting, design it clean and scannable: use CSS formatting to set apart text boxes, write in short paragraphs of about 200 words, use a call to action in each section of text, and link back to your social media pages and website.

Don’t bury text or important information — such as your call to action — in an image. And remember to draft a plain text version, which your ESP can bind and send with the HTML version.

Dual Purpose Images

Web users expect images to be links. Most computer users are becoming accustomed to the graphic layout of smartphones, tablets, and even the increasingly graphic Internet. It’s becoming instinctive, now, that an image does something if you click on it. So make it a link. Here¬†are simple, clear instructions for including link code in your image code.


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