Marketing Email Formats that Rock

temp-email-12Effective formatting can promote your brand, make your text more compelling, draw your readers’ eye to your call to action, and increase your conversions. Whether you’re drafting simple, 100% text emails (which can be completely effective) or HTML-based newsletters (remember to create a text version too!), check out these formatting tips to improve the readability of your emails.


When selecting color, less is best. Too many colors looks disorganized and unprofessional, so choose a palette of up to three, maybe four, and stick to it for all your communications. Use a web tool to help you choose.

You want to aim for a neutral for the background, a contrasting text color, a complimentary color for the header and footer, and a light or bright color to pop out elements that need extra attention. You probably can use the same color for the border, headers, text, and accents like textbox lines. Your links will probably be the pop color. If you decide on another attention-grabbing color, use it sparingly; you may want to eye-drop it from your images or logo.

Form Imitates Function

For the same reason that all McDonalds restaurants look and operate the same, an email that imitates your website will train readers to shop your website quickly and efficiently, making them more likely to want to shop on your site. The placement of links, headers, footers, and buttons should be placed as identically as possible in both. By familiarizing readers to your website, you create a branded look that they feel is consistant and trusted.

Simple Code Tricks

When writing a newsletter or yearly roundup, use a table of contents with target links so readers can jump to the info that interests them.

Use nested tables to place your content exactly where you want it. Creative use of tables is a powerful way to control where content shows upon a page, and there is no limit to the number of tables you can nest inside one another. Your software for email marketing should provide you with a WYSIWYG editor (i.e., an email editor that looks like a word processor, instead of HTML or CSS code), but it’s helpful to know what’s going on behind the scenes so you can fix any coding problems that crop up.

Adapting Format to User Behavior

When designing for the email preview pane, put links and your call to action in the top left corner. Include more text near the top, less images. Most people won’t download images in the preview pane, but they are more likely to scroll to read the whole email if there is interesting text. You don’t need to write a full paragraph — just a sentence or two and a call to action that will show up in 600 pixels or less and left-oriented.

Above all, make sure that space isn’t consumed by a banner add; if your recipients have images turned off, they won’t see anything; and even if they have them turned on, in the preview pane, all they will see is a portion of an image that doesn’t compel them to read more or do anything.

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