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March 30, 2011

HTML Email Marketing – Two Mistakes You Are Making Right Now

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HTML email marketing is almost irresistibly tempting for anyone seeking to do email advertising because, let’s face it, it looks so cool sending all that wonderfully formatted and professional-looking email doesn’t it? I mean even the ‘little guy’ can look like a ‘player’ with a bit of work.

Um, no. The fundamental difficulty with HTML email marketing is… what looks fantastic at your end… often looks absolutely atrocious at the other.

Here’s why:

First, HTML is a standard… but not every email client interprets it the same way. Like it or not every creator, manufacturer and developer of HTML rendering software has his own slant on things. And, rightly or wrongly, despite the standards, the same HTML is shown differently by different browsers and email clients.

For example, Google’s Gmail shows HTML differently from Hotmail and Yahoo (I know, because I’ve tested it). And then you have the standalone email clients like Thunderbird, Eudora, Pegasus, Outlook, and Lord knows how many others, each with its own idea on how things should look.

The upshot of all this is what YOU can see at your end as the email writer is NOT what everyone else is going to see — of that you can be sure. Your only real question is exactly how MUCH difference is there between what you can see and what they can see.

And unless you’re prepared to test every email before you send it with, say, the top 20% of email clients that will represent the choices of about 80% of your readers, you’ll never know. In other words, you could be sending out emails that look like a dog’s dinner to your prospects, clients and customers… and you’ll never even know it.

And secondly… your pictures are NOT shown. There’s a second reason why what you see at your end isn’t the same as what your readers see, and it’s to do with security.

When you include an image in an email, often it’s hosted remotely — say, on your website or somewhere else. And the idea is, when the recipient opens it, the email client downloads the picture and displays it.

Only… this is a huge security and privacy issue, so most decent email clients do NOT display images by default and instead show a message saying, in effect, “click here to see images in this message”. And people rarely bother.

Why would they? It pays to remember an important rule of marketing here: no one cares about you; all they care about is what’s in it for them.. So while you might try to offer some inducement for them click and show images, they almost never will and all you’ve done is put yet another obstacle in the way of your marketing efforts.

And meanwhile, the images not being shown means your email looks absolutely terrible (I had one recently which clearly had everything of interest as a remotely hosted image, because all I got was the ‘missing image’ icon).

Plain works best

In general plain-text or very simple HTML works best (by simple I mean use bold, italic, underline and link-anchors and that’s all you need). You get better readership and your click-through-rate tends to be higher.

Does this really work?

Yes. If you doubt me on this, just sign up to emails from the big-name Internet marketing gurus who test this kind of thing to death, and you’ll see probably without exception plain and simple is the way to go.

Give it a try and let me know how it works out.


Lead generation and email marketing expert Jon McCulloch is the author of “BIG Marketing Muscle for Small Business”. This book reveals the strategies he has used with his clients to realize response rates over 300% better than traditional methods (and over 1,000,000 pieces sent, so this is not just ‘theory’).

Your free book is waiting for you here: => http://www.jonmcculloch.com/big-marketing-muscle

3 Responses to “HTML Email Marketing – Two Mistakes You Are Making Right Now

    avatar Vizz Media says:

    You are right Jonathan.These two have been the biggest problems with any email marketing campaign.There is yet another problem with pictures. Sometimes, pictures which are not properly optimized also failed to be displayed due to low internet speed.While embedding pictures to our campaign, we should make sure to optimize them properly.

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    avatar Ryan says:

    I agree. Sometimes simple is the best way to go. We make sure that when we are working with a client on email marketing, that they understand this and that we do our best to make sure that we test our emails in as many programs as we can to ensure that they look nice before they are sent out.

    avatar Jerrick says:

    i been sending mail which all in HTML format and i did not find the problem until i read this blog. That true, even i have click to show the photo. I rather delete the mail rather than take my PC in risk. Maybe next time i would like to include some wording as call to action to ask them to accept it to view the picture.

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