One of the “rules” (read: “accepted practices”) of email marketing is to not use a lot of images in your emails. There are several smart reasons for this:
- Unless the recipient has emails enabled by default, she only sees blank blocks where the images are until she clicks on “Display images.”
- Since the recipient has to download images but can see text by default, focus on the text. The top first few lines of your email that get seen in the reading pane or without the recipient scrolling down are extremely important, and unless you have really involved subscribers you need to use text to engage their attention and get them to keep reading (or download the images).
- Images take time to load, especially if your recipient has a slow internet connection.
- Spam filters don’t like lots of images, especially an entire email that is just an image or a block of images.
All of which are good reasons to not use too many images in your emails. Look at this email I recently got after signing up for a free e-book.
Yes, that’s the entire email. No pictures, no formatting except for the colored and underlined hyperlinks. Simple and clear, and might even fool you into thinking this is a personal email instead of an automated one.
And for the audience — people who want to read a book — it’s perfect.
But, especially in bigger companies, you can rarely get away with this. “Where’s the company logo?” the Boss will ask. “Why is it so boring?” the Other Boss will say. “I want something jazzy!”
So to throw them a bone, the email marketer adds an image or two, but not so many that they distract from the copy.
This is an email I got from MarketingProfs. It’s prettier than the email before it, and makes sense for a more sales-y email, where they are trying to get you to convert. You still have to click on “display images” to view that stylized tablet in the header and the logo below, but your audience aren’t missing much if they don’t download images.
I got this from Shutterstock. It is filled with images, but it’s a stock photo site, so how can you do otherwise?
Instead of using images to reinforce messaging, their messaging is cleverly contained within the images, demonstrating a clever use of stock photos (which of course, is their product). Even though it breaks the few-images rule with impunity, I love this one.
But beware if you go this route: this is what your email will look like!
Are you sure your audience would open this email and enable images? If you decide to risk it, remember to include good descriptive alt tags! In the email above, some of the images (the ones to the left and the right of the box that says “Share Footage Clipboxes”) have no image tags at all and some of those tags don’t tell you enough (What does “Share Footage Clipboxes” mean?).
So only include lots of images in your email if:
- You are sure most of your audience wouldn’t be turned off and would download images, or
- You have a highly visual product (apart from photography, this could apply to jewelry, clothing, art, landscaping services, real estate, holidays, and so many others, but not as well to say, consulting services, accounting, career coaching, etc.)
But “Use few images” isn’t an absolute rule, and the more important guideline to follow is “Know your audience.” If including more images appeals to your audience rather than turns them off, it would be smart to include them. If you don’t know what your audience would prefer, test. Send half of your email list an email with few, or no, images, and send the other half an email with more images, and see which gets you better results (opens, clicks, shares and conversions).
And use the right images — images that will actually draw attention, tempt your audience to click on your email, or draw a gasp of wonder.
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