#1 Finding the Text-to-Image Balance
As it becomes increasingly easy to create your own images with tools like Photoshop and Illustrator, the tendency to format email newsletters as a whole image is appealing and less costly than employing a professional designer. It allows for elaborate backgrounds, fonts, and pictures to be incorporated in the message while ensuring everything looks exactly the way you put it together, no matter the browser, the email client or the device. However, what many companies drafting email campaigns don’t realize is that these splashy, image-based emails pose a greater disservice to them than producing a less elaborate email with more text.
A 2009 report from CampaignMonitor.com found that only 48% of images in marketing emails are automatically loaded without the recipient having to tweak their email client settings or respond to a “click here to download images” prompt. This means that only a portion of each email being sent is actually seen; and if the email you are sending out is comprised solely of images, recipients could be viewing a blank slate. Depending on the email client the recipient is using, they may not even know you sent them a message, as most email clients send image-ridden messages that aren’t already on a safe list directly to junk mail by default.
Does this mean that email messages must be boring blocks of text? Of course not. You still want readers to pay attention to what you have to say, and images are an integral part of that. The key is to create email messages that communicate all necessary information even if the images do not load, or – in other words – create messages with a text-to-image balance.
There should always be text present in an email to relay the pertinent information. Images in the message should be complementary, wherein they provide added value to the information already available via text – they should never be the entire focus or hold the bulk of the information in case they are never seen. However, this does not tackle the issue that when images are not allowed to be shown, the email is displayed in HTML format in which case a large, blank space with the image file name scribbled in the corner is all the recipient sees.
To supplement the vacant space, some of the most important bit of text you can place in your email is ALT-text – literally meaning alternative text. When emails are shown in HTML format, whatever copy has been used as ALT-text is displayed in place of the generic image file name within the empty space left behind from the image. ALT-text contributes to the text-to-image balance by showing something to the email client rather than giving it an image it can’t read, helping the message to potentially bypass the spam filters and land in the inbox so that it can be seen by the recipient.
Once the recipient opens the message, they still will likely see the message in HTML format until they tell the email client that the message is from a safe sender – naturally, the recipient has to actually want to add your company and future emails to a safe list. The presence of ALT-text where images should be essentially lets the recipient to read the image, allowing them to decide things like whether or not they want to download the images, whether they want to click through to your site, and whether they want to add you to their email safe list – the easiest way to bypass spam filters altogether.