Embedding/Attaching Images In Email: Why Shouldn’t I Do It?

If you are new to sending marketing emails and need advice on how to design html email templates , or if you are currently sending email but aren’t satisfied with the click-through or deliverability results, this article explains why embedding/attaching images in email may actually make your email less successful and get it blocked by SPAM filters.

Embedding/Attaching Images In Email: Why Shouldn’t I Do It?

Without a doubt, the number one error we see in companies who want to begin an email marketing program is the desire to design an email that looks exactly like a webpage or, worse yet, like a print postal mailer by embedding images in email without any hesitation.

It easy to understand why email designers like images. An email, just like any other piece of marketing material, looks better when it’s got appealing images in it. If it displays properly to the end-user, it probably converts better as well. The problem, as you’re about to see, is that most end-users won’t see the images and graphics you embedded. As an added bonus, embedding images in email will often get your email sent to the spam folder.

Embedding/Attaching Images In Email: Is It the Only Way to Include Images in Email?

Actually, there are two ways to include images in an email. The first way ensures that the user will see the image, even if in some cases it’s only as an attachment to the message. This method is exactly what we call as “embedding images in email ” in daily life. Essentially, you’re attaching the image to the email. The plus side is that, in one way or another, the user is sure to get the image. While the downside is two fold. Firstly, spam filters look for large, embedded images and often give you a higher spam score for embedding images in email (Lots of spammers use images to avoid having the inappropriate content in their emails read by the spam filters.). Secondly, if you pay to send your email by weight or kilobyte, this increases the size of your message. If you’re not careful, it can even make your message too big for the parameters of the email provider.

The second way to include images (and the better way) is the same way that you put an image on a web page. Within the email, you insert an image using the url that is the reference to the image’s location on your web server. If you don’t have access to upload images on your own web server, you can use any number of free image hosting services. This has several benefits. Firstly, you won’t get caught for spamming or for your message “weighing” too much because of the image size. Secondly, you can make changes to the images after the email has been sent if you find errors in them. On the flip side, your recipient will need to actively turn on image viewing in their email client to see your images.

Embedding/Attaching Images In Email: What Does “Turn Image Viewing On” Mean?

Unfortunately, image urls and image files can be used to plant viruses on computers and to collect information about people. For this reason, most email service providers, such as Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail, set the default status on delivered messages to block images from being viewed by default.

What a user sees when this happens is a large, white, empty space (with your image alt or title text if you’ve included it) and often a message to right click to download the images. Most people spend less than a minute scanning an email while they decide whether to read it or delete it. If you’re email is full of images, they don’t see much that allows them to make a decision. Chances are, unless users are already very loyal to your brand and interested in your content, you are about to get deleted.

Email users can overwrite the “images off” default in their email, but most of them don’t. Most studies and surveys reveal that anywhere from 40% to 60% of users read email with the images turned off. Any way you cut it, that’s almost half of your recipient base who won’t see your email with the images embedded as you intended. And that’s not even counting mobile phone users!

Embedding/Attaching Images In Email: How Much Do Mobile Phone Users Impact Image Viewing?

Increasingly, mobile phone users impact your email viewing greatly. Recent studies suggest that up to 20% of your users check their mail on text-only mobile phone applications. If your email is a single image, or is based on a great deal of images, you won’t resolve to those users at all.

So, What Should I Do?

Surprisingly, you should use images. You should just use very few of them and be careful where you put them.

Images definitely have a marketing impact. A portion of your viewers will see them and turn them on. If you just follow these basic steps with images, you’ll be fine. Also, remember that you can do a lot of things just using html tables and colors that will make your email visually appealing AND deliverable.

The Less Than 25% Rule: No more than 25% of the real estate in your email template should be image-based. You want at least ¾ of the email to be readable without images.

Alt and Title Text: This is the text that is contained within your image url that appears when the image doesn’t load (and in some cases appears when your mouse hovers over a graphic). Having this text beneath your graphics is important because you can still convey the message that was in the graphic even if the graphic doesn’t load.

Don’t use images for important messages! The basic rule is this: “If it’s important that your readers know a piece of information, it cannot be trapped in an image.” All important information, such as price, product title, value proposition and expiration date, must be in html text. This includes “Click to order” buttons. If those are images, you’ll have users looking for where they’re supposed to click, and possibly not finding it. Those should be html buttons.

Images are an important part of any marketing campaign or collateral. However, email presents challenges in that you can’t control how the end product displays to the user in all cases. It’s better to have an email that can be delivered and seen by the user than to have one that looks fantastic, but only when it’s loaded on your computer screen and not when it’s in an inbox!