Whether it’s a newsletter, a new product notifications, a reminder for an upcoming event, a sales lead followup or anything else – sending an HTML e-blast can be an effective way to get your message out to a lot of people at once. At Newhall Klein, we tend to build a lot of these for our clients, and many of the same questions come up. So let’s have a look at what to keep in mind when creating an e-blast:
In web design, it’s crucial to build something that is compatible for every type of user, regardless of their device, browser or email client. For e-blasts, this is an even harder task to accomplish. Why? Two reasons: 1: users are more diverse – different email services, different email clients, etc. And 2: HTML and CSS in emails are very restricted in terms of what you can or should do – email services strip out a lot of modern coding (mostly for security reasons), forcing coders to revert to way old-school techniques that are pretty inefficient.
Here are some tips that will help build more effective e-blasts:
1. Include text and include images but don’t only include images of text.
Confused? Don’t be. Basically, the goal is to deliver as much of your content as possible in actual, readable, searchable text – rather than a photo or picture file with a flat image of the text. Emails with only images and no text are a trigger for spam filters and are likely to automatically land in a Junk Mail folder and dismissed without ever seeing the glorious interior of a user’s Inbox. Not only that, but most email services require the user to click a ‘Display images’ button before automatically downloading all the contents of an HTML email. In that case, you want the user to be able to see some other content that will assure them that the email is worthwhile and not junk.
Left: a test eblast before images are displayed. Notice how all the pertinent text is still visible. Right: the same test after images are loaded.
2. Don’t go wider than 650 pixels.
Chances are that your recipient is viewing your e-blast in a preview pane within their email service like GMail or Yahoo!. A safe width for e-blasts is between 600 and 650 pixels. Height isn’t really an issue, just consider the length of your message, its purpose and the attention span of the reader.
2. Use a proper e-blast service.
Make sure you’re sending e-blasts from a proper Email Marketing service, rather than an individual’s email account. At NK, we’ve seen a lot of success with Vertical Response. There are a million technical reasons for this and they’ll take care of all of them so you don’t have to. Here are a few tip-of-the-iceberg things you can do:
- build a reader database
- host all your images on their servers
- track the success of your campaigns
- test your code as much as you want before you send it
3. Have a text version for backup.
Here’s another reason to use a service like Vertical Response – not everybody’s email supports HTML emails and not everybody chooses to accept HTML emails. Whether it’s a workplace security setting or personal preference, you don’t want to exclude these users altogether. A good email marketing service will build in a way to send text backups.
Here’s some more info about text versions:
4. Include a hosted version link.
Ever notice how HTML emails always have a link that says “Having trouble viewing this email? Click here to view it in a browser.”? That’s because it’s a practical solution for giving anybody the option to properly view the message if their email service is mucking it up. Again, a good e-blast service will include this by default.
5. Remind people why they’re receiving your email and make it easy to unsubscribe.
As a courtesy to your readers, it’s a good idea to end your email with a reminder that says something like “You’re receiving this message because you signed up for … Click here if you wish to unsubscribe.” Doing this reminds the reader that they signed up before they get trigger happy with the ‘This is Spam’ button. Of course, if they do decide to unsubscribe, that option must be clearly available to them.
6. Choose the right time to send.
Make an informed decision about when to send your email. Send a couple at different times and track which times your audience was more likely to read them. This will vary for different audiences, but some studies have shown that business e-blasts will often get better traffic when sent on Tuesday or Thursday morning. Find out when your audience is reading, and use it to your advantage.
That’s all (for now), folks!
There’s a look at getting started with e-blasts. One of the most important things to remember is to plan well. Plan exactly what date and time you want to send the message, and give yourself at least a week and a half to get it designed, coded and tested. There are a ton of more coding and design guidelines to consider that are not mentioned in this article. Creating a good, universally viewable HTML email can sometimes be one of the most tedious tasks in web design.
Give us a call, we’ll have e-blast!