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Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2011 at 10:22 am

Do Your Emails Make This Monumental Mistake?

By Brendan Regan
March 29th, 2011

Today’s post will be short and sweet because I simply want to deliver a warning to any readers who do email marketing. Hopefully, that’s every reader out there, and hopefully NONE of you are making this mistake :)

First off, assume that your prospects are viewing your email with images “blocked.” Taking that one step is crucial if you want to have effective email marketing efforts. For a collection of good articles on image suppression in emails, this is a good place to start.

Check out this sad email I received from a true powerhouse in the online retail business [click thumbnail to enlarge]. They should know better! Do a quick scan of the screenshot. Can you see the call to action? The single most important element in the email? Assuming I want to take the action you offer me in your email, it’s a crime to make the call to action that difficult to see! I’m sure it looks great with images downloaded, but with images blocked, it’s awful.

Having someone preview your test emails in a few major email clients, with images suppressed of course, can help you avoid bush league mistakes like this one. Simply build that basic check into your email marketing process, and you’ll probably be ahead of your competition. We encourage our clients to build those kinds of checks into all of their optimization efforts, email and otherwise.

Now, check out this email from our friends at [click thumbnail to enlarge]. While any email can be further optimized, they’ve nailed the basics of creating emails that are persuasive (and usable) with images blocked. The headline is prominent, the formatting is clean, and the call to action is made prominent using a colored background, larger font, underline, and some arrows. It’s obvious what the call to action is and what I need to click on if I want to take action.

As promised, this was a brief rant–make your call to action visually prominent even with images blocked. For bonus points, build an “images blocked” quality assurance test into your email marketing process. To get help making your email marketing better, contact us about our subscription improvement services.

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Comments (35)

  1. I have seen mails where they forgot to add alt tag to the images. So many people who receive such mails miss the images or even call to action.

  2. Something so simple that it could easily be overlooked. I know that I view emails with images blocked and only “ok” images if I feel a need.

    As you don’t know what you’re missing when you can’t see the images, I’m sure people who overlook this do miss many sales.

  3. Hi Brendan, this is a great post and not something I’ve seen written about before. I agree it’s really bad to have a hidden or missing call to action, especially if you’ve spent a long time crafting a great subject line to get your email opened.

  4. Brendan – thanks for the great article. I read an article written by the Best Buy CEO about his ups and downs embracing social media…I guess he can add this to the list.

  5. @Mihir
    Alt tags are essential, but I think just having a call to action anywhere on the page in text would have helped.

    Brendan, Thanks for the heads up. Had a long conversation with our Email Marketing Manager about this topic this afternoon. Also, major LOL @ “bush league mistakes” Classic.

  6. I normally view all my emails with images blocked, since thats the default option. But most of the marketing mails that i receive wont take this into account, such that unless i read the mail along with the email, i wont understand anything. Same goes for everyone.

  7. Man, such a little thing that can destroy conversions. I guess I’ll always include text call to actions in emails from now on.

  8. I think adding alt text with imags is really a good idea and it always bring positive results.

  9. Brendan, thanks for the advice. Agree that doing email marketing with blocked images is waste of time and energy. Should do something more profitable and with value.

  10. Think it is almost impossible to show your email in good format on all the email clients out there. I just check my emails in outlook, gmail, yahoo and hotmail. But a very good point, “Point of action” should probably be all in text so it does not get blocked.

  11. I get emails every day where people fail to attatch the image properly and it takes so long to load.

  12. I constantly see issues like this! It’s especially apparent with larger companies like Best Buy and others who think they can just stick a big image up with all the content and a few links. If the image doesn’t show, you are missing out on pretty much everything. It’s a big problem as far as Email Conversion goes. Maybe we can email the big wigs at these companies and tell them their guys are messing up. May be a job opening available, LOL.

  13. I would say 90% of all email ads/ blasts that I get make this mistake. I usually place a link in the standard email to a ‘sexy’ version of what I send out.

  14. This is a huge mistake! Especially for people like me using Thunderbird. This program default blocks all images I receive. So most marketing e-mails are blank pages until I personally allow them. Campaign destroyed! Boom!

  15. Great post. Email marketing is tough with more and more email clients blocking images. It is ever so important to test and repair any calls to action to increase ROI. Thanks for the post and the link with tons of info.

  16. I get emails like these a lot, if it interests me I’ll unblock pictures, if it doesn’t seem worth my time, I thrash it.

  17. My biggest quest at the moment is to get response to link exchanges. In the subject line I put the site owners name, Page ONE of Google and a request for YES or NO.

    It still has a very low response rate. Maybe no one responds to these emails anymore, even if it can benefit them. I am sure there is another whole science field related to this …

  18. I recently subscribed to a local diners “online club” that sends an occasional email offer and I too block images in my emails. I have been getting emails from this diner that are 95% image. I literally have not a clue what the email is about until I allow the images to download. I would expect that from a diner, but any online business doing it goes to the deleted items folder.

  19. Hi Brendan,

    Thanks for this informative post.It is true that so many companies send out their mail shots without a clear call to action about what to do next.

    This will surely leave their subscribers confused about what to do next , thus missing on the objective that email was intended for.


  20. Great info! Unfortunately for me I learned this lesson the hard way recently.

  21. Email marketing is even worse than designing websites for IE6. But using this tip helps out a lot. :-)

  22. @Bruce The Dog Walker – maybe people are just savvy to the fact that link exchanges can undermine their site ranking? If you write content relevant to your customer base, you will give your customers a better chance of finding you in their searches, naturally…. AND, people with similar sites may want to link to your content of their own accord.

  23. I am not an email marketer but I had made the mistake of placing an image for my signatures in my email. I didn’t realize this was a mistake until I read your blog article. thanks.

  24. We are just planning to do a new email campaign and any info is useful. What we need to know exactly what to do so the email do not end up un spam?

  25. We are planning a new series of emails. I never considered this even though I don’t usually download the images on email. Talk about overlooking the obvious. Thanx

  26. I just started doing email campaigns, and have put in the alt tags for the images, but totally neglected the call to action. doh! Thanks!

  27. We are amazed at the amount of missing alt tags within e-mails that we receive. We enjoyed this post, keeps those mistakes fresh on our minds!

  28. OMG thank you for this. Im not quite an email marketing type but have picked up quite a few things that I frequently do and should avoid. TY

  29. I always send test emails to hotmail, gmail and other free accounts that does not have my email adress in the whitelist eller blacklist to see how it looks.

  30. Thanks for this useful info; as much as I can I try to put myself on the position of the recipient and I agree to the fact that most of the time, leads can turn into junk if not optimized properly. Two sides of the coin though, emails that have visual impact can generate more clients, however, if it is blocked, an optimized text can be of use too. I will definitely put this article on my check list. Thanks!

  31. Thanks Brendan,Very useful pointer there.We keep overlooking the fact there are still text only browsers and non visual users of the internet. Does inclusion of the alt text increase visibily in search engines as well?

  32. @John – We just wrote a post to answer your question. Thank you for inspiring us!

  33. You know what’s funny? I didn’t even know that Gmail had an option to display images in e-mails. But that is true, viewing an e-mail with a bunch of small Xs are cumbersome and I usually exit out quickly.

  34. @ Marijayne Bushey. Contrary to what you have posted, and seo ‘experts’ tell clients (just to gain business – reciprocal links still work. that is how I initially got onto page one of google – without one way links. I understand that they are not in fashion these days – but guess what, they still work. Once you are one page one for your keywords, then sure, people can find you. My comment was about getting acceptance rates up for the emails. I think mostly they may not be getting through email filters, or people are just very busy (the main reason given). Reciprocal dont hurt sites as much as ‘seo experts’ who are just drumming up business would like everyone to think!

  35. When we test our emails with family and friends, be sure not use the same type of persons throughout your sample segment. Pick all ages, income levels, political leanings, religious, etc. You want the data to reflect an honest cross section of the large audience you hope to reach.

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