Image Blocking Work-Arounds for Email Marketers

Just 2 years ago e-marketers where sending email marketing messages made up entirely of high-gloss images superbly manipulated by highly paid graphic artists.

The email marketing landscape has since shifted and email clients such as Outlook, Eudora, LotusNotes, Yahoo and Gmail all now come with image blocking as standard. This means the days of the single image as your entire message are now over.

The main reason for image blocking by email clients is to stop pornographic images from automatically opening when you're reading your email. Blocking images also prevents Spammers from knowing if their messages are opened and verifying that your email address is real. Basically image blocking is an attempt at protecting your personal privacy.

How do spammers do that?

When Spammers create their messages they put a tiny invisible image into the message. This image works like the confirmation request or return receipt option you can add when sending regular email.

When the email message is opened this invisible image triggers a report back to the sender to let them know the email message the image was in has been opened.

Not only do they know that you opened the email message, the Spammer now knows that the email address they sent the message to is a real one. Now they can bombard your email Inbox with their messages or unlawfully sell your email address to unsuspecting innocent marketers.

And that's why our modern day email clients have image blocking.

For legitimate email marketers there are implications too -

  • Open rates appear lower than they actually are when tracking relies on triggering an image.
  • Advertisers experience lower click through rates from email banner ads that are being image blocked.
  • Image blocking means your call to action or any text message in the graphics you put in your email aren't getting viewed or read.
  • PDA, mobile phone and other mobile device are being built so that email messages are displayed in plain text only. That means they will never see images in emails ever.

Some things you can do

Here are 10 smart things you can do to make sure your messages get seen (and read) by your subscribers as you intended.

  1. Ask your subscribers to add your email address to their address book (some email clients will automatically display images in the message when it comes from a known/recognised sender).
  2. Always provide a link to a web version of your email message (the option to view the complete message via a web browser is perceived to be a safer option than opening with an email client).
  3. Before you send your message, check to see what it looks like with images blocked (don't rely on images in your message to do all the selling - a text call to action is a must in your messages).
  4. Always create a plain-text version of your message (everyday more people turn to their mobile phones for reading email, so don't miss the sales opportunity because you only send HTML emails).
  5. Double up on links. If you have an image that is a link make sure you also have a text one (the more links in your message the more likely one of them will be clicked on, either with or without images being displayed).
  6. Don't waste the top left corner of your message with an image banner or logo (preview panes, irrespective of whether they're set up to display horizontally or vertically, have a 2 - 4 inch box in the top left corner of your message that is guaranteed always to be seen), use this space for text and your message; to get people to open your message and read it.
  7. Use the top 2 inches of your message to get to the point for your reader (tuck away the special links like 'view as a web page', 'update your subscription' and 'unsubscribe' in a prominent position that isn't in the valuable top 2 inches).
  8. Use smaller images and combine with decorative text to create your message, rather than using one large image (it's surprising how fantastic colour text, a few lines and whitespace looks, check out any luxury brands to see this in action).
  9. Refrain from using images as decorative elements like bullet points (with images blocked the email will display with lots of little red crosses every where in place of the missing images - it is confusing and looks terrible).
  10. Give your images an alternative description, also called 'alt value' (good 'alt' values are usually a few words that provide a call to action, describe what the image is or give an explanation - they entice and describe as briefly as possible).

For e-marketers, image blocking is just another thing to consider when designing messages. It's not something that's going to go away in a hurry and trends with PDAs and mobile phones suggest that image blocking is the way of the future.

So grab the ideas from this article and begin implementing them in your messages to get the best out of every message you send.

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