To stand out from the crowd in your customer's inbox, it's critical for marketers to design their emails with deliverability, readability and action in mind, states Lyris CMO Blaine Mathieu in his contributed chapter of the DirectMarketingIQ special report, "All About Email Creative: Trends, Best Practices and Case Studies."
In the chapter "Design Matters—Best Practices for Improving Email Performance," Mathieu offers a number of tips on how marketers can improve the performance of their emails through the use of some key best practices.
• Be prepared for blocked images. Unfortunately, blocked images are a fact of life for email marketers. However, you don't have to skip images altogether. Mathieu explains that first, marketers must ensure their email designs work well both ways, with images blocked—showing empty boxes in lieu of engaging graphics—and images visible. The design and content must be strong enough to stand alone without the images.
One design trick to get around the "empty box" syndrome is to have graphics set as background images. According to Mathieu, "Email clients simply don't show these [background] images when graphics are disabled, without putting empty boxes in their places."
• Become familiar with alt tag text. When non-textual elements like images can't be displayed in an email, the alt tag text provides alternate text that can explain what the email recipient isn't seeing. A number of marketers use alt tag text that explains how to turn the blocked images on; however, most email recipients already know how to do this. Instead, take the time to write appropriate alt tag copy that could garner unexpected interest in what the reader is missing.
• Put your links to work. According to Mathieu, "Studies show that emails with 25 or more links have an open rate 12 percent higher than those containing fewer than 25 links, and a clickthrough rate that is 29 percent higher than for emails with fewer than 25 links." Nonetheless, don't go link-happy placing a bunch at the bottom of the email, he warns. "This is a common spam tactic and could hurt delivery."
Instead, place links throughout the email and be sure that all images, especially the company logo, are clickable links. Explains Mathieu, "Consumers are trained to click on images and expect them to work."