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8 reasons why HTML emails will hurt your marketing efforts

By Valerie Tay
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2004

HTML emails have been around for a while. They look more professional than their text-only counterparts and actually generate better click-through rates. For example, there are studies which show that click-through rate for text emails for some industries is 7.1% while that for HTML emails is 10%.

That being said, many marketers are still not keen to publish in html. The reason: there are many problems associated with HTML emails that can actually hurt, rather than aid your marketing campaign. So let’s make a list of how HTML can be hurtful to your marketing efforts.

1.Different email clients work differently

Internet Explorer (IE) is the dominant Web browsers used by most web surfers, so when it comes to designing websites, as long as the site presents well in IE, chances are, most visitors to your site can view it properly.

Unfortunately, the equation becomes more complicated if we are talking about emails since there are different types of email clients (eg., Outlook Express, Eudora, web-based email clients and so on), each with different capabilities, settings, versions, etc. that make it more difficult to predict how your email will look like at the recipients’ end. Generally speaking, the capabilities of web-based email clients such as Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo! Mail are not as robust as program-based email clients, so certain effects that appear all right in program-based clients may not show properly in web-based clients. Another example is how some web-based clients cause your re-directs on URL to break or appear as plain text making it such that links that are crucial to making the sales do not work. The worst blunder happens when your recipient receives a marketing message that they can’t read at all. This is the case with some email clients such as Pine that don’t have the capability to read HTML or AOL that can’t display HTML properly. Consider also the problem your recipients will encounter if they use PDA and Internet-capable cellular phone. These devices don’t support HTML email at all.

2.The problem with printing HTML emails

Some of your recipients like to print their emails and read them offline for a variety of reasons. The danger of this to your marketing message is that graphical components in your HTML email may appear as blank boxes with icons indicating that graphics should be there, but are unfortunately not there. When such blank boxes appear, you are kissing goodbye to the hope that your graphical HTML email will present a professional image to your recipients. Instead of looking disjointed and untidy with blank boxes, your message will have a greater impact if it has no frills (i.e., plain text), but is presented in a properly formatted way.

3.Connecting your users to the Internet when they don’t intend that

Sometimes, the action of opening a HTML email will trigger a connection to the Internet when your user doesn’t have the intention to be connected. This results in inconvenience to your users because they then have to disconnect from the Internet.

4.HTML emails load slower

Internet users are an impatient bunch. At the very least, HTML email is twice the size of its text-based equivalent. This means if you send your ezine in HTML, you tie up more of your readers’ bandwidth during delivery and receiving. Some of your ezine’s readers use dial-up. This delay is much more noticeable to them than to your broadband-user readers.

5.Security problems with HTML emails

You want to send your recipients your marketing message, not a virus. The unfortunate reality is that HTML emails transmit viruses easier than text-based emails. This is because it is possible for attachments to automatically execute code without the user opening the attachment.

6.HTML emails are harder to forward

Almost every marketer hopes for her campaign to be “viral” (that is, your marketing message being passed on from one recipient to another and another). It’s straightforward to forward a text-based email from one recipient to her friends and family. But when one tries to forward a HTML email to another, incompatibility problems arise. The forwarded email may not be received by its recipients looking the same way as it looked when it was first received by the original recipient.

7.More variables to measure makes it more difficult to gauge your success

The success of a text-based email marketing message is easier to measure than a HTML one simply because there are more variables involved in the success of the latter. For example, your email may have a poor response not because the message was badly worded, but because the font you had chosen is tiring for the eyes. Is your font even readable by every computer? What about the visibility of your typeface against the coloured background you have chosen? The point is: there are so many variables in a HTML email marketing campaign that it’s difficult for you to measure what went right or what went wrong in a particular campaign.

8.Do you want to maintain three lists?

Due to the uncertainty of how your HTML email will look at each recipient’s computer, businesses that choose to go HTML also have to maintain a text and an AOL version of their ezines. This means, you have to maintain three lists, rather than one. If you are a large corporation with a database-driven mailer that have a “sniffer”, you can rely on your “sniffer” to tell which recipient is able to receive which type of email and then send only that version. But if you don’t have that capability, maintaining three lists can be too challenging for your home-based business.

In conclusion, if you don’t know for sure whether the majority of your readers will be able to receive HTML emails, send them text messages. If you really love the idea of having a HTML newsletter, there’s always the alternative of putting your newsletter up on your website and providing a link at the beginning of your text-based email which says, “Click here if you wish to view this message in HTML”.

About the Author
Valerie Tay is the editor of BizBytes Newsletter. Written in an easy-reading style, this ezine is packed with practical and powerful tips on building, growing and marketing your business. New subscribers receive a FREE bonus eCourse. (


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