Text to image ratio – does it matter?

Posted on February 10, 2016 at 10:26 am Written by

” Thou shalt always have a 50/50 text to image ratio in your email campaigns 

This has traditionally been one of the golden rules of email marketing, by which we must all abide. But have times changed? Time to take a look at the reasons behind the rule and why it might also be time to re-evaluate.

text to image ratio

The reasons for the rule

Two key reasons are:

  1. The recipient’s experience – if your recipient is using an email reader where images are not automatically downloaded, then at first glance there’s not much to see on screen. Maybe there’ll just be some red crosses or hundreds of them (if the image has been artfully sliced up), so the pressure on your subject line to be brilliant increases by about tenfold.
  2. Spam filters don’t like image only emails – they just don’t trust them. What if that one big image is a way to mask naughty words and products, or a picture of one thing hiding a link to something completely different?

The reasons we can rethink the rules

Images displaying as standard – These days many recipients will have images set to display as standard, even on desktop. That doesn’t mean to say I’m in any way condoning either one image/no text emails, or the zillion piece pixel art style of slicing an image to look like a man juggling kittens before you click to see the real graphics (who has time!). It does though mean that we’re unlikely to alienate as many people by using images as we use to. If an email is being viewing on mobile then restricting images is unlikely to be a hinderance, and images will be downloaded as soon as you open the email – not always, but in most cases.

Email (spam) filters are also a little more relaxed – they now place as much importance on the reputation of the sender and the server doing the sending. Similarly you shouldn’t be considered an evil villain these days for using some red text or CAPS text.

6 steps to making even image heavy campaigns ‘marketing friendly’

1. Preview text – Counter the problem of image heavy emails by using preview text. Preview text is your subject line’s best friend, they work in partnership and should be as much a part of campaign strategy as the main content of your email. Yeah, really!

2. Include some text  Add real text information in each campaign, explaining the offer/message that’s contained or visualised in the imagery. This isn’t dumbing down, its catering for different preferences – some people like the pics some like the nitty gritty. It also provides searchable content for an inbox search (I use search a lot in my email accounts).

3. Alt tags (alternative text) – Definitely still a “thing” with email filters, so make sure each image has one but don’t get too caught up in the trend for styling your alt text with a font style and size (something you’d need to be familiar with HTML to do anyway). Use some witty banter by all means to encourage downloading of images and/or an immediate click – but remember we want images to be displayed, because at the very least they give us the pretty much fail-safe feedback that the email has been opened.

4. Responsive design – image swaps, image stacking, ‘hide and show’ these are all the heroes of HTML campaigns. Your email should arrive on different platforms, in various guises. If your campaign is one single picture, and you don’t have a benefit of a designer to code a backup image (more of which below) then mobiles can’t do anything else to help you other than scale the image down to fit on its screen. As a consequence some key factors are likely to be tiny and your recipients will need to pinch the screen to see what’s being said (when you’d much rather they used their energies tapping a call to action).

5. Use an HTML designer – coding effective responsive design requires the skill of a good designer with the know-how to use code that works not only in a clever “look what I can do” way but in a way that makes good marketing sense. Whether you use a designer to create the whole email (with content included), or whether they create a bespoke skin into which you can add your own narrative via an ESP editor, the settings within the HTML will give you effective results and an air of professionalism. Swapping an image works really well if scaling it down (or up) would mean you lost quality and clarity on smaller screen sizes. As mentioned above, text within an image is also likely to suffer on mobile, so another benefit of including at least some real text is the control over its size and line spacing.

6. Avoid the ‘one image will do’ trap – I know, this is a quick solution but it’s very rarely worth your while. Literally sending out just one large image is not a good idea if you want to include multiple calls to action – and I’m presuming here that you do! By sending one large image you lose the ability to put different links within the image, thus reducing the usefulness of click through statistics. You need to know the hotspots in your campaign when moving forward with your email marketing strategy. You should also be offering recipients the option to tap on your phone number if they’re opening on mobile, this is the perfect moment for a ‘call me’ call to action.

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