Note:This is the last of a three-part blog series on some of the most common and dangerous mistakes Email Marketers can make in their campaigns. Part 1 dealt with common pitfalls when conceiving and planning an email campaign, Part 2 demonstrated some common mistakes made in designing emails. In this third article, we get down into the nitty-gritty with our list of production best practices and thoughts on common snares for email coders.
The goal of an email is to deliver a clear and concise message to every one of your subscribers. In order to ensure this, it is important to use some of the following coding best practices; incorporate a text version, be aware of the ever-growing percentage of mobile users, abide by the CAN-SPAM Act (or equivalent in your recipient’s country), and last, but not least, check your work through a thorough Quality Assurance (QA) process. Following these steps will help ensure that you will have a good base when coding your next email for a client or your company.
- Not Following HTML Email Coding Best Practices
One of the most common problems we see are marketers who fail to learn and follow email coding best practices. Failing to do so can leave them with emails that either look strange or even fail in many email clients. Subscribers that receive emails that look poorly made in their own email clients will be less likely to trust your message. Poorly crafted HTML will dramatically raise your spam score, making it less likely that your email will reach your intended targets.
To get you started I will touch on some of Precision Dialogue’s suggested best practices.
- Use Tables Instead of div:Yes, this is the opposite of best practices for web pages but remember that many email readers, including some of the most popular ones, parse HTML as if it was 1998. To make life easy it is going to be best to use tables when creating your email. Most email clients do not support CSS positioning, floats and clears. Make sure you properly nest tables and close all open tags.
- Don’t Use External CSS:You do not want to use external style sheets and you’re going to want to keep all of your CSS inline. I personally try to avoid using any padding left and right, p tags, ordered list or breaks if at all possible.
- Use Tables instead of Lists:Lists align in widely differing ways across email clients. Instead, use a nested table with rows to build out an ordered or unordered list.
- Image Styling:Always remember to style an image with no border and set display to block or you will get very strange results in many common email clients. It is a good idea to specify your image’s pixel height and width but never try to specify a different size than the actual image size. Outlook and other readers will ignore your specs and show the image at its native size, often messing up your layout.
Many people view emails in text-only versions, either by choice or because they have to. Reliable statistics are hard to come by because you cannot track text-only. While most, but not all, subscribers can view HTML emails, many prefer text-only versions for privacy reasons. Actual percentages depend on your subscriber demographics. You should also know that absence of a text version will up your spam score significantly in most spam filters.
With smart phones becoming more and more popular, a lot of developers overlook the importance of creating a text version of the email. Just because you have the latest and greatest phone doesn’t mean everyone does and losing out on any potential click through can end up costing the client or your company money.
When marketers fail to optimize their email for both versions, subscribers can see a broken design and an ineffective email. When setting up your text version, try keeping the lines shorter so subscribers don’t have to move their eyes so far across the page and back to read the email, making scanning faster and easier. Also make sure to add space between paragraphs and headlines to allow a nice and easy flow for the recipient.
Nearly 50% (according to Litmus.com) of all emails today are opened on a mobile device. It is going to be important moving forward to make sure your emails look good on mobile devices and moving to responsive designs is going to become more and more popular. When coding your mobile email it is important to take into account how the email will scale down to fit the different screen resolutions. This can be accomplished by using media queries which tell the email client what criteria needs to be met before it uses the styles therein. Also by using attribute selectors you can avoid glitches that can be found in several email clients. Also it is a best practice to add “!important” to the mobile specific styles to ensure they take precedence over other styles.
With all emails and email lists the subscriber rules and in order to get your message to the people that want it the most, it is best to use a permission-based email send. To ensure that this happens, it is important to follow the CAN-SPAM laws by having an opt-out link. This allows people to state whether or not they really want to receive your emails. Also including a legitimate physical address gives the email receipt confidence that the email they received is from a reputable source. Setting up accurate from lines gives the email a great first impression.
Probably the most important and biggest mistake marketers make coding emails is not testing your code through a QA process. Things render differently in every email client and just because it looks okay in one client doesn’t mean that it does in another. Also typos, grammatical errors, improperly targeted content and broken links erode your credibility and can jeopardize the success of your campaign. A solid proofing and quality assurance process is critical to making sure that your email marketing is perceived in the best way to help with creating a brand that can be trusted.
We hope this listing of some of the most common problems we’ve run across over the years will help you avoid making the same mistakes others have made. We welcome your comments and stories of mistakes you may want to share. Learn more our email solutions and how we can help your email marketing campaigns.