There are just a few things I want to go over as far as email formatting only because they will directly affect the readability and/or deliverability of your newsletter. That’s really all that matters. Everything else is just glitz.
HTML VS TEXT
This battle has been going on since HTML emails became a reality. You’re going to hear all kinds of arguments for and against each kind of email. I’m not going to get into the battles. All I’m going to do is give you my personal experience from 5 plus years of email marketing. Ultimately, YOU have to decide which direction you’re going to go in. I strongly suggest, before using either HTML or text, that you test each out and see what works better for you.
HTML emails look great if you’re a good designer. There is no question about that. I have seen some HTML emails that literally blew my socks off. Professional doesn’t even begin to describe them.
I knew I couldn’t make HTML emails that were going to be sharp looking enough to do the job that they were supposed to do, so I did something I don’t normally do…I had a pro design some for me.
I then sent them out to selected lists and also to some safelists that allowed HTML emails. Now, there is one thing you DO need to know. Not every email client has the capability to read HTML emails. In addition to that, some people turn off the HTML reading capability in their email readers. For example, if you use Horde, you can turn off the ability to read HTML emails. My account by default had this option turned off. Point is, the nature of HTML emails means that fewer people are going to be able to read them. How fewer? That’s the question that I needed to be answered by doing my split testing.
My results in extensive testing showed that my open rate for text emails was 17.2% while the open rate for my HTML emails was only 12.7%. That’s a 4.5% difference. That’s more than 4 fewer emails opened for every 100 sent. So if you have a list of 10,000 people, that’s 400 fewer emails opened for a mailing. If you’re converting at 1%, that’s 4 fewer sales. If each sale is $47, that’s $168 lost.
But, supposedly HTML emails convert better. So okay, how much better did they convert for me? Remember, these figures will probably be better for some niches than for others, so like I said, test this out on your own niche.
My stats, after testing, showed that the text emails converted at 2.27% while the HTML emails converted at 2.36%.
That is not much of a difference. So, the increased conversions were not worth the lost emails that didn’t get read or delivered.
Some ISPs will add a spam score to an email IF it is in HTML format. So, this could be an additional reason why emails don’t get read. They simply didn’t get delivered.
As a result of my testing, I no longer send HTML emails. It hasn’t hurt my business one bit and this year I’ve had a record-breaking year.
Like I said, test this for yourself. I am confident that you will find that your open rates for HTML emails will be bad enough that the increased conversion won’t help.
Paragraph and Line Formatting
Part of what I’m sharing now has to do with email readers and part has to do with human nature.
Let’s start with email programs first.
Not all email programs wrap text. In other words, let’s say you have a line that’s 150 characters long. In programs like AOL’s email reader, they’ll wrap that text at whatever width you set your email reader to, so you don’t have to worry about the text going off the screen or so wide that the reader has to scroll across. That is very annoying and if your email reads like that, in most cases, the person on the other end won’t read it.
Because of this, you want to format your lines so that they are no more than 90 characters across. That way, you don’t have to worry about the person on the other end not being able to read it easily.
As far as paragraph formatting, length is important. You really don’t want your paragraphs to be more than 4 or 5 lines if you can help it.
Long paragraphs are very hard to read. So keep your paragraphs as short as possible or you’re going to lose the interest of your reader.
You want to keep your sig lines short. These should be no more than 2 or 3 lines. If you can’t say what you have to say in order to get somebody to your site in 3 lines or less, then you have to rethink your copy.
I absolutely HATE when marketers put about 5 inches of white space between their signature and the opt out link. This is a sure fire way to tick people off and get them looking for that link to unsubscribe.
The link should be no more than a half an inch or two lines below your signature.
This is something that so many people don’t think about. You MUST include two types of links in your email, regardless of whether it’s affiliate, your own, cloaked or not cloaked. One link should be plain text and the other should be HTML for AOL and some other users.
If you have an AOL account like I do, text HTML links are NOT clickable. So you have to copy and paste the link into your browser in order for it to be viewed. Some people are going to be too lazy to do this. So leave out the HTML link at your own peril.