Email audit

How to Use Placeholder Text and Images in Email Design

A great email marketing campaign starts with end-to-end planning. Not only does your content need to dazzle, but you need a stellar email template design. Of course, this all needs to happen in sync. As you know, an email developer needs to work with an email designer and marketer to create a template even while the marketing team prepares campaign content.

This is where placeholder texts and images come in. 

Imagine: Your marketer hasn’t provided you with the digital campaign content yet, but you need to get your email template signed off. You’ll need to provide stakeholders with mockups to give them an idea of what the final campaign will look like without the content. After all, your stakeholders probably can’t envision your final campaign if you just show them lines of HTML and CSS, right?

Although this all sounds pretty basic, it’s a bit more complicated than you think. We’ll explain what placeholder text and images are, how they’re used in email production, when you should avoid using them, and how they might cause deliverability issues.

What are placeholder text and images?

Placeholder text, also known as dummy text or filler content, is used in the place of actual copy when the real text isn’t available. Usually, placeholder text is a series of randomly generated text meant to mimic the characteristics of actual written text. Other times, placeholder text can be real passages meant to fill in for your email campaign’s final content. Check out this placeholder text generator for ideas.

 Placeholder images work much like placeholder text. They stand in for images in a piece of content before the final images are ready.

What is lorem ipsum?

You’re probably familiar with lorem ipsum, the dummy text that has been used in typesetting since the 1500s in place of real text. Check out the placeholder text example below:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?

The lorem ipsum passage comes from Cicero’s treatise, “The Extremes of Good and Evil,” written in 45 B.C. Initially used to typeset printing presses, the dummy text transitioned from analog to digital to be placeholder text in electronic texts. In fact, the term “lorem ipsum” is sometimes used instead of “placeholder text.”

If you want to use the lorem ipsum text, copy it from a generator like Many graphic design programs, like Adobe Photoshop, also have placeholder text functionalities via plugins.

How are placeholder images and text used in email?

Now that you know what placeholder images and text are, how do they factor into your email development and design workflow?

Here are a few reasons to use email placeholder text or images:

  • You’re building an email template, but you’re still waiting for copy or design assets to be finalized by the marketing team.
  • You’re creating a reusable template with different text and graphics. For instance, let’s say you’re designing a monthly email newsletter. Each newsletter will be unique, but you must create a template that fits all the monthly iterations. To do so, use placeholder text for the main template you’ll replace in each newsletter.
  • You need to illustrate the dimensions of graphics or create a way for stakeholders to visualize your email campaign’s style, length, and copy format.

In a nutshell, placeholder text and images should be stand-ins for actual content in your emails. They’re great for illustrating points and helping your stakeholders envision the final product.

Can placeholder texts and images cause problems?

Placeholder texts and images are powerful tools to help your stakeholders and email team to visualize the final email campaign. However, keeping those placeholders in place can cause some issues.

Obviously, leaving dummy text and images in an email sent to subscribers is an amateur mistake, but it happens. That’s why a thorough email quality assurance process with a pre-send checklist is important. But could placeholder text impact deliverability?

Years ago, some folks here at Email on Acid noticed templates using lorem ipsum texts were flagged during spam testing. They concluded lorem ipsum content could cause false alarms during testing and deliverability issues if left in emails.

That may not be entirely true. Instead, Jonathan Torres, a deliverability expert at Sinch Mailgun, clarifies that it has more to do with unique content (of which lorem ipsum is not).

Jonathan says you should always use unique content when running spam tests and when building actual emails. Mailbox providers use content scanners to look for emails matching patterns of malicious messages from scammers. 

So, if a bad actor used certain placeholder text in a spammy email, the content could cause deliverability issues because ISPs see it as a sign of something shady. Jonathan says emails should be 100% unique – even down to your logos and icons.

“Whether it’s placeholder text or images, or even a Facebook logo you got from a Google search, if you didn’t make it or write it so that it is unique, it could have an effect on content scanners that will then lump your email in with anyone else using the same generic text or images in their messages.”

~Jonathan Torres, TAM Team Manager, Sinch Mailgun

Spam testing aside, the same applies when sending your emails into the wild. Double-check that you’re not including placeholder text or images that might impact your email’s deliverability. 

When is it a bad idea to use placeholder text or images?

Placeholder text and images are great for drafting emails and giving stakeholders an idea of the final product. However, here are some things you shouldn’t do when it comes to using dummy text or images:

Don’t treat generic placeholder text as real text. Instead of using generic placeholder text like lorem ipsum, consider using proto-copy, low-fidelity writing that captures your intended content without being polished or grammatical. In other words, use your dummy text to provide direction for your email design. Text shouldn’t be an afterthought when your team designs email campaigns. Great designs involve interplay between text and design. 

Don’t use placeholder text instead of proto-copy when soliciting feedback. Usually, your email design undergoes several rounds of feedback before approval. Give the stakeholders something to read as soon as possible – even if it's quickly written, short dashes that don't necessarily sound "good." Stakeholders will sense how your content will interact with the email design.

Don’t use placeholder text when sending or testing emails. According to Torres, “If someone is testing and sending from their platform, and they don’t have a good sender reputation, then that gets recognized as content from a bad sender. Anything else that comes in with that same content could get flagged too. It’s definitely much more common with images, but I have seen it with lorem ipsum at times and with certain disclaimers.”

The bottom line

Placeholder texts and images have their place: they’re good for kicking off your layout and design process, but email teams should try to include proto-copy or actual copy and unique images as soon as possible.

Of course, we all make mistakes. That’s why a pre-send email checklist helps email teams find what needs fixing before hitting the send button. Campaign Precheck from Sinch Email on Acid is an automated checklist that includes team management features for collaboration.

Ready to get started? Learn how to test your email designs before sending them with Email on Acid. Try out our extensive email testing suite for free for seven days!

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