Why splicing emails can hurt your ROI

Why Splicing Emails is a Marketing No-no

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Email splicing refers to creating image-only emails. You know the kind we mean. The ones that, if you’re looking at them in Outlook, show nothing except the small image icons because all of the images (and therefore content and messaging) are blocked by default.

Outlook blocking images in an image-only email
Beautiful, isn’t it?

Yes, on any other (well, most) email client these emails can look flawless. Their designs are pristine and it’s hard to beat the level of branding that they afford. So, if they look so beautiful and branded, then what’s the drawback?

To sum it up in seven words:

  • Finicky email clients
  • Inaccessible content
  • Deliverability problems

Cut the Splice

Finicky email clients

Outlook may not be the newest email client, but it’s still one of the most widely used. Even today, they still block images. This is something every email marketer has to deal with. Unfortunately, no line of email code can override it either.

In other email clients, subscribers can have the option to disable images too. If your spliced email’s images don’t populate, a reader won’t be able to connect with or act on your message.

What’s an email marketer to do when images won’t populate? Add some content balance to image-only emails.

Inaccessible copy and CTAs

Splicing emails removes the vast majority of the meaning from your message for people who use digital assistants such as screen readers, Alexa, or Siri to read email. In other words, it makes them virtually inaccessible.

Digital assistants can only do some much to communicate an image to listeners. They’re limited to reading an image’s alt text, assuming it has any. That means any other copy that doesn’t have a dedicated content block won’t be accessible to the subscriber. That includes calls-to-action (CTAs). If a CTA is on an image that the client is blocking, that CTA won’t earn clicks.

A button overlayed on an image
If the image doesn’t display, neither will the CTA

Having a digital assistant read a couple of lines of alt text can be a pretty underwhelming email experience. That’s not to say you shouldn’t always be writing effective alt text. Avoid putting your brand in a position where your email ROI relies on a piece of tech and a few lines of alt text to resonate with a reader and make your emails accessible with a mixture of content.

Besides, digital assistants aren’t the only ones that won’t be able to decipher your message…

Deliverability issues

Splicing image-only emails comes with a host of potential deliverability problems. Like digital assistants, spam filters can’t detect what an image looks like. All they’re told from the HTML is that the email is made up of image files. They can’t tell what the content is or that there’s copy overlay. So, regardless of how safe the content is, this is a red flag and can land your email in more spam folders than inboxes.

While email clients don’t publicize their spam filters’ parameters that determine which emails are spam, we do know one such parameter looks at an email’s image-to-text balance. When a spam filter can read a block of text, it has a little context to decide if the email is safe to deliver. If it has no way to even guess what the content is, it can enact its why-risk-it setting and divert to spam.

Heavy Design ≠ Higher ROI

Again, we know how beautiful splicing together image-only emails can look. They’re a marketer’s worst temptation. But the lift in branding is simply not worth any of these three cons alone. Landing in more inboxes, making emails accessible for all subscribers, and optimizing for different email clients can all go a long way in improving your ROI.

Still not convinced? Run an A/B test. Sign up for a seven-day free trial of a Premium or Professional (depending on your opens/month) plan to Email on Acid. Take one of your image-only emails through Campaign Precheck and look at the deliverability score. Do the same with the version that has a balance of content.

When in doubt, test it out. See what happens to your email deliverability, engagement and metrics. And be sure to let us know what you find in the comments!

If you don’t QA, test and preview your email in
Campaign Precheck, are you really sending an email?

We always recommend testing every email every time. But why stop there when you can make so many other strategic and tactical enhancements? Things like accessible code, perfect inbox display, fast-loading images all play a critical role in an email’s ROI. Campaign Precheck is end-to-end email QA, testing AND previews in one seamless workflow. Optimize content and your code, test for deliverability and preview how it will look for subscribers to save time and improve performance. Sign up for a free trial and start sending better email.

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Author: Melissa Berdine

Venturing from her DC and NYC roots, Melissa made the trek to Denver. With just her dog and a background of copywriting and editing, she joined Email on Acid as content manager. Melissa is known to friends as an avid cook and music festival enthusiast.

Author: Melissa Berdine

Venturing from her DC and NYC roots, Melissa made the trek to Denver. With just her dog and a background of copywriting and editing, she joined Email on Acid as content manager. Melissa is known to friends as an avid cook and music festival enthusiast.

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