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Image blocking – why it sucks and how to rise above it

A staggering 2 out of 3 email users have images turned off in their inbox by default (MarketingSherpa 2010).

This makes image blocking a serious issue for email marketers. Particularly when you consider all the time, effort and money that goes into designing a beautiful, compelling email.

Take this email design for example. It’s a well branded email with appealing design elements that lead toward a clear call to action.

original 3stripes email

But can you see the problem when the images are turned off? All the important messages are now hidden and there is nothing to entice the reader to take further action with this email. Whilst there is a link to view the email online, the reader is still unclear on what’s in it for them.

It’s important to design your email in a way that doesn’t rely solely on images to get your message across. Even if you’re not a designer or have little HTML skills, there are a few simple things you can do to minimise the impact of image blocking.

1. Use alt text to tell part of your story

Alt text is text that you associate with an image and it’s what most email clients will display if the images are prevented from loading. Adding alt text with your images is an essential step to minimising the impact of image blocking.

Don’t waste your alt text with a generic description of what the image is, like “logo”, or “button”. Use the text to explain what the blocked image is, where the link leads to, or what the offer is. For example, the email above might have the image alt text “40% off store-wide”.

With the Vision6 email marketing software, it’s really easy to add alt text as the Email Editor will prompt you to enter it when inserting images into your message.

2. Ask subscribers to add you to their safe sender or contact lists

Most email clients will override the default image blocking settings if the sender of an email is listed in the recipient’s safe sender or contact lists. Make sure you ask new subscribers to add you to their safe sender or contact lists on the thank you page for new subscribers and again in your welcome email. For maximum impact, use a consistent “from name” with your emails so that subscribers only have to add you to their safe sender or contact list once.

3. Avoid sending image only emails

The impact of image blocking is most significant in emails that contain only images, or a single image with a small amount of text. Therefore it’s a good idea to design emails with a mix of both images and text.

If you’ve been provided with a single image concept for your email, consider how it can be sliced up and rebuilt as a mix of both images and text. There are a range of free online image editors that are useful for working with images.

With a little bit of effort, the above example email can be reconstructed to look like this.

modified 3stripes email

The single large image has been sliced into a mix of text and smaller images. As you can see, it’s well worth the effort as even with the images turned off you can quickly see what’s on offer.

So there you have it. Whilst image blocking is a significant challenge for email marketers, its impact can be minimised by following a few simple steps. And if you’ve ever wondered what your emails look like with the images blocked, simply send yourself a test version with the images turned off, or preview it before you send using our Email Testing feature.

Matt Posted by:
Matthew Johnson
EDM Specialist

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Cool email design ideas that don’t require Photoshop
6 things you can do to make your email look awesome
11 free online image editors


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