Do you send PLAIN or HTML emails to your list?

by Peter Helps 36 replies
As of right now, I am sending plain emails to my list. It seems to me that sending plain emails gets me better delivery, less spam complains and so on.

However, I cannot track open rates on my emails. I have been thinking about switching to HTML emails and wanted to see what your feedback is on that.

So, tell me, do you send out plain or html emails. Also, give your reason why you send out either one. Thanks,

Peter
#main internet marketing discussion forum #emails #html #list #plain #send
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  • Profile picture of the author Ben Roy
    I currently send plain emails, but I'm in the process of switching to dual. I'll keep the plain so everyone can read it, but I love the idea of HTML for better look/feel, better stats, and better advertising capability (ie, I can work the ad into the email layout and use images).

    Oh yeah, and I should mention I'm a total list noob so you may not want to put too much weight on what I do.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kim Standerline
      Originally Posted by hummusx View Post

      I currently send plain emails, but I'm in the process of switching to dual. I'll keep the plain so everyone can read it, but I love the idea of HTML for better look/feel, better stats, and better advertising capability (ie, I can work the ad into the email layout and use images).

      Oh yeah, and I should mention I'm a total list noob so you may not want to put too much weight on what I do.
      Every time I send an html out, it ends up in my own spam box never mind anyone else's. so now I just send out plain

      Kim
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      • Profile picture of the author Peter Helps
        Originally Posted by Kim Standerline View Post

        Every time I send an html out, it ends up in my own spam box never mind anyone else's. so now I just send out plain

        Kim
        I use aweber for my list. From my experience, just by sending out an html email, you get some SPAM points assigned to your message. That is one of the reasons why I end up sending plain emails. I agree with you Kim on your experience as well.

        Peter
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        • Profile picture of the author oneplusone
          I find it is best to do both.
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          • Profile picture of the author Fabian Tan
            The BIG plus point with HTML emails is that you can turn your hyperlinks into anchor text.

            So instead of a normal link like http://www.yourwebsite.com you can place something like "Click Here To Check Out <offer>". I've been hearing that this increases click through rates by a country mile

            Definitely something to look into.

            Fabian
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          • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
            It's interesting that you brought this up.

            In a book that I'll be coming out with soon (based on my 5 years of email
            marketing [shameless plug there]) I cover this interesting topic.

            I have been testing this out for a long time and ultimately, I have decided
            that the slight increase in conversion with HTML email does NOT make up for,
            not only the loss in deliverability but another problem that people don't take
            into account.

            Not everybody uses Outlook. Some people use the online email readers like
            horde because they're easier to set up and you don't have to worry about
            contracting viruses through them as easily. Well, a lot of these email reading
            programs but default to NOT recognize HTML emails. When they arrive, you
            only get the header info in your email. Nothing else displays. Yes, you can
            change the default to allow for reading HTML emails but not everybody
            does.

            So now, not only do you have to worry about deliverability, but you also
            have to worry about people being able to read your email even IF it gets
            delivered.

            I've done enough testing of this in 5 plus years that I have abandoned
            HTML emails.

            ** DISCLAIMER ** These are my OWN results. Yours may vary, so test
            this out before you make any decisions either way.
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            • Profile picture of the author Ben Roy
              Steve, were you sending out dual format? If a reader doesn't display HTML emails, it should pull the plain text that's attached and show that instead.

              Also, I would think that Horde is pretty much irrelevant. The major players in the email reader space would be Hotmail, Yahoo, and Google. If your emails look fine there, then you're probably hitting the 90% mark or better.

              Originally Posted by Steven Wagenheim View Post

              It's interesting that you brought this up.

              In a book that I'll be coming out with soon (based on my 5 years of email
              marketing [shameless plug there]) I cover this interesting topic.

              I have been testing this out for a long time and ultimately, I have decided
              that the slight increase in conversion with HTML email does NOT make up for,
              not only the loss in deliverability but another problem that people don't take
              into account.

              Not everybody uses Outlook. Some people use the online email readers like
              horde because they're easier to set up and you don't have to worry about
              contracting viruses through them as easily. Well, a lot of these email reading
              programs but default to NOT recognize HTML emails. When they arrive, you
              only get the header info in your email. Nothing else displays. Yes, you can
              change the default to allow for reading HTML emails but not everybody
              does.

              So now, not only do you have to worry about deliverability, but you also
              have to worry about people being able to read your email even IF it gets
              delivered.

              I've done enough testing of this in 5 plus years that I have abandoned
              HTML emails.

              ** DISCLAIMER ** These are my OWN results. Yours may vary, so test
              this out before you make any decisions either way.
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              • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
                Originally Posted by hummusx View Post

                Steve, were you sending out dual format? If a reader doesn't display HTML emails, it should pull the plain text that's attached and show that instead.

                Also, I would think that Horde is pretty much irrelevant. The major players in the email reader space would be Hotmail, Yahoo, and Google. If your emails look fine there, then you're probably hitting the 90% mark or better.
                That may be true, but I still want to make sure my emails are readable by
                the majority so I send text only. So far it hasn't seemed to hurt my business
                so I'm not going to mess with it. HTML and me are done for good.
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                • Profile picture of the author Eric Johnson
                  It could be that I'm missing something, but how are you missing out of customers if you send it in both?

                  Is your email more likely to end up in the spam box if you send both text and html vs if you just sent text?
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                  • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
                    Originally Posted by Eric Johnson View Post

                    It could be that I'm missing something, but how are you missing out of customers if you send it in both?

                    Is your email more likely to end up in the spam box if you send both text and html vs if you just sent text?
                    Okay, I don't want to bombard my subscribers with emails. It's bad enough
                    that I'm sending then one. I don't need to send two and have people write
                    to me and ask me why I'm sending them two emails. I'll end up with more
                    unsubscribes that way.

                    People are getting bombarded with spam and emails and they're sick of it. So
                    I send out as few emails as I can, which is why I don't email my list that
                    often either. I do an email every 3 or 4 days. That's it.
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                    • Profile picture of the author Kevin Riley
                      Ooops! Sorry. Eyes must be crossing. I clicked HTML Only, but meant to click TEXT Only. Sorry to skew your poll.
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                      • Profile picture of the author jhongren
                        Hi, I send out PLAIN TEXT emails as it is easier to be read. =)

                        John
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                        • Profile picture of the author Dave OSullivan
                          We only send plain now. We started of with plain, then went to both to make use of the aweber templates but a subscriber left us as he said the html was too hard on his eyes.

                          Dave.
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                      • Profile picture of the author Peter Helps
                        Originally Posted by Kevin Riley View Post

                        Ooops! Sorry. Eyes must be crossing. I clicked HTML Only, but meant to click TEXT Only. Sorry to skew your poll.
                        Way a go Kevin. Now I'll have to start over jk

                        No biggie. I see the trend happening here. Either way, this pool is for everyone here on WF.

                        Peter
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                        • Profile picture of the author drr
                          I actually dislike reading HTML emails! I'm sure some people prefer them, but I personally prefer plain text for my IM niche.

                          In some markets, I'm sure html would be more apt.
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                          • Profile picture of the author Michael Gentry
                            Thanks for the post. I have been using plain text for the same reasons. I will probably always continue to do so.
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                          • Profile picture of the author Peter Helps
                            Originally Posted by drr View Post

                            I actually dislike reading HTML emails! I'm sure some people prefer them, but I personally prefer plain text for my IM niche.

                            In some markets, I'm sure html would be more apt.
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                            I see your point. If I am going to start using html emails, I would send them out looking the same way as a plain email, no images, formatting, etc.

                            Why?

                            Subscriber reason: My subscribers are used to seeing text/plain emails from me and that's all they need to read, no other distractions.

                            My reason for HTML: Tracking open rates, plain and simple.
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                            • Profile picture of the author Bearded
                              For deliverability's sake, multi-part beats the heck out of HTML-only, IME.

                              I run a large newsletter for a client (800k+), and we send multi-part. Deliverability is 98%+, because we've established a good reputation with our mail server (on its own IP), and have been whitelisted/established a feedback loop with the major ISPs.

                              If you send good content, and get relatively few spam complaints (less than .2%), your deliverability will be good.

                              Joe
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                    • Profile picture of the author Bearded
                      Originally Posted by Steven Wagenheim View Post

                      Okay, I don't want to bombard my subscribers with emails. It's bad enough
                      that I'm sending then one. I don't need to send two and have people write
                      to me and ask me why I'm sending them two emails. I'll end up with more
                      unsubscribes that way.

                      People are getting bombarded with spam and emails and they're sick of it. So
                      I send out as few emails as I can, which is why I don't email my list that
                      often either. I do an email every 3 or 4 days. That's it.
                      That's not how a multi-part message works. If the client supports text-only, it displays that one, and if it supports html, it displays that one. It's still only one message. No one is seeing two emails from you.

                      This is the "best-practice" that all major ESPs (email service providers) preach. If your ESP's software is smart enough, they can also figure out what capability your list members have and save it for future mailings.

                      Joe
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                      • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
                        Originally Posted by Bearded View Post

                        That's not how a multi-part message works. If the client supports text-only, it displays that one, and if it supports html, it displays that one. It's still only one message. No one is seeing two emails from you.

                        This is the "best-practice" that all major ESPs (email service providers) preach. If your ESP's software is smart enough, they can also figure out what capability your list members have and save it for future mailings.

                        Joe
                        Well, even if all my subscribers could read HTML emails, the delivery rate, in
                        comparison to text, sucks, so I still wouldn't use it.
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              • Profile picture of the author Billy Deakin
                Originally Posted by hummusx View Post

                Also, I would think that Horde is pretty much irrelevant. The major players in the email reader space would be Hotmail, Yahoo, and Google.
                I wouldn't be quite so sure on that. When I used to sell hosting I was always surprised by the number of clients who would use Squirrel mail or Horde. Be interesting to see some stats on this, my guess is a lot of small businesses do use these since they come in their hosting CP by default.
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                • Profile picture of the author VinceNouvel
                  I send html for tracking purposes + They look so much better. =)
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  • Profile picture of the author ctutt
    Originally Posted by pk80356 View Post

    As of right now, I am sending plain emails to my list. It seems to me that sending plain emails gets me better delivery, less spam complains and so on.

    However, I cannot track open rates on my emails. I have been thinking about switching to HTML emails and wanted to see what your feedback is on that.

    So, tell me, do you send out plain or html emails. Also, give your reason why you send out either one. Thanks,

    Peter
    AWeber recommends sending both and they give good reasons. Some recipients only accept plain while many if not most prefer HTML. Personally I prefer to receive HTML. However, when I actually begin using a list I will send both and/or give the recipient a choice of preference.

    Charles Tutt
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  • Plain text emails, because they convert best for me.

    I just looked at the stats and feel that I am not the odd guy here, as most seem to vote for plain text.

    Arindam
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      There are several marketers who have sent emails that are unreadable to me. They send html but fail to enter a plain text version - or they copy/paste the html message into the plain text box.

      The result are emails from marketers who should know better - that are full of html tags and trying to read between the tags isn't worth the trouble.

      This has happened using Outlook even though I have html enabled for emails. You have to balance the "special features" you want to use with sending formats that will reach people and be readable! Otherwise, you are wasting your time and theirs.

      Another problem are emails so poorly formatted that they display in a way that looks like a six year old wrote them. Clearly, some people don't test their emails by sending them to one of their addresses before blasting them to their lists.

      kay
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      • Profile picture of the author erday
        Honestly I have sent both and have gotten better click rate from HTML. I use a template of my own design. Always with a date or Issue number in subject line.
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      • Profile picture of the author Shaun OReilly
        Keep your eyes open and take a look at what some of the top Internet
        Marketers are DOING:

        Rich Schefren - HTML
        Frank Kern - HTML
        Stompernet - HTML

        These guys test and track religiously and with big lists too. What are
        their numbers telling them?

        Of course, a whole lot more Internet Marketers are using plain text but
        is this out of habit or the results of thorough testing?

        Eben Pagan uses Plain Text as far as I can tell. So does Paul Myers
        and Marlon Sanders.

        I recall a similar HTML/Plain Text debate on the old board where Paul
        Myers interstingly said that he'd switch over to HTML if he was starting
        over again (assuming I recall correctly!).

        Best wishes,

        Shaun
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        • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
          Originally Posted by Brian McElroy View Post

          I send out BOTH.

          Text for people who only accept text...

          And HTML for tracking OPEN RATES and the ability
          to bold and use anchor text (though my emails
          mostly LOOK like plain text.

          Cheers,
          Brian
          Ditto.

          I send plain text LOOKING html mails that are exactly the same as their text only counterparts.

          Another Brian
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          • Profile picture of the author pjs
            Originally Posted by LoudMac View Post

            Ditto.

            I send plain text LOOKING html mails that are exactly the same as their text only counterparts.

            Another Brian
            Exactly what I do as well.

            Though I do send both text & html and let the readers email client decide which version to display based on the clients support.

            I mainly use HTML for the occasional bold requirement and for anchor text. Other than that, it's a plain text looking email.

            I use aweber and *always* keep my spam assassin score under 2, which gets through the majority of filters. My delivery rate is higher than 98%.
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      • Profile picture of the author Chris Lockwood
        Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

        There are several marketers who have sent emails that are unreadable to me. They send html but fail to enter a plain text version - or they copy/paste the html message into the plain text box.

        The result are emails from marketers who should know better - that are full of html tags and trying to read between the tags isn't worth the trouble.

        It may be a software issue, not the sender's fault. I've tested sending HTML emails with aweber- I put just text in both boxes (no HTML code), yet when I receive the email, I see HTML code, even in an email reader that can handle HTML. This is without even trying to use any HTML features.

        Because of this, I stick to plain text.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jarod Lam
    Hi Peter,

    I have a truly revolutionary suggestion for you:

    Ask your subscribers!

    Their opinion is the only one that counts. What you and I think are irrelevant.

    Hope this helps...
    Jarod
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    • Profile picture of the author Shaun OReilly
      I just watched Andy Jenkins and Brad Fallon discuss their NetEffect
      magazine, and they talked about their test results on the effect of
      using HTML newsletters. rather than plain text..

      They found that HTML newsletters increased both open rates and
      click-through rates. They didn't mention the effect on sales - I guess
      that the full details will be in the magazine.

      I find that HTML newsletters are much easier to read compared to
      plain text provided that the author doesn't go over the top on the
      use of formatting and graphics.

      Best wishes,

      Shaun
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      • Profile picture of the author new guy
        I would, and do just send out plain text ones. I used to operate a spam filtering service and yes, the html will trigger a higher spam score. The point of your email should be to get your readers to visit your website - where you make the offer to them. Keep the email short, sweet and to the point and drive people to your site.
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      • Profile picture of the author Jelasco
        Originally Posted by Shaun OReilly View Post

        They found that HTML newsletters increased both open rates and
        click-through rates. They didn't mention the effect on sales - I guess
        that the full details will be in the magazine.
        Since you can't track open rates of plain text emails, how did they manage to determine this?
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        • Profile picture of the author trafficwave
          I send in both.

          When using HTML, I use minimal HTML only for the purpose of making the message easier to read, causing subheaders to stand out more, etc....

          When I first started using HTML, I got really carried away with a lot of graphics, tables, etc... and my response rate was HORRIBLE. I sent the same message in plain ol' ugly text and my response rate shot back up.

          Lesson learned.

          When I compare results between plain text messages and minimal HTML, the response rates are pretty similar.

          As for using HTML images to track open rates, there are some pro's and con's there, too.

          I use Mac Mail and it always shows all of my emails in a preview pane. The result is a false open count because even if I didn't open the email, the image was loaded.

          For me, I track click-through's more than anything else.

          So again.....

          When I used a lot of HTML and really tried to send a fancy web page, my response rate was AWFUL.

          When I backed the HTML down and focused on only adding what would help the message be easier to read and understand, the response rate went WAY up.

          The difference between plain text and minimal HTML (in my own experience) has been nominal.

          (I used separate tracking URL's for the txt version and the html version.)
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          • Profile picture of the author eljay003
            I used to send HTML to my list and it was doing OK. Response rate is good. But after a while, not any of it is going through the inbox. It always landed in the junk. So I switched to plain text. Deliverability rate, plain text is getting through the inbox 100%. I never tried using HTML again.
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            • Profile picture of the author Sleaklight
              I started testing out html emails last week and the clickthrough rate is horrible! I am going back to text as I am having a 85% click through rate with plain text emails versus 3% using html format.
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