In this article, Jeanne Jennings looks at five factors (apart from subject line and sender) that can make or break your message's effectiveness when images are blocked.
1. Visible headlines
Headlines can make or break an e-mail. They can engage readers immediately or send them to the next message. Format headlines in rich text rather than images. That way, you're 100 percent certain they're seen, even if images are suppressed.
If recipients don't know what the message is about, what's their incentive to download the images? This is why having a headline that's visible, even when the images aren't, is useful.
2. Call to Action in the Preview Pane
Put a a clickable call to action in the preview pane. If readers skim the reading pane and are sold, they can take the next step without having to scroll. But if the call to action is an image, readers can't see it. That big "Order Now" button is nice... until it morphs into a red "x." Even the "click here" alt tag doesn't quite do it.
3. Link to View Online
Give the reader a link to view the e-mail online -- it's a one-click way to view images. It's a quick, if somewhat primitive, way around image blocking. The traditional location for this type of message is the very top of the message; it usually appears in plain text in a small font. Placement may be changing (see my column on snippets for why), but for now this is where most marketers include it.
4. Request for Whitelisting
Include a message at the top of the email (same location as the "view online" link) asking readers to whitelist the sender. In addition to keeping the e-mail you send out of the junk folder, Office 2003 and other programs for which image blocking is the default show e-mail images from senders that appear in the recipient's contact list. It's just one more reason to make the request and to make sure you're sending from a single sender address so readers need only add you to their contact lists once, not repeatedly. (Many of these programs work off e-mail addresses, not domains, though Outlook 2003 gives readers the choice. Don't count on recipients knowing the difference.)
5. Ability to Communicate Without Images
This is the big one. If the images in your e-mail are suppressed (and the recipient doesn't download them), is the message still delivered? If it is, you're good. If not, it's a waste of time, money, and effort on your part.