Barriers when sending email newsletters

20 March 2009

Firstly, if you're sending the bulk emails from your own web server you want to make sure that this is not breaking the Terms and Conditions for your web server account, otherwise they may remove your web hosting privileges.

Secondly, be sure not to send bulk emails too often as you don't want to be seen as a spammer and either lose your email clients, or even worse, get blacklisted by an ISP (Internet Service Provider).

There are websites out there that will help send bulk email newsletters by supplying you with editable templates for you to insert your own content.

If you write your own emails in a html file and then send those through a system like Campaign Enterprise or another bulk email application you want to be sure of the following:

  • Use tables to create your templates - divs are not supported by every email client
  • Use in-line styles rather than a style area at the top - most email clients won't read the style at the top and will just use their own styles
  • Set the size of every image - without the image size being specified the email client will guess and quite often have it wrong, resulting in a very tall image making the page long, making the client have to scroll more
  • Set the alt text of every image - Most email clients by default (unless the email is from a trusted source) will have images turned off until the client chooses to download the images. If the images aren't loaded then the client will just see white boxes - the alt text will at least tell the client what they're supposed to be seeing
  • Do not embed any content - objects in an email will not be loaded and the email may even be counted as junk as it looks like a potential computer threat
  • Do not use animated gif files - some email clients don't support animated gifs and will only show the first frame of the animation (which sometimes is just an insignificant picture or empty white space)

When writing an email you need to check the email on various email clients.

The most common email clients are:

  • Outlook 2003
  • Outlook 2007
  • Thunderbird
  • Hotmail (Windows Live)
  • AOL
  • Gmail (Google Mail)
  • Y! Mail (Yahoo Mail)

Others like BT Internet, Virgin Media (formely NTL) and other Internet provider comapnies are often downloaded using a POP3 email client - and so testing the list above should cover most issues.

Every <p> tag needs to show the in-line style displaying the font, font size (if not default), font colour (if not default), line spacing (if not default) and any other style you may want to add.

You also need to compencate for any text only email clients that may be used and so as well as the HTML version of the email that you send, be sure to also send a text only version that they will still be able to read.

As some email clients mess up the layout when the email is displayed it may also be an idea to provide the client with an online version that they can view.

For legal reasons any bulk email that is sent out should always contain unsubscribe information, whether it's "click here to unsubscribe", or "to unsubscribe, reply to this email with the subject REMOVE", it still needs to be there.

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