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Even when you’re sending a HTML email to your subscribers, it’s always a good idea to include a text version with the email. There are a few benefits to this approach, which I’ll highlight later, but I recently came across a great case study on MarketingSherpa that highlights another reason to always include a text version.

As well as the standard preview pane window, Microsoft Outlook also includes an auto-preview feature that displays the first 3 lines of your email. This gives your recipients a chance to preview your email before deciding to open it. Here’s a screenshot of it in action.

Outlook's auto-preview in action

By default, the auto-preview will display the first few lines of your text email. If you don’t include a text version however, things can start to get ugly. Instead of seeing a nice intro to your email, your recipient will actually see the first few lines of your HTML version. Outlook still strips your HTML tags, so it’s not all bad, but most HTML newsletters begin with standard content like the name and date of the newsletter or “Having trouble viewing this email” kinds of messages. Not the optimal content to encourage your recipients to open your email.

When you send a HTML email with Campaign Monitor and don’t include a text version, we still add a text version for you by default with a small message and a link to view your campaign in their web browser. Again, this works great if someone is having problems viewing your email, but not so hot in Outlook’s auto-preview area.

Our recommendation

Always include a text version of your email even if you’re only sending in HTML format. Try and provide an enticing summary of the contents of your email in the first sentence or two. This, combined with a good subject and a recognizable from name/address should have a big impact on anyone checking out your email using Outlook’s auto-preview feature.

Other reasons to embrace a text alternative

On top of the auto-preview benefits, sending both HTML and text in a single email means:

  1. Those recipients who have their email environment configured to display text only will still be able to read your email.
  2. You’re reducing the chances of your email being filtered as SPAM. Many popular spam filters like SpamAssassin will penalize you for not including a text-version. You’ll even lose points if your text version doesn’t contain similar content to your HTML version.
  3. Better formatting when your recipients forward your email. Many popular email environments such as Hotmail will display the HTML version of your message, but when you forward the email it will actually default to the text-version of the campaign instead of garbling the original HTML message.

There you have it. A text alternative to your HTML email should increase the chances of your email being delivered AND being opened. Who can argue with that?

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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