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Questions regarding the use of iframes in email crop up from time to time. An iframe—or an inline frame—can appear useful since it inserts an html frame within another html document like your email, often complete with its own scroll bar. Whether you want to use an iframe in order to add content from your site directly into your email or a ‘Like’ Facebook box, we figured that we’d finally do some thorough tests of our own and put the matter to rest.

So, what was the verdict? After testing an email with iframes across 24 major web, desktop and mobile clients, we found that the results weren’t particularly promising. As iframes can potentially link to shady or plain malicious content (like scripts), a lot of email clients just disable them.

For instance, in 2008, hackers used iframes to intercept traffic from real, legitimate businesses such as USA Today in order to download malware on unsuspecting visitors. It makes sense that iframes have a bad reputation, with email clients as well as with your subscribers.

Do iframes work in email?

Here it is, what you’ve been waiting for. The definitive answer to whether or not iframes work in emails. Here’s a breakdown of which email clients display iframes and which ones do away with them altogether:

Client Iframe displays?
AOL Webmail No
Gmail No
Windows Live Hotmail No
MobileMe No
Yahoo! Mail No
AOL 9 No
Apple Mail 3 / 4 Yes
Entourage 2008 No
Lotus Notes 6 / 7 No
Lotus Notes 8 Yes
Outlook 2000 Yes
Outlook Express 6 Yes
Outlook XP / 2003 / 2007 / 2010 No
Thunderbird Yes
Windows Mail Yes
Blackberry No
iPhone / iPad Yes
Symbian S60 Yes
Windows Mobile 5 No
Windows Mobile 6 Yes
Android (default client) Yes
Android (Gmail client) No

As you can see, these results don’t bode well for iframes in email. With the majority of email clients blocking iframes, you should assume your subscribers won’t see this html element if you choose to include it.

What to do instead

Including elements that are often associated with malicious content is likely to get your email blocked and potentially even hurt your sender reputation, thus bringing down your deliverability. Since most iframes won’t show up in your subscriber’s inbox, we suggest linking to the content you want to include in your email instead.

That way, you’ll avoid using scripts that won’t work as well as drive traffic to your website, which is really best case scenario. If you’re worried your subscribers won’t want to click through to visit your website, remember that shortcuts rarely reap solid results in the long run.

It might seem easier to include an iframe within your email and thus bring your website to your subscriber, but your email and your iframe will probably get blocked, meaning your subscriber won’t see your message in the first place and all of your effort will be wasted.

If you aren’t seeing the click-through or conversion rates you’re after, be sure your emails follow email marketing best practices. Taking the extra time to optimize your email marketing campaign by including relevant content, segmenting your list, and creating calls to action that inspire readers to click and engage with your email marketing will deliver far better results than an iframe can.

Consider these great ways to link to content that will out-perform iframes every day:

  • Call to action buttons
  • Text hyperlinks
  • Tappable images and graphics

At the end of the day, your email marketing should deliver value straight to your subscribers’ inboxes and ensuring they have the best user experience when reading—or more accurately, skimming—your emails should be your highest priority when it comes time to design your emails.

In fact, the hard sell can actually cost you customers and their loyalty if they think you’re being pushy. The hard sell might also inadvertently tell your customers you only care about their money. These days, when customers seek authentic connection with their favorite brands, customers want to know you care about them as individuals.

Instead of including iframes, focus on giving your subscribers what they want: This can be curated content and discounts, but putting your subscribers first also means that you prioritize a great user experience when designing and coding your emails. If you’re willfully using html elements you know won’t work in most email clients—like iframes—then you’re prioritizing conversions over people and your subscribers will notice.

Wrap up

Our advice: Given the notably poor adoption of iframes, we seriously discourage you from using them. Even though this means that you can’t add a ‘Like’ box to your email, there are alternate ways to share your campaign on Facebook that you can consider.

You’ll see far better results if you take the time to research email marketing best practices. Earn your company life-long brand ambassadors while improving your open rates and conversions when you prioritize the user experience and needs of your subscribers.

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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