There’s a lot of controversy over whether to use plain-text or HTML emails in an email marketing campaign. Most articles focus on how to successfully create and deploy rich HTML-based emails while ignoring their simpler, plain-text cousins.
However, plain-text emails are just as crucial to your email marketing campaign’s effectiveness as HTML emails.
Plain-text emails are simply emails created in a plain-text format. This means they have no links, images, or attractive fonts. However, whenever you’re sending an HTML email as part of a campaign, it should always be accompanied by a plain-text version.
How to measure the effectiveness of your plain-text emails
You should be using multi-part, Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (multi-part MIME) to bundle every HTML email with a plain-text version.
Some recipients simply can’t view HTML emails due to accessibility issues or personal preference. If that is the case, they’ll only see HTML code where an email should be, unless you’ve bundled a plain-text version using multi-part MIME.
Then your subscriber will have access to all of your links and information, albeit in plain-text format.
The links in a plain-text email aren’t trackable since the URLs in these emails are for text rather than hyperlinks.
However, most of the commonly-used email clients such as Outlook.com, Apple Mail, and Gmail can detect the URLs in these messages and, if they do, they’ll automatically give your plain-text emails a boost by making these links clickable for subscribers.
Still, this process does not convert your plain-text links to trackable links, so your plain-text click-throughs won’t show up on any email service provider reports.
Opens in HTML are tracked through code that monitors images that are downloaded every time an email is opened. Plain-text emails don’t support images, so opens can’t be tracked.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t track other aspects of a plain-text campaign. For example, below is a sample report for a plain-text campaign run through Campaign Monitor.
Source: Campaign Monitor
You can still track your deliverability and your bounce, share, and unsubscribe rates.
Does it really matter?
Tracking opens and click-throughs is vital to determining the health of your email marketing campaign, and, if you’re using multi-part MIME (as you should be), you’ll be getting all that pertinent data through your HTML emails.
What you’ll be achieving with your plain-text emails may be much more important: You’ll be reaching all your subscribers. Even if they have accessibility issues or they prefer the old-school simplicity of plain-text emails, your campaign will still reach them.
You should always test your plain-text emails to ensure that your plain-text subscribers are seeing what you want them to see when they open your emails.
Plain-text emails aren’t as trackable as their more robust HTML cousins. However, you probably understand their importance to your overall campaign.
Since any potential customer that has accessibility issues or just prefers plain-text won’t get a chance to read your gorgeous HTML emails, using plain-text ensures everyone is covered.
Since tracking opens and clicks are so important, it’s best to be on the safe side and bundle your plain-text and HTML emails using multi-part MIME.
Moreover, if you want to up the effectiveness of your tracking, consider adding the click-to-open rate (CTOR) to your list of things to track in your next email campaign.