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HTML vs Plain text emails

I’ve found some evidence to back my up: http://www.b2bemailmarketing.com/2007/08/html-vs-plain-t.html (you might wish to do a test like this)

The summary of the post above is that:

– A “Lite HTML” email outperformed Plain Text by 55% in click-through rate.

– A “Heavy HTML” (Ad style) email vs. Plain Text email. Plain Text outperformed Heavy HTML by 34%.”

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“Best thing to do is run a split A/B test on your list. Going on results obtained from somebody else’s list gives you an easy life, but may lose you money.

The reason is that one list could have a lot of 50+ year olds on it who only use MS Outlook. And yet another could have a higher-than-average proportion of Gmail geeks. (Horrid generalisations, but I hope you get the point.) Each of these systems treats HTML email differently and your newsletter might get horribly mangled in one and display compellingly in another. It depends on the composition of your list. Different audiences can favour completely different hardware and software.”

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“HTML is more likely to get blocked than text. that is part of the trade-off between marketing/design/images/brand and deliverability and usability (ie when it arrives in a mess cos images are off etc)”

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“We’ve had great success with graphic email where a story had to be told and a photo helped to personalise it. A few practices worth considering:

  • Graphics don’t appear by default but clever alt text can work too. We also design emails so that the header graphic does not push content out of the preview pane
  • Consider using the preheader area for a call to action or preview text – where you usually see “click here to view online” – Gmail displays this before you open it.
  • Single call to action
  • Write like you’re writing to your best friend


We didn’t do a split test with a text email so I can’t compare.

The most successful fundraising email (It raised a lot of money quickly) I’ve ever been involved in sending was a text email (albeit in html to allow emphasis) but it was

  •       Written from a Personal Perspective
  •       Emotive
  •       Newsworthy / Timely
  •       Demonstrated a real need
  •       Expressed Urgency

If you want your email to genuinely look like it comes from an individual, then text will work better.”

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“The reason I always try to steer people away from HTML emails is that it’s so easy to get HTML wrong and lose lots of potential donations / campaign actions without knowing it. You have a lot less to lose with plain text.”

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“There is virtually no difference in click rates between HTML (3.05%) and text email messages (2.95%). [Source: MailerMailer, June 2009]”

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