Blocked Email Images

An estimated 95 percent of all commercial email messages are sent in HTML or in a multipart (combined HTML and text) format. Most e-mail includes at least a single external image, even if it's the open-tracking image, a clear, one-pixel GIF image used to track whether an e-mail has been opened.

Virtually all e-mail marketers host images on a Web server, rather than embed them within the message itself. To load images, a call is made back to the hosting server.

The main reasons behind image-blocking features are to enable users to prohibit pornographic images from loading and to prevent spammers from knowing if users open their messages.

Disabled images also have implications for marketers, including:

* Lower open rates. Some recipients scan e-mail in the preview pane or open messages with images disabled.

* Image/content filter quandary. To cope with content and spam filters, e-commerce-oriented marketers sometimes place much of their copy within images to avoid being filtered. This could increase delivery rates but result in fewer recipients actually seeing the copy.

* Uncertainty caused by user-driven controls. Some ISPs and e-mail clients enable users to determine if they want images blocked.

Marketers can take a few steps to help minimize the issue:

* Add a "view Web version" link. Host a version of your message on the Web. Provide a text link to it at the very top of your message.

* Check message appearance in the preview pane. Can recipients can make a quick "open" decision based on content showing in the preview pane?

* Include alt tags. If images haven't loaded, properly written alt tags at least provide the recipient with a sense of what they doesn't see.

* Create text versions. With HTML e-mail so popular, text versions tend to be neglected. Yet recent e-mail client changes mean users have an increased ability to select which default format they prefer. A strong text version ensures you still reach users, regardless of format preference.

Blocked images should only be a minor nuisance for most permission e-mail marketers who provide real value to recipients. Deliver the best, most relevant, personalized content to subscribers, and most will want to view your entire e-mail with images, not just the text.

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