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7 Tips for Designing Emails to Avoid Deliverability Issues

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by: Brad Mimbs (@IBMforMarketing)
08 January 2014

Once you have your “From” domains properly authenticated with SPF and DKIM records, looking over how you design your email templates should be your next step for optimizing email deliverability. And when it comes to designing emails for optimal deliverability and avoiding email filters, keeping it simple is still the best route to go. 

Here are seven tips for designing your email templates for great deliverability:

1) Never use Microsoft Word to create your mailing template. 

Copying a mailing template that was created in Microsoft Word into a WYSIWYG email template creator will also copy over proprietary Microsoft Word coding that won’t translate well at ISPs/domains. In addition, Microsoft Word code and HTML don’t mix well, which could lead to malformed email rendering in some email clients.

Instead, have your email designers code the HTML in a simple text editor like Notepad, which won’t add any additional problematic code, or use your marketing technology provider’s WYSIWYG email template builder.

2) Keep your HTML as simple as possible.

Email clients use very basic HTML rendering engines, so using simple HTML is your best guarantee that most email clients will render the template how it should be displayed.

3) Stay away from JavaScript code.

Most major ISPs will strip out JavaScript code, as it’s often used to deliver malware, so we strongly recommend not using any sort of complex JavaScript code.

4) Avoid CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

Most ISPs still don’t work well with CSS, so we recommend avoiding it for now. If you decide to use CSS, make sure your style sheets are inline — having the style sheets reference outside styles won’t work. 

5) Use a nice balance of images to text in your templates. 

Too many images (or too large of an image) compared to text in an HTML email can be considered spammy. Adding more text and/or reducing the number and size of images may help.

6) Include a CTA to turn on images.

Images are turned off by default in most email clients until recipients add you to their “safe senders” list. Since opens are tracked by having images turned on, providing a call to action for recipients to turn on your images will help you track opens more accurately. The positive recipient engagement will also lead to better deliverability rates in the future.

7) Include a link to a Web browser.

Always provide a link so recipients can view the email in a Web browser just in case they’re having issues viewing the email in their email client.

Related Resources

1) White Paper: '2015 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study"

2) Blog: “3 Opt-In and Opt-Out Deliverability Tips

3) Blog: “How Do Spam Traps Work? Tips for Avoiding Your Worst Marketing Nightmare

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