Is the plain-text email dead?
In the old days of email marketing, HTML email didn't always work. You *had* to create a plain-text "alternative" version of your HTML email (sort of as a backup), then embed both messages into one email. If a recipient's email program couldn't view HTML email, the plain-text would show instead (the technical term for that type of message is "multipart-alternative MIME").
Back then, a lot of people chose to send only plain-text email (HTML email was buggy in some email programs). And there seemed to be a lot of debate about how HTML email was "the spawn of the devil" because it was a risk to privacy (a reference to the open trackers that HTML email allows for), wasted bandwidth, and took too long to render.
But these days, just about all email programs can render HTML email, and sooo many people have high-speed Internet connections. So we see a lot of marketers ignoring the plain-text field. This is a mistake.
5 Reasons You Should Still Create Plain-Text Emails
- Some people just prefer plain-text emails.
- Spam filters don't like it when you send HTML only. They want to see HTML along with a plain-text alternative, because only a "lazy spammer" would skip the plain-text step. Also, the plain-text email should be roughly the same content as the HTML email (not just a vehicle for "visit this URL to see our HTML email in your browser!").
- In certain situations, plain-text emails can be better than HTML emails. If you send daily alerts, news feeds, and things that are sent very frequently and need to be quickly scanned, plain-text works great. You don't want to send huge, image-heavy emails every day. People will burn out fast.
- Mobile devices. More and more people are checking email on Blackberries and cell phones. Not all of them display HTML properly. Some of them only display the text portion of HTML (removing your images, or stacking them vertically). Some of them only display plain-text. Play it safe and make your plain-text back up message for every campaign.
- Banks and financial institutions should know that when they send HTML emails with open-trackers and click trackers, modern email programs warn their users about "potential privacy threats" or "this could be a phishing attempt." You don't want to jeopardize your reputation this way. Plain-text emails (at least for all your transactional messages) are safer than HTML emails.
Tips for creating Plain-text Emails:
Start with our Plain Text Generator. When you move to the plain text creation screen, we'll pull in plain text content from your HTML version. If you want to do further formatting on your plain text version, keep these tips in mind.
- Use a simple plain-text program to copy in any additional text. Microsoft Word will NOT work. Simple text editors are free, and they're already installed on your computer. If you're a Windows user, click your Start button, then All Programs and then go to Accessories to pick NotePad. Mac users, try a program called TextWrangler. When you use these programs, note that they are like working in the stone age. No formatting, no color, no frills whatsoever. That's plain-text. Hey, it works.
- Most email programs will take a plain-text message and wrap it for you properly, so you don't have to worry about weird wrapping issues.
- Bullet points are key in plain text (yes, even though it can be a spammy looking attribute of the HTML version of your email). Plain-text emails are harder to read, so break it into chunks that are easier to skim and scan. Use little characters like (*) to make bullet points, and use ====== as line separators.
- When you send your campaign both the plain-text email and the HTML email are "embedded" into one message. The recipient's email program chooses which one to display. What few people realize is that some spam filters look at the differences between the content in both versions. If they see a big HTML email with lots of content, and a blank plain-text email, it looks lazy and sloppy (like spam) so they block the email. Plain-text emails are never exact replicas as the HTML email versions, but do spend an appropriate amount of time on them---people do read them.
- In plain-text emails, you can't code hyperlinks like "Click here to try MailChimp." Just type out a URL like: http://www.mailchimp.com/tryit.phtml and the user will see it. Most of your recipients' email programs will make that URL clickable, but some simply won't be able to.