Three Ways to Optimize Your Email Marketing for Plain Text

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Email marketers love HTML because it lets us present information in an appealing, eye-catching, and easy-to-use format. Most marketers love HTML so much, in fact, that they just ignore plain text, figuring that their email service provider will convert whatever text needs to be converted and the recipient will just miss out on the lush eye-candy. But, when it comes to email, what you see is not always what you get. In fact, if you aren’t still optimizing for plain text emails, you could be sending your subscribers an ugly jumble of messed up code, rendering your message nearly unreadable. There are ways, however, to optimize for plain text while designing the HTML campaign.

Avoid Using Too Many Images

A lot of marketers don’t actually realize how many images they regularly include in their emails. Images are really useful as they can guide the recipients eye to whatever you want to highlight, but they break easily and can wind up destroying an email’s formatting. So you really should try to go easy on the images. Design a theme with your clients usual trade dress and logo, and let that be the main visual element for your email. Since themes usually make the background of the message, the actual content won’t be too jumbled if the email is turned into plain text. You can also consider using alt-text to describe your images. That way, even if the email is plain text, the recipient will have some idea as to what is supposed to be displayed.

Write Strong Copy

Your copy should always speak for itself, and yet marketers continue to overly-rely on flashy images and coding to cover otherwise mediocre copy. Take away the glitz, and all you are left with is a poorly written email. Marketers have to target all of their subscribers, even the ones who choose to receive plain text emails. That means focusing on brevity, including calls-to-action, and clearly explaining how your campaign benefits the subscriber. Remember, you need to subtly remind them why they even wanted to receive your emails in the first place. Otherwise, they’ll unsubscribe and hurt your metrics. If you do things right, you can use the same, exact copy in your HTML emails, which will just make them that much stronger.

Test, and Test, and Test Again

Send the HTML and Plain Text versions of your email to yourself, and see how they look using different browsers, email clients, and devices. Your subscribers are going to be receiving this message on PCs, phones, tablets, and through a variety of programs and services – you need to make sure the email looks good and reads well, no matter what version the subscriber receives, or what they use to read it. Consistent testing now can also save you time later on, as you can use what works as the basis of a template. If a format looks particularly good as plain text, for example, save it and use it again. There is no harm in sticking to what you know works.


Not everyone is going to want to receive HTML emails, no matter how good they look. All of your subscribers, however, deserve the same amount of attention. They are giving you the opportunity to market and sell directly to them, and you shouldn’t squander that because plain text can be a pain. Let your message speak for itself, and use HTML only as a way to bolster your message. If the copy is strong enough, it won’t matter if the email has pictures or not – it will still have an impact and a positive ROI.

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