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In the past month I have set up more email campaigns than ever. Surprisingly I kind of like doing them. With having set up so many I have picked up some tricks. I also have had to remember my college days of coding, Mr. Davidson would be proud of me. If anyone has taken a web design class at SPC in Levelland, Texas. Then you know what I am talking about. Email coding is using your Bare Bones HTML all the way. For everyone who does not know what “Bare Bones HTML” is, it is the basic code that makes up a website. It is the skeleton, the base, and a must for emails.

Whenever you are coding an email there is no fancy CSS style sheet or block CSS styles before the body tag. It is a plain old HTML file, all of the styles are done inline, meaning you have to go old school and put style tags on everything. If you want a picture to float right then you put that style in the image tag, if you want a table cell to have a background then you put that style in the td (cell) tag. Most email services do not read CSS styles, this is why you have to go old school. Yes you can still do fancy things it just takes more work. This is what makes email marketing so complicated. There are so many different email platforms that read code differently. You have to code for the unknown and to the lowest denominator. This is why my college code comes in handy it is simple and to the point, nothing fancy.

Welcome to the land of tables. Divs are used sparingly, as some email platforms do not support them very well. For emails tables are going to be your best friend. They can be controlled and styled fairly easily. We have one client that sends out a monthly email with all of the video they posted to their blog. Well guess what I learned, no iframes here. So no embedding from YouTube. They best way is to have a poster image and link to the video. That brings me to another point. If you are using a lot of photos make sure they sized correctly. If they are too big and you are sizing them in the image tag it will take the email longer to load. We all know how people do not like to wait. If it takes more then 1.5 seconds to load they will not look at it. Also with photos you have two options loading them into your email marketing tool or loading them into a folder on your server. I like the later. For me it is faster and if I need to make a change a lot easier. When ever you load it to your server you will use that url for your image path.

With most email marketing services you can send a test email. USE IT! It will save you from having mistakes. Send it to a couple different people to make sure everything looks like it should. Like I said before, not all email services read code the same. It may look perfect on yours and be broken on someone else's. Testing is the only way to know.

Here is a checklist to go by

  • A plain old HTML file is the only way.
  • No fancy CSS style sheet or CSS styles before the body tag.
  • Use tables to structure your email layout.
  • Make sure you either set the width of your table to 100% or do not exceed 600px wide.
  • Use a larger paragraph font so it can be viewed better on mobile devices.
  • Make sure images are sized. Do not size them in the image tag.
  • Load images to email marketing tool or on to your server.
  • Test test test.

I hope this helps you with your email marketing.