Getting Your Email Read

If you are delivering content through a series of email messages your biggest challenge is clearly simply getting them to open up your email. When they initially sign up for your email series you should immediately set their expectations as to what they will be receiving from you.

This would include the total number of messages in your email series, the timing of those messages and an example of the Subject Line they will be looking for from you. You’re, in essence, training them to look out for your content.

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The immediate instructions you provide them should also include the specific steps they need to take to make sure the email address from which you’re sending your messages is white listed in their email system.

If your content is getting caught up in their spam filters then they’re probably never going to consume it. Be sure to use a consistent “From” address for the sending of your emails. People are far more likely to open an email and consume it if it is coming from an email address they know and trust.

One of the biggest choices you’re going to need to make is whether you’re going to send plain text or HTML emails. There are pros and cons to each. HTML allows you to dress up your message with images and provides what can be a much nicer looking finished product. It can help you with your branding efforts. Plain text is exactly what it sounds like—a text-only format.

Here’s a synopsis of the pros and cons of each approach:


#1 – Ability to track performance metrics. If you need to know the success rates of your email then HTML is the way to go. You’ll be able to see if people are opening up and consuming your content.

#2 – Branding. The ability to include your logo or brand colors makes for a much more professional look. People will recognize your email at a glance among the massive influx of message most of us receive daily.

#3 – Social sharing. You can include social sharing buttons within your email if you want. These typically have a higher click-thru rate compared to emails without them.

#4 – Consumability. It’s easier to break up your content into bite-sized chunks with the user of headers, columns, etc.


#1 – Beware the spam filter! Don’t overdo it on the design elements within an HTML email. Spam filters can monitor the ratio of text to HTML and, if the percentages are out of balance by their guidelines,

automatically put your message in the spam category. This can really curtail the deliverability of your messages.

#2 – Some email clients warn their customers about HTML email, possibly scaring them office. Some clients also automatically disable images, which requires the end recipient to go through additional steps on their end if they want to see your HTML message in all its glory.

#3 – Inconsistent appearance. All email clients may not handle your HTML message the same way so it may not look consistent from recipient to recipient.

#4 – Time considerations. It takes you longer to construct a good looking HTML email than it does a text email.

Plain Text Pros

#1 – Universal accessibility. Any device and email service provider will display plain text. Plain text emails will get through to people who have elected to block HTML emails.

#2 – Consistency in appearance. It doesn’t matter what platform or device your end user is using. Your email will look the same.

#3 – Speed of preparation. Sending a plain text email usually feels more personal for your subscribers and is quicker for you to prepare.

#4 – More personal. It appears more like a one to one communication.

Plain Text Cons

#1 – No ability to track. Without the ability to track open rates like you have with HTML emails you don’t really know how many people are really getting into your content.

#2 – Clumsy links. If you want to include a URL within a text message you can’t embed the link. You have to enter out the entire URL instead of

creating a clickable link. Long URLs are clunky and can confuse the reader.

#3 – Reduced engagement. Without any images you’ve got to rely on your words and just your words to paint a picture for your reader.

So how do you choose?

Ultimately, only you can decide whether it will be best for you to use plain text or HTML emails. Content delivery, such as a weekly newsletter, may work best in an HTML format that allows you the branding. The needs of your audience should be first and foremost in your consideration.

We opt to use text-only emails for all our follow-up consumption series for the products that we sell. Primarily because it is much quicker for us to put them together and we don’t have to worry about how the message

will look to the end recipient. Now we do also copy and paste that text message into the HTML field in our autoresponder system so we can make any links clickable within our text message for people who are receiving HTML emails.

The guidelines for structuring a text email are, in many ways, similar to some of our suggested guidelines for writing a book. Just like we suggest you keep your chapters fairly short, your email messages should be fairly short. Only a few paragraphs at the most.

Each paragraph should have no more than 4-5 lines in total and then a blank line before beginning the next paragraph. These bite-sized chunks encourage consumption. Also, each individual line within a paragraph should be no more than 60-65 characters in length. At the end of typing 60 to 65 characters hit the enter key on your keyboard to kick your cursor down to the next line.

These shorter lines also encourage consumption because they avoid the overwhelm factor you can get with lines that run all the way across the screen and appear to be too much work to read.

Your content should be the primary focus of your emails. Can you sell in your emails? Yes, but in our opinion any selling should be fairly low key and only after the main purpose of your email—delivering your content—has been accomplished first. People signed up for the content, not to be overwhelmed by a bunch of ads.

Do make sure you tease them in each message about the upcoming content. You want to keep them excited about the content they’ll be receiving from you and by previewing upcoming attractions you can help keep their level of interest high.

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Armand Morin

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