sending images in a plain text email

Sending Images via Plain Text Email

It’s challenging to display complex graphical information in email. That’s because there is no HTML standard for email readers. So while web pages use HTML, and standards exist for the different web browsers to follow, each email reader does things it’s own way. If you send a complex graphical message from your email reader, it’s almost certain that some of your recipients are going to have a problem displaying the document properly. Let’s talk about, instead, sending images in a plain text email.

Put Your Image or Complex Information as a Webpage

One solution is to sending images in a plain text email is to put your rich complex information up as a web page, and then send a plain text email with a link to this web page. All email readers will display links or URL’s as blue and clickable, even when it’s plain text.

You will want to show the full URL, including the http:// prefix. That is what tells the email readers to make that link blue and clickable.

Another advantage of having your information on a website is that Google and the other search engines can find it. So if you want people to know about and find this information, a website is a better place than sending the information via email, because the search engines do not index email.

If you want to know how many people read your information, the logs on your web server are your most accurate resource. Just make sure that the only way people know about that link is from the information in your email.

It used to be that you could track the open rate in HTML email, by inserting invisible graphics in the email, that would be downloaded from a web server. Counting the web log hits on that invisible graphic on the web server was a fairly accurate reflection of how many people read your email. But these days, almost all email readers block the images from loading when you open your email. While this helps prevent fraudulent attacks and showing misleading logos, it also means web tracking graphics are also blocked.

So sending a short email, with some teaser copy and the link to your web page, is frequently the best way to solve this problem.

Put Your Complex Information in a PDF or Other Document

A second solution to sending images in a plain text email is to create your complex graphical information in a document, and then send that document as an attachment. The PDF is probably the best type of document to create. Most computer users can already open and display a PDF document, and it will be displayed exactly as you created it.

The problem with sending attachments is that they frequently cause the email to be stopped by spam filters, and thus your subscribers never see your email. Attachments can become very large, which then gets blocked at many email gateways, as email was never designed to send large amounts of data.

Your content in an attachment is also more likely to be recognized as spam. That’s because the spam filters match up mathematical signatures from their database of known spam to the signatures they compute from your email. The larger email now has many more chances to match up against one of the millions of known spam signatures.

Link to an Attachment has a third way of getting complex graphical information to your subscribers. We allow you to send attachments in your email, and we save that attachment on our server. We then alter your email to have a link to your attachment on our server, instead of the attachment itself. Now your email is short and concise, and people can click on the link to download your PDF or other document.

Having trouble formatting your plain text email? Look here.

Paperclip image by William Clifford – CC License

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mark david mcCreary

mark david mcCreary is the founder of Mail-List. I've built the best Email Discussion Group system on the Internet, and I invite you to try it for free, for 30 days.No credit card is required.

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