5 Reasons to Not Send Image-Only Emails

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Snaedis Valsdottir
Snaedis Valsdottir



If you're like most marketers, you want your emails to appear perfectly formatted when they arrive in your recipient's inbox. But by now, you've probably realized it doesn't always work out that way.

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It can be very, very tempting to create that email as one big image so there's no chance it will have funky characters, or the spacing will be off, or the graphics pixelated. Seems like the solution to your email marketing problems, right?

Think again.

Most marketers are understandably dismayed when they spend hours creating a beautiful email design only to send themselves a test email and find that it looks nothing like what they've worked so hard on. Even though creating the email as one big image might seem like that right first step, it actually introduces a host of other issues that could result in an even worse user experience for your recipients.

Want to learn how to measure and improve your email deliverability? Check out  this lesson.

In this post, we will discuss five reasons why sending an email that's just an image can hurt your email marketing

1) It's likely your email will trigger spam filters

Email spammers are notorious for using images to hide the text of their email - if it’s in an image, most email clients won’t be able to read the spammy message about a far-off prince who desperately needs you to wire him money immediately. To make up for this blind spot, many spam filters will reject image-only emails.

For more ways on how to make sure your emails don't get caught up in spam filters, check out this post

Pro Tip #1: KISS - Keep It Simple, Smarketer
The more styling there is in the email, the greater the chances that the email will appear differently than expected in the email client. Aim for a clean, straightforward design to decrease the likelihood of your email looking bad in the recipient’s inbox.

2) Some email clients will not display your email images

You don't want people to have to go through an extra step to see your message (e.g. click to ‘download images’ in Outlook). If the image is blocked, the entire email will appear to be blank and the recipient is more likely to ignore it, unsubscribe, or mark the message as spam.

For example, I took a screenshot of this email and sent it to myself. Here's the email as it is meant to appear compared to how it showed up in Outlook:


If you are using an image in your email, don't forget to offer both an HTML and a plain text version of your emails; it’s not only an indicator of legitimacy to ISPs, but it also makes your emails more reader friendly.

3) There is no preview text for an image-only email

Every inch of inbox real estate is valuable, including the brief line of preview text often shown in inboxes. Granted, you could use just one line of text in order to fill that need, but then you would still be left with the other four points outlined in this article. 

Here's an example of what preview text looks like in Gmail using the same example pictured above:

preview-text-3The preview text of the image-only email shows only the image file name and footer information.


Preview text is usually the first line of text within an email. If you don't think that line is the best representation of what your email is all about, you can change it in the email editor if you're using a template-builder template. You'll find the option under the Content tab in HubSpot's Email App:


Pro Tip #2: Nest Tables When Coding Your Own Email Templates
On modern websites, tables are generally only used to contain tabular information, not to structure content (the way sites used to be built). Many email clients display emails with rendering engines that don't support the CSS used today to lay out web pages. So, if you are writing your own custom-coded template and choose to use a table, be sure to nest it! This means placing a whole table inside the single cell of another table - a table nested within a table. Nesting will help the table look the same across email clients. When using Template Builder templates, you don't need to worry about this tip - placing the table within a rich text module produces the same effect as nesting it in another table.

4) Images in your email may be slow to load

Depending on the end user’s internet connection and browser speed, it may take a while for the email to load. The longer it takes to load, the more likely they are to click away from the email, send it to the junk folder, or unsubscribe.

If you're having trouble getting emails to display in your default email client, check out this Knowledge article. Or this one, which is all about best practices for HubSpot's Email App.

Pro Tip #3: CSS Support Guide
When designing an email, refer to this CSS Support Guide for guidelines on which CSS tricks are supported by the email clients you’re most concerned about. Don’t have a focus on any particular clients? Refer to Tip #1 - keep the email simpler in style to increase email client friendliness.

5) The recipient of your email will not be able to search their inbox for keywords in that email

Do you want recipients to be able to find your email when they want to? Of course! There may come a time when an email recipient wants to reference an email you sent them a while back which has now been lost in their busy inbox. Give them the option to search for that email by using text for most of your content. A good rule of thumb is to use a ratio of 60% images, 40% text.

Do you have trusty tips and tricks you use to get your emails in top form? Let us know in the comments!

Start the free Email Marketing Certification course from HubSpot Academy. 

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