Is the risk worth the reward? An overview of email marketing's riskier practices

Logan Kirk, Sr. Support Leader

Logan Kirk, Sr. Support Leader About The Author

July 22, 2020

logblog

So, you like to live life a little dangerously? Whether you're staying on a 5 in blackjack, you keep a glass of water next to your laptop, or you use web fonts and embed videos in an email, you know there can be value in taking risks that don't necessarily have a 100% success rate.

In emails, there are a lot of things you can do, but it's important to consider if you should. In this article, we'll discuss some of the items we get the most questions about for things you can do in emails, but should really consider if the risk is worth the reward.

Embedding Videos

Videos can really take your marketing to the next level, but do they belong directly inside of an email?

Marketing and Advertising have been using this visual medium since 1941 when the first TV commercial aired during a baseball game. Most folks would be hard pressed to identify a day in the last month where they didn't see some kind of video advertisement. With such prevalence, there is a clear consensus that there is value in using videos in your marketing or advertising campaign. What we'll discuss here is how to best use email as a delivery mechanism for that content.

The largest thing to consider is simply the limitation that email clients impose on embedding videos. That is - many email clients have a technical limitation that prevents embedded videos from appearing in the content of your email. While this has improved over time, the risk is still high that your clients won't be able to see the content you're trying to share with them if you're embedding videos.

What's more, we have seen that spam filters are more likely to flag content that contains embedded videos, as it sees this content as unknown, something that it can't scan well for security purposes.

Lastly, we also want to consider the expectations of our contacts. A recipient is rarely going to expect to be blasted with a video that plays automatically when they open the message. On a personal level, it's not too hard to imagine - you're in a quiet setting and want to catch up on your email, so you open it, and all of a sudden your device is playing a video for the world to hear. Just as we all find it annoying when that news site automatically plays advertisements on an otherwise text-based article, we simply aren't expecting to have a video begin playing when we open our emails.

With all these aspects in mind, we recommend not embedding videos into your marketing piece. But since we know videos are still incredibly valuable, how else can we get that content shared with our contacts?

There are a couple ways that are safe, effective, and easy.

Option 1 - Linking an image to your video.
It's as simple as that - in your email, add an image that links to your video hosted elsewhere. Bonus points if you add a 'play' button overlay to the image to clearly indicate that it is a video meant to be clicked (which is something you can do with the image editing tools in rezora's Zephyr Editor!).

Option 2 - Using an animated GIF
If what you're trying to get across is movement or motion, a GIF just might be the answer. GIFs can take a lot of forms, anything from a quick conversion of a segment of your video into GIF format, or something artwork that was custom made as a GIF. Especially with the former, you'll want to use a fair amount of caution on balancing the file size with the visual quality of the GIF. When converting a video to a GIF, you can end up with either a huge file size that could end up landing you in the spam folder, or forcing recipients to wait an exceedingly long time for the GIF to load, or you may end up with a GIF with a very poor frame rate and little visual quality. There's a happy medium here in most cases, just make sure to use some caution and set your expectations right for what's both possible and smart.

VERDICT: Should I embed videos into emails? No, but there are a handful of alternative methods that still get the value out of your video.

Web Fonts

Using only web-safe fonts like Arial and Helvetica can feel very limiting. You want your design to shine, your headline to POP! You want your branding to be consistent and unique, and you might be thinking, how am I going to do that when I'm using the same 10 fonts that everyone and their mother uses?

The solution to that may be the use of web fonts, as they allow you to design your text in a completely new fashion. But they are not without their faults, and it's important to keep these in mind when you're creating your content.

The biggest limitation here, again, is that web fonts do not have universal support on all email clients. Many do support them of course! You'll have good luck with web fonts any time the email is opened in a browser, and email clients like Apple Mail, and many versions of Outlook.

On the other hand, there are several that don't support web fonts - the Gmail app and some other versions of Outlook, among others.

The good news: Unlike embedding videos, even if web fonts aren't supported by your recipient's email client, all is not lost. In most cases a fallback font will be used instead, so while some of your contacts may not see your beautiful web font, they will still see the text itself, usually in a more basic looking web-safe font.

VERDICT: Should I use web-fonts in emails? Yes! But know that there are some limitations and some recipients may see your design a bit differently than you intend.

Emojis

Emojis! Who doesn't love 'em? They convey such complex feelings and thoughts in such a small amount of space. But do they belong in emails?

Emojis, like so many things in the email world, have only seen increased adoption and support over time. Currently they are very widely supported, with Outlook 2013 being one of the only clients that do not support emojis. 

Emoji's have also been shown to increase engagement and open rates! So, what's the risk?

Frankly - being annoying. Emojis can be seen as immature and less professional. Using the wrong emoji might land you in some troubled water if it has a hidden meaning (pro tip: avoid the eggplant emoji) and adding a myriad of emojis in the subject line may come across as insincere.

VERDICT: Should I use emojis in email? Yes! But know your audience, use a little caution in which emojis specifically, and don't go too overboard. 

Sending From a Free Email Address

Gmail addresses, everybody's got one! You use it for a lot of things, maybe even for business communication, so why not use it to send your email marketing too?

Well, it's risky; potentially very risky.

rezora's CTO, Ben Brown, covers this extremely well in his blog post, "DNS, DKIM, SPF, Oh my!: The technology behind deliverability and how to use it to your advantage."

But the gist of it is, when an email is being sent through a marketing platform like rezora, the sending servers that the email is sent from actually belong to that marketing platform. It's very important that your sending email address is configured to allow that to happen, lest your emails start bouncing or landing in the SPAM folder.

Free email addresses, like Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, etc., have very limited capabilities for configuring these settings. Paid email addresses, or even easier, addresses provided by your company or brokerage, will indeed be able to have these settings configured properly. In fact, if you're using an address provided by your company, chances are you're already all set. For this reason, we recommend not using free email addresses for sending your marketing whenever possible, and your results will speak for themselves.

VERDICT: Should I use a free email address to send from on an email marketing platform? No - you'll have a high chance of emails landing in spam or bounding. We recommend using your company-provided address or purchasing an email address and ensuring it is configured properly for the best levels of deliverability.

Flashy (Spammy) Language

A quick trip to your own SPAM folder will tell you everything you need to know here. You'll immediately find emails with subject lines like: Free Getaway! Earn $ Cash Bonus!

Without giving it much thought, it might be enticing to use very flashy and attention grabbing language like this, which is why this technique is employed by spammers and malicious senders worldwide. It grabs the attention of the unaware and excites the easy to fool. As a result, email services flag words like these as being more likely to be used by spammers, which means if you use these words, your email might land in the SPAM folder too.

Ultimately, you don't what to fool them with exciting language, you want to engage them with personalized content that they're interested in. While this applies to all the content of your email, perhaps the most important is the subject line. On subject lines specifically, try the following:

Keep it short, sweet, and simple - Make sure the full subject line will be readable by all your clients on whatever device they may be using. A good general rule? Keep it less than 60 characters long.

Be transparent about your content - Make sure your subject line correctly describes the content of your email. No one wants to be deceived, and your contacts will appreciate the sincerity. 

Start with action-oriented verbs -  You can still have exciting subject lines without being spammy. For example, instead of "Open House for 123 Anywhere St.," try, "Join us for an up-close look at this stunning property".

VERDICT: Should I use Flashy (Spammy) language in my emails? No! But you can still use exciting language, just make sure to be sincere and transparent about what you're sending.

Want more info on deliverability and avoiding the SPAM filter? Our QA Specialist, Chris Webb, shares some great info on deliverability and how to improve your sending reputation.

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