Plain Emails vs Designed

When it comes to emails, it's easy to assume that beautifully designed emails will land neatly in the inboxes of your subscribers.

However, that's rarely the case.

Through my years of testing a multitude of variables (which you've probably noticed), from subject lines and calls-to-action, to images, headers, copy and tone... thing has really stood out.

Other than proper list segmentation, nothing has boosted open and click rates as much as sending regular old plain-text emails.

While my emails may not be purely 100{3d39faf6cb6f6c7496a15fb22f7f550d40919aca010ea2686f2665dbc56fe484} plain text (links, tracking pixels, etc), they are as close as possible while still being able to track the relevant stats.

So with that said, here are 4 facts to keep in mind the next time you're setting up an email campaign or sequence.

1) Poorly coded emails will hit the spam folder HARD

Those email templates provided by your autoresponder service tend to look amazing...

But unless they're coded to perfection, there's a high chance email providers will mark them as spam at the first sign of a flaw.

That not only hurts the deliverability of that one email, but can also damage your sender reputation for future emails from that address.

2) If you choose HTML, include Plain-Text too

Some companies flat out refuse to use anything other than fancy HTML emails.

And that's okay in some cases - but if you're going to do that, make sure you also create a plain-text version of your emails.

Most email marketing tools let you do that inside the email editor, and it often takes only a minute or two to optimize the plain-text version.

But if you let it go, you risk having email providers like Gmail and Hotmail see your email as "risky", as they expect legitimate businesses to follow this basic best practice.

3) People actually prefer to receive _____ emails

Back in 2014, HubSpot conducted a survey where they asked over a thousand professionals whether they preferred HTML or plain-text emails, and whether they preferred mostly text or mostly images.

Almost 67{3d39faf6cb6f6c7496a15fb22f7f550d40919aca010ea2686f2665dbc56fe484} of those surveyed stated the preferred HTML with predominantly image-based emails.

However, after conducting a split test experiment comparing 'HTML plus images' to 'plain-text'...

The simpler designed email won 100{3d39faf6cb6f6c7496a15fb22f7f550d40919aca010ea2686f2665dbc56fe484} of the time.

That is, the emails with fewer images and HTML elements.

Which is an incredibly important and indicative statistic!

So what does this ultimately mean?

It comes down to this:

4) HTML Emails reduce open rates, click rates, and often deliverability

Through research, combined with my own testing, I've come to the conclusion that the more HTML-rich an email is, the lower it's open and click rates are.

Of the 2014 HubSpot split testing, here are 3 of the more significant statistics I found interesting:

  1. For the plain-text vs. .GIF image test, the .GIF version had a 2.3{3d39faf6cb6f6c7496a15fb22f7f550d40919aca010ea2686f2665dbc56fe484} lower clickthrough rate. This, combined with the lower open rate, meant the plain-text version got 42{3d39faf6cb6f6c7496a15fb22f7f550d40919aca010ea2686f2665dbc56fe484} more clicks.
  2. For the plain-text vs. HTML template with images test, the HTML email version had a 21{3d39faf6cb6f6c7496a15fb22f7f550d40919aca010ea2686f2665dbc56fe484} lower clickthrough rate, and combined with the open rate the email had 51{3d39faf6cb6f6c7496a15fb22f7f550d40919aca010ea2686f2665dbc56fe484} fewer clicks.
  3. For the simple HTML template vs. HTML-heavy template, the simpler email had a 5.3{3d39faf6cb6f6c7496a15fb22f7f550d40919aca010ea2686f2665dbc56fe484} higher clickthrough rate, and combined with the higher open rate, resulted in getting 30{3d39faf6cb6f6c7496a15fb22f7f550d40919aca010ea2686f2665dbc56fe484} more clicks.

Even after improving the email design and using different images, the clickthrough rate never improved... in fact, HTML consistently had a lower clickthrough rate.

So when combined with lower open rates due to poor deliverability, it turns into a massive black hole for email conversions.

5) What this means for you

Unless you're willing to drop a stack of money on dedicated IP addresses, along with investing a lot of time to warm up those IPs just to see a slight bump in your deliverability, you'll probably want to keep things simple.

You just need to remember that although people claim they prefer HTML emails with images, in reality, it's plain-text emails that perform the best.

It can be a tough pill for many to swallow, but at the end of the day, when it comes to emails, less is more.

And hey, it's not all bad. Limiting yourself to text emails forces you to focus on the most important aspects - copy, subject lines, link placement, etc - to achieve peak results.

So next time you're getting ready to write out an email, simply turn a blind eye to those fancy templates, and opt for the vanilla version.