Using HTML or Plain Text in Email Marketing

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Email marketing messages come in a variety of formats, most notably HTML and plain text. In this lesson, you'll learn about both and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Which One Will You Choose?

You're considering the purchase of some new camping gear for the weekend. You receive two emails. one has a lot of pictures of various tents and gear that look great; the other has no pictures but a really compelling story that you read start to finish. Both emails are effective, but which one earns your business?

That's the idea behind HTML and plain text email messages that marketers send to customers and prospects. Both can convey your marketing messages in different ways, but which one is more effective at reaching your target audience? Let's learn more about each of them.

What Is an HTML Email Message?

A Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML for short, is an email message designed with computer coding to resemble a regular website. An HTML email marketing message may include a variety of colors or fonts, photos, graphics, website links, tables and columns.

HTML email messages allow for a more visually appealing design, which is always an important feature when trying to convey your brand or message effectively and efficiently.

In the example, you'll see an HTML-designed email message. In it, you'll see special layout formatting with different sections, built-in links (embedded in blue in words you specify), small pictures or icons, graphics, colors and font formatting.

An HTML-based email can include special formatting, layout and graphics

It is a clean, well-designed email message that conveys the purpose with a few graphics and design elements thrown in to maximize the message.

Advantages and Disadvantages of HTML Emails

While many people think the best quality of an HTML email message is the variety of designs, colors and layouts you can use, there are other benefits to consider:

  • HTML emails allow you to track how many people are opening your email.
  • Images can be clicked easily to take your reader from email to your website.
  • An eye-catching design can convey your brand's personality or showcase important products and services.
  • Call-to-action buttons can be used to grab a viewer's attention.
  • Engaging content leads to better engagement, whether making a sale or generating a lead.

Of course, there are some disadvantages to consider as well:

  • Web browsers and email programs typically block images from incoming emails.
  • You must still incorporate good, clean, engaging text.
  • More time must be invested to create and design an HTML email campaign.
  • There's always a chance something will go wrong in how the email is displayed or viewed.

What Is a Plain Text Email Message?

Plain text email messages are just that - plain text. They are a no-frills way to communicate your brand message or products and services. They include no extra features such as varying layouts, graphics, or photos.

In the example of a plain-text email, you'll note it looks much like an email you might send to a family member or friend.

Text-based emails include an email message in regular text format.

It features a single type of font and font size, no graphics or photos and no use of color. The lone website link must be typed out, rather than embedded. With that said, it is short and easily readable and user-friendly across email clients and different devices.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Plain Text Emails

Most marketers who use email will be quick to point out the following benefits of using plain text email over HTML:

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