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Ur Still Doin It Wrong: Fun Ways to Screw Up Email Templates and Email Blasts

by Akash Jayaprakash, Learning and Training Associate

(Bonus tip: a good use for screen captures from Microsoft Word!)

We're back again with another installment of Ur Doin It Wrong, a list of things that other people gank up just so you can go in and fix them. Ahem. In last week's webinar, we focused on some mistakes that can make email templates and blasts turn awful, or get blocked as Spam. And we made fun of people who make screencaps of documents in Microsoft Word and try to use that as their email blast content:

Don't ever do this. Don't do any of it, but especially don't try the screencap-as-content thing.

But while we were doing that, we realized that there actually is one really great way to use Word screencaps, and we'll share that at the end of this post.

Things Other People Mess Up in Email Templates

    1. Don't forget these required components. Those of you with already functioning templates can skip this part, but keep these tips in mind if you try your hand at making a new one from scratch. If you don't add these things to your template, it may make your emails ugly-looking or even undeliverable:
  • Template tags: this HTML code tells Salsa where to insert content in your email template. If they're in the wrong place, or not there at all, your email blast will be ugly or totally broken.
    more info
  • Unsubscribe links: not just required by your Salsa contract, and not simply an expression of your classy communications strategy, unsubscribe links are yet another way of lowering the Spam score of an email blast. (Not having one can get you labeled as a Spammer!) Salsa can generate these for you. Don't forget to include an unsubscribe link in the plain text version of your templates!
  • Doctype: an HTML code snippet that every email template and web page should have. A few years back, we advised Salsa users to remove this code snippet, since at the time many of the major email programs didn't like them. Times have changed, and now it's good practice to have <DOCTYPE> tags in your HTML documents.
    more info
  • You could do these things, but please don't. If you do these things, your emails might go out okay--but your emails could also go very wrong, and even be blocked as Spam. So don't do these things:
  • Don't paste from Word: We say it all the time, but we're not going to shut up about it. Pasting even "plain" text directly from Word can introduce all kinds of weird hidden code to your email blast, resulting in unhappiness.

  • Don't use unresized (i.e. BIG) images: just because you can add any image in the Salsa WYSIWYG and resize it using the WYSIWYG doesn’t mean the images are actually getting reduced in size. And if your manager wants you to put in 10 high res pictures from your latest fundraising gala, you'd better resize those images if you don't want to choke the inbox of every one of your supporters with 30 MB of images. (See the "more information" link for details.)
  • Don't ignore plaintext content: yes, these days everyone's got an amazing 4G smartphone, or a quad-core desktop capable of producing the latest Pixar film*, but you still need to make text content. Mail programs often pull their "preview" of emails from text content, and emails sent with only HTML content might be marked as Spam.

* Actually, not everyone does. Make sure your low-tech supporters can still see your message, even if it's just a link to a web version of your email blast!

  • Don't link to an external CSS: not every email reader can deal with this. Use inline styles instead. And keep'em simple while you're at it. (If you have no idea what this means, don't worry about it.)

When Terrible Things Happen to Good Email Blasts

There are a lot of bad things you can do to email blasts, but here are three quick sins to avoid:

DON'T USE ALL CAPS IN YOUR SUBJECT: it'll get your email marked as Spam and it makes you look like a chucklehead.

Don't forget to send yourself a test email for review: I once nearly sent an email blast to 3,000 people that had a random, unrelated picture of a prominent Hollywood actor in it. (Inside office joke.) Good thing I checked the test email.

Don't take a screen capture of an entire page/document and then use that image as your email blast: so you've been handed copy for an email blast in Microsoft Word, and management insists you keep all the formatting. The Comic Sans font, the cheeseball clip art, the extra special margins. How in the world are you going to get this into Salsa? Hey, why not just take a screen capture or three, and use that as your email blast?

Where to start? This is (surprise!) a great way to have your email blocked as Spam. Your supporters won't be able to click on individual links (and Salsa won't be able to track them). And smartphone users will be enraged at the slow loading time and waste of their data plan. So try not to do this. If you have a particular image or format set that just hasto be presented in a certain way, consider making it into a PDF, hosting it on your website, and linking to it from your email blast. (But see our handy tip below!)

There's one handy, easy use for Word screencaps in email blasts, and that's as a quick banner generation tool. Trying to put fancy font headers in HTML is a bad idea--but if you're really keen on them, why not make the fancy text in Word (or Powerpoint), snap a screenshot of it, trim it down, and put it in as an image? (Info on taking screenshots: General | Mac | PC) You can make some nice banners and headers in a jiffy, and use all the fonts and text effects (color, drop shadow, glow, etc.) at your command:

Just don't go crazy:

Watch for additional entries in the "Ur Doin it Wrong" series coming soon. And if you find yourself doing something wrong in Salsa (or someone else that you know, since you're never wrong) and want to know how to do it better, please call us.

Topics: Salsa Marketing