Help, readers can’t see my images!

Creating email messages that comply with the guidelines of all email clients is a challenge we all face as marketeers. We know that images do very well in email. They make your message visually attractive and help you shape and define your content. So we teamed up with graphic designers and found a solution: we simply put all content in an image. Problem solved. This gives us unlimited creative freedom and visuals that perfectly match our branding. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, email clients like to make things difficult for us marketeers. We found out that a significant part of our audience reads their mails with the images turned off. Ouch! Lesson well learned: don’t ever count on your reader's curiosity and goodwill to make the effort to download your pretty pictures. Chances are your email will end up in the bin, or even worse: the dreaded spam filter. Wouldn’t that be a total waste of your time and effort?

How does image blocking work?

Blocked images (often indicated by a grey frame with an ‘x’ in the center or in the upper corner) occur when the email client or the person reading the email does not allow automatic image loading in emails. For email clients this is primarily a security measure. In people’s individual settings, the choice not to load images automatically is often motivated by a lack of bandwidth or the need to lower data volumes.

This is a preview of how subscribers see your image if it is blocked.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to prevent this from happening. Just about every mail client applies other methods to block images. Some just provide one standard with two settings: always on or always off. But luckily, some also offer conditional settings, allowing exceptions for known senders or other factors, based on trust. But even then, those are parameters we can’t control. That’s why it’s crucial that you, as a sender, make sure that the content of your email is logically structured and perfectly comprehensible without its images.

Oh damn… so there’s nothing I can do?

Relax, we wouldn’t be RAAK if we didn’t have a few tricks up our sleeve. Check out our 4 tried-and-tested tricks of the trade.

1. Ditch image-only emails

Make sure you have a solid, activating copy as html-text in your email. Keep in mind that most spam filters also scan the image/text ratio (60/40) of your email to assess how reliable your mailing is. So always find a good balance there. Consistency, logic and convincing copy are way more important than just a pretty design.

2. Mind your alt-texts

One of the simplest things you can do to limit the damage done by a missing image, is add an alt text to your image. An alt text is a short descriptive text that appears in your email where your image should be, when the reader is looking at your email with the images turned off. This replaces ugly empty images boxes, with useful content that clarifies the missing images (like "Discover our newest 4k ultra-HD tv" or "Sign up now and download our free 24-page whitepaper"). It tells your reader what your image is about. It gives them context and might motivate them to download your images after all. And believe us: spam filters will be less strict on your emails if you add alt text.

3. Use html buttons as links

You won’t believe how many people still use images as buttons to add calls to action to their email. Bad idea. If your images are turned off, your recipient won’t know what you expect from him. Sure, you could also use text links, but you can make a perfectly clear button with strong copy in html, without having to use an image.

4. Get yourself whitelisted

Get right down to business and ask your contacts in your welcome email to add you to their address book as a trustworthy source. Getting your recipients confidence and approval also helps you stay out of spam boxes. Be sure to always use a recognisable email address as a sender. You may already be in your contact’s address book (as they may be receiving regular emails from you). And a we all know: recognition builds trust.


It goes without saying that you want to send convincing emails that make people click. But there is so much smart stuff you can do, without depending too much on striking images to do the trick. Make sure your message is clear and invest some time in writing for a strong subject lines. Add clear links and convincing buttons to your email. You’ll get your readers where you want them. And be sure to keep an eye on your reporting: it will tell you which elements in your email campaigns are producing the best results.

Do the Email Marketing ROI-scan


Posted on
Sep 30, 2020