Why You Need A Good Text-To-Image Ratio In Email Marketing And How To Achieve It

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“What The Best Text-To-Image Ratio In Email Marketing?” It’s one of the most important questions an e-commerce store should ask when talking about email marketing strategies—but it’s not always at the top of everyone’s list.
After all, will too much text or too little design really affect my sales? Turns out the answer is YES… and in a big way.
But then, how do you strike the perfect balance? I’ll say this… there’s not exactly an easy answer—it’s different for every store. Let’s take a look at our options:

Email with more images and less text are attractive, but use caution

In this new age of consumption, we marketers just have a few seconds to catch people’s eyes with something worthwhile. That’s why images have become one of the major assets of email marketing. People like to see something fun in their inboxes; something that connects with their needs, interests, and desires.
Imagine looking in your inbox and finding out your favorite store is having a sale. It’s your favorite store, so you’re already interested, but you’ll probably only click through to their products and Call to Actions (CTAs) if their content is attractive and eye-catching. Which means that while brand recognition might get us the notice, it’s often the images that get us the click—and that’s exactly why nice pictures and buttons with CTAs can help us improve click rates and store reputation. 

Avoid email templates that are 100% image at all costs

A lot of marketers make the mistake of using just image blocks throughout the email. And where they go most wrong is using text on an image too. Which means the text is not formatted in the template as a text block, but rather edited as part of the image. This is a bad practice for 2 reasons

1. Some email inboxes are set to not download images by default

Not all email inboxes (think Outlook!) are set to open email images by default. Their recipients have to manually click on “Download image” to give the inbox permission to load the image. This just makes the content of your email pointless and your email might just be a waste of a send and user. Especially bad if many of your recipients are such users. Similarly, even if the inbox is set to load images by default, a slower internet connection may not load the image at all or completely. What they will essentially see is this.

Image-only email not loading


 2. Image heavy emails are not search friendly

Even if the image loads on the user’s computer, it’s not a great practice for an interesting reason. Image content cannot be searched on the inbox search functionality. What if some user filters their inbox by a certain keywords to dig out emails they’re interested in but find nothing because there was no text to answer the query. Just a quick test here. This is what the email search throws up when I searched for “allergy dust filter”. Even though the word was part of the image, this email did not trigger.

image-only email

3. Too many images can clip your emails

Keep in mind that too many images or even too long text in an email can clip your message, which means images stop being visible because of their heavy content. This is definitely not what you want for your email reputation. Make sure your images are compressed to avoid any clipped email embarrassment. (Not only that, a clipped email means all your hard work is lost… which nobody wants to deal with.)

gmail message clipped

4. Images in email will not load correctly if not optimised for mobile

Ever seen emails where the images look a little wonky on the mobile screen but look okay on the desktop? Or vice versa. When using images, make sure your images are responsive on mobile devices. HubSpot reports 50% of the email marketing audience are mobile users, so you better show them images they can see!

So then, all text or a lot of text is the way to go then?

Not so quickly! Yes text can be beautiful.


The advantages of text heavy emails are

  1. Allows for good copywriting: It lets you spin beautiful stories, leverage those amazing copywriting to engage your audience and eventually drive them to action.

2. It loads on all internet speeds and inbox providers: No matter how slow the internet is or what the email provider is, text-dominant emails load pretty much instantly and your message gets put across

3. It usually lands more often in primary inbox especially when going to previously unengaged audience: Ever notice how a lot of newsletters that you find in your inbox (and not the spam folder) are almost 80-90% text? That’s because Google can read the content of these emails and not find spam-trigger words like sale, buy, discount, price etc. If there was a lot of image involved, the emails would end up being mostly promotional.

So then an all-text email is the way to go right?

Not so quickly!

Here’s a few reasons why all text too much text in emails can also be bad

1. Too much text on a promotional email can trigger spam filters

We’ve already talked through a few deliverability issues with images, but now we’re going to discuss one of the major problems when using a lot of text in your emails. As you probably know, inboxes like Gmail trigger your messages as promotion or spam when your copy uses words that promote or sell something. So when you write an email with a lot of copy, especially of a promotional nature, you have a higher probability of using those keywords and getting flagged.  Think words like “Hurry!! Buy now” or “Get your 50% discount!”

Side note: Read this article to go deeper into how to prevent emails from losing their way into the spam folder.

2. Too much text without attractive images is boring

Imagine if marketing was all text? If there were no product images, no beautiful photography, no models, no funky GIFs, no before and after images in testimonials.

Unthinkable right? Yes. So is the case for email. Without a visual stimulation, ecommerce might as well as be dead.  The charm of marketing of a product is the product itself. Since we’re shopping online and not able to see, touch or use the product, presenting it as beautifully and with as much visual information that the platform would allow is a must to replicate a real shopping experience as much as possible. Ads are not books. People have got to see what you have to show! So, 100% text emails for ecommerce emails are a bad idea.

So what’s the ideal text-to-image ratio? While there are certain industry benchmarks like 80:20 (text:image), we would suggest keeping a more balanced ratio. Even a 60:40 or a 50-50% ratio would work well. Provided the images serve their purpose well as does the text.

good image to text ratio in email


What should be in the text and what should be the image?

Great question!

Text: Product features, information, how-tos, customer testimonials, how to use your products, its benefits, shipping information, materials, ingredients, and at least one CTA can be text without needing a visual aid.

Image: Product photos (duh!), before and after photos, GIFs (if they’re used cleverly like below), a cute illustration that adheres to the brand style. Like mentioned before, don’t make the classic mistake of using text like image. That is putting text on top of your image in the image editing tool and then importing that into your email template as an image. How much ever possible use text blocks to use text to maintain a good image-to-text ratio in the emails.

Think of this rule of thumb for email marketing: Would your email make sense if the images didn’t load? Or would it make sense if there was no text? The ideal email would be one which would be intelligible without image or the text in the email!


How do we figure out the best option for your store?

Very simple. We use our knowledge of A/B testing to create different emails based on different criteria  (image-centric vs. text-centric) and check the results after some weeks of research. If you’d like to try that for yourself,  here are some basic A/B tests you can do to understand better what works and what doesn’t for your store:

  1. GIFs vs. Images: This will help you know if your audience likes videos or images better on your campaigns. Let’s see which one attracts the most clicks.
  2. Short vs. Long Copy: This one will let you know if your audience likes to skim or scroll If long copy attracts more clicks, this means your audience is super engaged with the text. If not, short copy will be the perfect way to increase conversion. Let’s see how engaged your audience is!
  3. Plain Text Templates vs. Designed Templates: This test will show you whether your audience prefers text or images on your email templates. If their preference is designed templates, you’ll need to keep testing some of the above methods to really narrow things down. But, if the winner is plain text, your audience is likely to be made up of readers—so your copy better be engaging! 

So that was all the lowdown on why and how to achieve a better image to text ratio and achieve better deliverability and hence better performance for your emails.

Want a team of professionals who do this for a living and help tens of stores create amazing success with email marketing with such email insights and then some? Give us a call.

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