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building email templates

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Building email newsletter templates

Everytime you send out an email marketing campaign, you start with a template. Your template is a pre-formatted html page that contains common features on your email, such as a logo, your colour scheme, a layout and more.

We can design a template specially for you, or you can choose to design your own. If you're proficient in creating webpages or using software like Adobe Dreamweaver, you can create and upload your own templates. If you choose to create your templates, follow our top 10 tips to make sure your template is a success.


Keep it simple!
Web pages are commonly all singing all dancing affairs, with built in animation, video, whilst HTML formatted email marketing emails use the same language to display your email, not all email clients support all features, ALL javascript will be removed, meaning that most animation is out (you can still use animated gifs), Flash is a no-no and forms are all but useless. Keep your design simple and it will have more chance of getting delivered and read.


One size fits all
Web pages can be build using 'elastic' sizing - that is when the web browser is resized, or a web page is displayed on a big/small monitor, the page trys to display so that the screen is completely filled. Using this technique in your email marketing emails can produce unwanted effects, if possible, try to use a fixed page with (say 500-600 pixels wide) and test your email on different monitor (and mobiles) sizes to make sure your email newsletter displays correctly.

When inserting images on your page, always specify, always make sure you specify the size of the image within your HTML code e.g. <img src="yourimage.gif" width="100" height="100" alt="Always specify an alternative description for your image"> as email clients can then format your email newsletter document correctly before images have been downloaded.


Looking good naked
Most email clients will automatically block images from being downloaded, this is an unfortunate security feature in response the massive amounts of spam emails and may prevent your email newsletter from getting into your recipients inbox.

Whilst your email may be legitimate and important to your subscribers, Gmail and hotmail don't know that, and will always act cautiously and block images. Make sure your email newsletter has a good amount of text so that readers can scan and read your email without the need to download images.

Email marketing is all about getting your marketing message through to your users inboxes, and by showing your marketing message in text may prompt your users to download your complete email newsletter and improve you open and read rates.

Remember, if you ask your members to add your email address to their address book, then images should automatically show. You can give your recipients instructions by linking them to:
or including the following tag in your template: <#Link:AddressBook>


Disappearing backgrounds
Background images are a popular way of adding style to webpages. The same background HTML tags can be used with email newsletter HTML, but often do not show in email clients. Avoid using CSS background tags if possible, instead stick to background tags, e.g. <td bgcolor="red" background="/images/my_background_image.gif">

Missing images and backgrounds will make your email marketing message much weaker!


Upload your images
Images in your emails will only display correctly if they are hosted online, Advantage mailer has a built in function to scan your template for images and other linked files and prompts you to upload them. Make sure you upload everything to make sure your email newsletters display correctly.


Inline coding
As some HTML elements can be reformatted of stripped out completely, you should be careful about what code you place, and where, for example, AOL 6+ doesn't like the HTML <head> tag, so if you've included style information there, your email will get blocked. Other email programs don't like CSS declarations that start with a '.' (period), so if you're using stylesheets, try to declare tag specific stylesheets, like td.MyStyle {...}, instead of just .MyStyle {..}.

We prefer to do CSS inline, so instead of using cascading and external style sheets, place the code inline, e.g. <td style="font-family: Arial; ...">My content</td>


Spam spam spam
Nobody wants to get caught in spam traps. Get caught too many times and you'll end up with a bad reputation and even good quality emails can get marked as spam emails. You don't just need to include undesirable words in your email to get caught out, spam filters use a complex range of rules to decide whether or not you're a spammer, these include your subject line and the quality of your design.

Make sure your design features loads of text as well as images, as this will help spam filters to understand the content of your email and determine whether or not to deliver your emails.

Advantage mailer features in-built spam checking as well as the ability to create a 'text only' version of your email. You should also encourage your recipients to add your sending email address to their address book as this will all but guarantee your emails go to their inbox.


Review your HTML
Not all email clients support all HTML tags or tag attributes, other tags may be accepted, but display unwanted results. Follow our guide to inline code and test your email template on as many platforms as possible to make sure you get the results you want.

Be careful when choosing your layout tools, many modern pages use <div> tags to layout content. These tags, especially with style positioning attributes (e.g. style="position: absolute; top: 10px; left: 10px;") may product undesirable effects, especially when your emails are displayed in webmail sites such as Gmail may alter styles and your content may not appear on your page where you want it to appear. If possible, try to use HTML tables to layout your page, it may be crude, but it's more reliable.

If you want specific widths in your layout elements, make use of spacer images, it's an old trick but it still works.


Test, test and test again
You can never test enough! Don't forget that your recipients can view your emails in any number of ways, from mobile phones and tablet computers, hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! and other popular websites, and the old fashioned methods like Microsoft Outlook, AOL and more.

Test your newsletter in as many different platforms as possible to make sure it produces the desired result.


Monitor and redesign it...
A little drastic maybe... After sending four first campaign, check the campaign stats report and in particular the hotspots report to see what your recipients do and don't like, if a link or section on your template is proving unpopular, quickly redesign that part of your template and try another campaign.
You may need to tweak your template a few times to get the results you want.
Need more help? we're here and can offer more tips and help you design your perfect template. Email with some brief details and our experienced designers and coders will get back to you.