When you send out an email blast, what does your audience see if they can’t see the pictures? The answer is alt-text. Depending on the configuration of a user’s email service (such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Exchange, Hotmail) or their email program (such as Apple Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird) the person who receives your email might see it with “images off.” For some email services and applications, this is the default setting. People might also change their settings to “images off” if they are on a slow connection, using a handheld device, are afraid of getting viruses or don’t want to see ads. Email services and programs will also sometimes do this if it suspects that a message might be spam.
When the settings for an email service or application are set to “images off,” the text and layout of an HTML-formatted email will be displayed, but there will be blank spaces where the images should appear.
Obviously this is a serious problem when trying to get your images in front of potential clients. While there’s not much you can do to get your images to appear if someone has “images off” set in their email program, you can increase the chances that they’ll click on where you images should be by using something called the alt-text tag.
By default, if an image can’t be displayed the area where the image should be is left blank. Some email services and applications will show the file name in its place. But the alt-text function lets you specify the text you would like displayed in in the space where the image would be. So instead of someone seeing nothing where the image should be, or “image1.jpg” or some other meaningless name, you can be descriptive and have “Cover Image of Outside Magazine Shot by Joe Smith” appear instead. Or you could try something humorous like “The Best Picture of a Frog in a Bottle You’ve Ever Seen!” Anything you can think of that will get people to click in the area and take them to your site or a special landing page.
All of the major email campaign services, such as MyEmma, Constant Contact and Vertical Response, allow you to add alt-text tags when you create your email campaigns. If you’re having your email campaigns created by a designer, make sure to tell that you’d like to use alt-text tags for all of your images. If you create your own emails, learn how to include alt-text tags. It’s a relatively straight-forward process.
There is nothing less interesting, or less productive, than a promotional email from a photographer that has blank spaces where the images are supposed to appear. Make the best of it with alt-text tags and nudge up your reponse rate.
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