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Text vs HTML Emails – What is better for email marketing?

As an email marketer, the significant stride is achieved only when the email lands in the inbox of your subscribers. Keeping that in mind, there’s dependably been a battle between which works better among plain text vs HTML emails that are more beautiful to look at, and considered more engaging.

Let’s kick start by elucidating the two regular email myths:

HTML means SPAM: I can’t recall how frequently I have heard fellow marketers claim they use plain text emails because HTML gets filtered into the spam folder without giving it a genuine shot. No! HTML emails are more likely to be sent to spam unless you:

  • Didn’t code it properly: You have broken tags, and other errors littered in the code. This doesn’t just affect the deliverability of this email, but also ALL future emails from the same domain.
  • Don’t have a plain-text version available: Most email clients have the feature to automatically create a plain-text version of your HTML email. All it takes is few minutes of your time to set up and get going. The optimized version of the email looks sleeker, more readable (through infographics and images), and overall aesthetically pleasing to your readers.

Having said that, there’s another option that Email clients like Gmail exercise. They might not classify emails as Spam but send them directly to the “Promotions” folder, which might affect your open rates. They do this by measuring the commercial-ness of the email: so HTML-rich templates might be relegated to the same fate.

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Though it seems pretty obvious over why marketers prefer HTML templates why would anyone go for plain-text? 

Text vs HTML Emails: Let the wars begin!


Source: Hubspot

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    Source: Hubspot


    Source: Hubspot

    More Universal: With plain-text emails, you don’t have to worry about email clients stripping your HTML code so that it does not display properly, or your formatting being a hindrance to viewing it properly.

  2. It’s easier to get Plain-text right: With HTML, you have to go the extra mile to make sure the code’s error-free, and there’s an alternate plain-text version available. Just plain-text is less time consuming, and easier for novices to get right.
  3. Viewing on smaller devices: With the rise of complementary tech devices like wearables, it might just be more convenient for readers to view plain-text emails than HTML-rich templates.

A Hubspot study tried to quantify the difference in results for HTML templates vs. plain-text emails, they found that the HTML email version had a 21% lower clickthrough rate, and combined with the open rate the email had 51% fewer clicks.

So where does this leave us? Properly coded HTML templates or plain-text emails?

Honestly, plain-text emails. The data doesn’t lie.

So should I always use plain-text and forego HTML completely?

No. Mailzak would recommend keeping the end-goal in mind. What works best for one business might not always work for another. We’d advise sending an HTML-rich email if it originates from the marketing team, and a plain-text email if the sender is an individual, and the end-goal is to build a one-on-one rapport. It all comes down to content. If the content can be VERY easily explained through images, and not so much through text, use HTML. However, a simple conversation like a check-in or a follow up can be pulled successfully via a plain-text email.

We hope this helped clear up few questions. Share your thoughts about what works better for you?

Author avatar
Shriya Garg
Shriya is the co-founder and CEO at ContentNinja. She started her first blog when she was 12 years old, and coded her first website by the time she was 14. An avid reader and writer, she published her first book when she was 16 years old and has sold over 10,000 copies since. When she's not fielding client calls, Shriya can be found cleaning cat hair from her clothes.