Email marketing does more when your copywriter writes a little alt text

I recently got a new laptop, and opted to leave Outlook with the default settings for images in email. That means most html email showing up in my inbox has little red x’s in it. I left the setting alone because I’m curious about how well companies are using alt text in their email marketing. In the past week with my new laptop, I am shocked at how few are, and what a poor job is done by those companies that do use alt text.

This sounds like this should be an email marketing topic, and it is in a way, but it’s also a copywriter topic, because it’s the copywriter who writes the alt text when it’s used.

Something like 80% of email clients (that’s the software used like Outlook, or AOL, or Gmail) have images turned off by default. I don’t know how many users change that setting so they do get images, but I’ll be a large percentage of them don’t. That means images don’t show up in the emails, only the little boxes with red x’s do. And in that box is some boring text. For me as an Outlook user, that text tells me I can right click to download the pictures (and then reassures me Microsoft is only doing this to protect me because Microsoft is truly concerned about me…right?).

But that text can do more! If you’re using alt text in your email marketing, that’s the text that shows up in lieu of a picture.

No alt text in your email marketing is bad enough. Sucky alt text that shows a complete lack of effort is even worse. In the last two days I’ve received two holiday email that consisted ONLY of boxes and red x’s. And the text telling me to right click to download the pictures. And this alt text: “Holiday Card.”

I’m a Seattle copywriter. This makes me absolutely nuts. I bet they hired their copywriter to write the text that shows up on the image (that I’d see if I did right click). So why not hire their copywriter to write the alt text?

Instead of Holiday Card, how about the actual message? Or something like “A holiday greeting from the folks at ABC Company”? Or a compelling message like “Can’t see anything but a red x? Right click to see a beautiful holiday email sent to you with all our best wishes. You’ll be glad you did!”

Honestly, those cheesy ideas took this Seattle copywriter about 20 seconds to come up with. So please, people, invest a few extra minutes into your alt text! Otherwise your email marketing is better off never leaving your computer!

The best alt text I ever saw, bar none, was in an email from the Washington State History Museum. Being a museum, their email message was loaded with images…and each one had a full caption of text stating what the image was. It communicated to me even without the pictures. This is a nonprofit I’m talking about here. And they are kicking alt text ass, if you ask this copywriter.

If your business does email marketing, even small business email marketing, resolve to use alt text this coming year!

And if you need reminders, do like this freelance copywriter and turn off the images in your email. Then you’ll experience how dreadful the emails sans alt text are…and you’ll  become aware of how much more your own email marketing could do, if you just have your copywriter spend some time on some clever turns of phrase.

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