Would your email pass a checkup?

Here is my analysis of one of HSJ’s email marketing campaigns, I’ve highlighted the positive aspects of their email design and provided top tips on improvements they can make to get optimum results.

1. Images

Good points

Well it’s bold! This is actually an animated gif, with all the words below ‘pay for two months and get one free’ fading in and out. Because it is animated it grabs your attention as soon as you download the images.

The image has alternative text (alt tags) which means that when the image is blocked (as is default in most email clients) some text is displayed in its place – they have done this really well by re-enforcing the message “Pay for two months of HSJ and get one month free” and even better it’s a link straight through to the subscription page

Bad points

The image in my view is too animated – I ended up feeling a little nauseous after looking at it pondering what could be improved. As the header image is quite deep downloading the images leads to the content being pushed down below the fold of the page – out of sight.


Animated GIFs won’t work on Outlook 2007 (only the first frame is displayed), and because they are larger files they don’t work well on mobile devices. If you want to use them, make sure you test very thoroughly in order to avoid the impact being lost due to a poor recipient experience.
Always make sure you use alt tags, make them relevant and clickable.

If you can possibly do away with header images or make them very thin you will be able to get straight to the point of the email.

2. Content

Good points

They have used personalisation and this is clearly targeted to people who have made a number of visits to their online publications. This is great; recipients are far more likely to respond if they feel you are talking to them specifically as opposed to the masses.

Bad points

It’s in a letter style, emails are not letters they are far more like flyers – when was the last time you spent more than a few seconds reading any email, especially a marketing email? Exactly.
Because the header image is so bold the text tends to get a little lost. Making the font size larger or removing the background colour would help to make it clearer.

There are benefits in there, in bullet form, which is good but there are no “value statements”. Why should I care that I can get access to “News from HSJ magazine”? Do you have something I can’t get anywhere else, will it put me ahead of the competition, make me a better person?

The strongest and clearest call to action is right at the bottom of the email – which is a real shame.


Make sure you keep it short; people simply don’t read emails all the way down unless you have something very important to say – and if you do, get them to read it on your site.
Ensure that people can read the important bits within 5 seconds of looking at the email – get someone who isn’t involved in the process to test this for you – ideally outside of the company.

3. Spam Issues

The images are hosted on Photobucket.com, the links go through to subscription.co.uk, and the ‘from’ address is ionmx.com – this can lead spam filters to think that there is something wrong. Spammers for example will pretend to show a ‘from’ address of ebay.co.uk but actually link through to a dodgy website. Check with your ESP (email service provider) on how to avoid the perception that you are anything but a legitimate email sender.

The email is built using CSS which is fine for web pages but can lead to the email breaking in certain email clients – Hotmail/Live is known for this.


Testing using Spamassassin and Litmus would highlight many rendering/spam issues before you hit send, most ESP’s now have this functionality built in.


Nice looking, it is a personalised targeted email campaign, but didn’t demonstrate the value gained from clicking and a number of technical aspects were poorly implemented.