Embedding Images in Email: Best Practices

A picture speaks a thousand words, and this is no less true when it comes to email marketing campaigns. Embedding images in emails to your subscribers is a great way to grab attention, evoke emotion, and compel action. 

Ever received an email with images that took ages to load or were of terrible quality? It probably made you think less of the brand that sent you that email. 

Getting your image embedded right is crucial for driving traffic to your website, sign-ups, and sales. Get it wrong; it could damage your brand identity and make people think you’re not trustworthy. 

In this guide to embedding images, you’ll learn our images in email best practices, and with these tips, you’ll never have to recall an email again! 

What Are Embedded Images? 

Embedded images are images that are part of the body of an email. Unless the recipient’s email client blocks image loading, embedded images automatically appear alongside the text in the message. 

The difference with attached images is that the code for an embedded image is added directly into the body of the message.  

Here’s an example of an embedded image from an email marketing campaign by sports brand Asics: 

Email image embed example

The image is at the top of the email and immediately captures the reader’s attention. It’s clear and striking and sends a direct message to the reader. When you see the text within the image, you automatically feel the brand’s essence and how they want you to feel when you use its products. 

No reputable brand will attach images to an email, so if you want to up your email marketing game, learn how to embed images in email.

Why Use Embedded Images in Your Email Campaigns? 

There are multiple benefits to using images in your emails:

  • They break up the text.
  • They capture the reader’s attention.
  • They allow you to affirm your brand style and get recognized in the inbox.
  • They offer another means of communication. You can use images to showcase products, customer testimonials, and more.

In short: images allow you to do more with your emails, and – as a result – get more out of them.

How to Embed Images in an Email

Most email marketing tools offer an easy way to embed images through the click of a button. They have email builders that allow you to insert images right where you want them, and often also allow you to code the email yourself if that’s something you’re proficient in. 

Here is what the easy-embed feature in ActiveCampaign looks like:

Activecampaign image embedding

Most of these tools have pre-made templates you can use, or you can always create your own templates from scratch. Images usually need to be uploaded in JPEG, PNG, or GIF file formats and should be optimized for size. We’ll say a bit more about that later.

If you’re using one of the popular email service providers such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Outlook, you can drag and drop images into the body of your email.

How to embed image

Alternatively, for Gmail inline embedding, you can:

How to embed inline image
  • Click the “Insert photo” icon in the email’s toolbar 
  • Select or upload the image you want to include
  • Select “inline”

For Outlook email, inline embedding an image works by:

  • Selecting “HTML formatting” (it’s not default) 
  • Clicking on the picture icon
  • Selecting your image
  • Clicking “open”

How to Embed Images in Email: Best Practices

1. Stick to your brand

When it comes to the type of images for emails you share, stay consistent with your brand. If you share something random that’s inconsistent with your regular messaging; it could confuse your customer. 

Inconsistency in branding could alter the customer’s perception and discourage them from purchasing. Consistency builds trust with the recipient, which is essential if you want to compel them to action. 

A study by Harvard Business Review found that 64% of the consumers surveyed said shared values are the key reason they’d build a relationship with a brand. Share your values by using consistent images. 

Things to think about when creating your image brand guidelines: 

  • Color palette
  • Image style 
  • Design 
  • Where in the emails you include images – banners or in the body 

Here’s an example of a brand that consistently delivers on brand email images: 

Brand consistency example

This deodorant brand creates eye-catching images which feature the ingredients in the product. Deodorant isn’t the most exciting product on the market, so the brand uses its imagery to make it more appealing. They use bright, bold colors to catch the email recipient’s attention and a playful way of styling the product images. 

Email image consistency example

The consistent imagery and playful copy in this email campaign paid off; according to Forbes, the brand grew by 4000% in one year

Don’t underestimate how some appealing embedded images in emails you send your subscribers can translate to sales. 

2. Optimize for size, quality, and mobile-friendliness

Image size for emails is one of the most crucial things to consider to get your image embedding right. If the image is too large, it may not load; if it’s too small, it will look random floating in the body of the email. 

Image quality is also imprortant. If you don’t resize images in the right way they can end up looking blurry, pixilated, or of poor quality. You want to compress them for filesize but do it in a “lossless” way: in a way that maintains the quality (sharpness, etc.) of the images.

Bad quality images won’t do your brand any favors when trying to build up trust with your email recipients. They’ll make you look unprofessional and cheap.

Lastly, the way you embed your images affects your email deliverability. If your emails don’t load because of the heavy images in them, you can be certain that’ll have a negative effect.

What is the best image size for email marketing?

As a general rule, email image dimensions should be no wider than 600 pixels wide. 

Here are the recommendations from Mailchimp on email image sizes:

Mailchimp image recommendations

Each email marketing platfrom has its own recommendations for what the best image size for emails is, so make sure to check and follow those.

What format should you use for embedded email images? 

Your embedded email image needs to be either: 

  • JPEG

This is for high-quality, colorful images which aren’t too large. Keep in mind that as you compress JPEG images, they lose quality. Don’t compress them more than 70%. 

To resize your JPEG image, use a tool such as iLoveIMG

  • PNG

PNGs are larger than JPEGs, and not all email platforms support them. They’re great for logos or sharing illustrations or icons without a background. They don’t lose quality however many times you edit them. 

To reduce the size of the PNG images you want to embed in your email, use a tool like TinyPNG

  • GIF

Many email platforms don’t support embedded videos, so a GIF is a great alternative. GIFs are attention-grabbing and can help you demonstrate an action using multiple images instead of one static image. 

The way to embed a GIF will differ depending on the email marketing tool you are using. You’ll likely have one or two options:

  • By uploading and embedding the GIF as you would an image. This option works best when you already downloaded the GIF beforehand.
  • By linking to the GIF’s URL.

To grab a GIF’s URL, you’ll need to:

  • Find the GIF you want to share using a site like Giphy.com 
  • Right-click the GIF
  • Select “Copy Image Address”

Some email marketing tools also have their own library of GIFs you can use.

And if you want to add a GIF to a Gmail email, for example, here’s how to do that:

Images In Email Best Practices: 9 Rules to Follow

3. Be careful with stock photography

Finding stock photos of people looking happy and adding them to your email won’t cut it. Do you want to send the same drab emails as your competitors? 

Try to use your own high-quality images to stand out from the crowd. If you don’t have an in-house team of photographers or designers, consider hiring freelancers to help you create unique imagery. 

If your budget is tight, creating a graphic using Canva could be an alternative. Just remember to be consistent with the type of graphics you create. 

In some cases, stock imagery can be ok, for example, in travel or food images. If you decide to go down the stock image route, ensure the photos you choose are license-free. There are dozens of license-free images on platforms like Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash

4. Run A/B tests

You can use your email analytics to discover which images perform the best in your emails.  Check open rates and click-through rates to get some data on image performance.

Send two different versions of your email out to two subsections of your subscribers, each with different image dimensions and placement. Analyze which version of the message performed better before sending the more successful version to the rest of your subscribers. 

If you constantly play around with variations of images, sizes, and image-to-text ratio, you’ll start to understand what resonates with your audience most. 

5. Add descriptive alt tags

Alt tags are essential to describe what’s in your image. If the image doesn’t load for some reason, the alt text will explain what it shows. 

Be as descriptive as possible with your alt-image text, and try to describe exactly what’s in the image. Narration programs use the alt text description to read to visually impaired users what’s in the picture. Using alt-image tags ensures your emails are fully inclusive.  

If you include more than one image in your email, make sure to give each image its own descriptive alt text.

6. Keep it relevant

Don’t include images in your emails for the sake of it. Add images that contribute to the narrative of your email campaign. Keep the imagery relevant whether you’re sharing news or updating your audience about a new product. 

Sending a random GIF not related to your brand or message is a surefire way to lose credibility with your email subscribers. It won’t take them long to realize you’re trying to catch their attention rather than adding value to their day. 

7. Make them clickable (but not as buttons!)

Clickable images provide more visual appeal and a great user experience. If your email advertises a product, ensure the embedded image links to the product page or reviews of that item.

Making your email images clickable creates a smooth customer journey where the user doesn’t have to do very much to make a purchase. If you include relevant links on your embedded images, your email subscriber can transform into a paying customer with little friction. 

Your clickable images should not, however, be buttons. Call-to-action buttons should be just that: coded buttons. If you use images for your buttons and the recipient’s email client doesn’t load them, all of your CTAs are gone.

Images In Email Best Practices: 9 Rules to Follow

8. Mind the image-to-text ratio

Email spam filters can be wary about images. If an email only contains an image, without any text, it can set off alarm bells for the spam filters. Spam filters can’t detect the text in an image, so many spammers use images to promote their spammy products. 

Don’t end up in your email clients’ spam folder. Ensure you write relevant captions around your images so the message is interesting and compelling for your reader.  

9. Test before sending

You don’t want to put all that effort into crafting the perfect email only to find out your images are getting blocked, or the file size of your images is incompatible with what most email clients allow. 

If there’s one golden rule for checking the images in your email campaigns, it’s to test them. Send a test email to your account and check it on multiple devices. Once you’re happy everything looks correct, send it out to your subscribers. 

Get Your Email Image Embedding Right 

In a noisy online environment, visual communication has never been more important. 

Now you know exactly how to embed an image in an email, it’s time to impress your subscribers with well-thought-through campaigns. 

Remember these images in email best practices when selecting, optimizing, and adding images to your email campaigns. With the right imagery in your emails, you’ll build brand authority and loyalty, which will translate to more people in your sales funnel. 

Need help with building out your email campaigns and sales funnel? Book a call with us, and we’ll help you get some easy wins. 


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