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Plain text or HTML in cold email?

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    In this article, we’ll look at plain text vs. HTML, the pros and cons of HTML emails, and help you decide which format to use for your email campaign.

    Getting past spam filters and improving your email deliverability is a key criterion when assessing the success of any outreach effort. This logic can also be applied to what may seem like an old-fashioned debate – using HTML or plain text in emails?

    Many marketers send plain text emails more often, as they are quite effective, easy to create, load quickly and display correctly in any email client and on any device.

    At the same time, HTML versions of email also have their advantages:


    We often have to redirect the user to some page, such as a product page or our website. For this, html layout is great, which allows you to insert a link into some kind of button or image right in the body of the letter


    Well-made HTML emails look attractive and allow companies to convey their corporate identity even to the inbox.


    With the help of HTML-layout it is easier to create a clear hierarchy and highlight important places in the message.

    Tracking results

    HTML allows you to use mechanisms to track opens and engagement rates – this is important information for optimizing your marketing efforts.

    Despite the rather attractive advantages, HTML emails also have quite a few disadvantages and “pain”.

    It is believed that developing HTML mailing lists is a very thankless task for a designer and developer. We have to “go back in time”, where tabular templates, inline styles and non-semantic markup were used in the layout.

    Here is a list of some of the disadvantages of HTML emails:

    There are no standards.

    While everyone uses HTML and CSS, there are still no standards for how an email client should work. This factor often leads to complex and strange code.

    Mail clients.

    Email programs such as Outlook and Gmail render HTML differently, which in turn leads to the fact that the end user receives a crooked and ugly email.

    A large number of hacks.

    In order for everything to work in different mail programs, you need to provide a lot of points that are important for the correct display of the letter in all of them. This most often leads to the frequent use of workarounds and “dirty hacks”.

    No JavaScript.

    There is no web language in email as a class, because email clients cut out such code for security reasons. Thus, letters are deprived of interactivity.

    Inline styles.

    Most email clients are forced to use inline styles and attributes.

    Getting emails into spam.

    HTML emails are doomed to often end up in the SPAM or Promotions folder. Spam filters and algorithms of email providers are to blame.


    A large number of email programs turn off displaying images by default, showing users “broken” emails.

    The chance of a response.

    Most often, HTML emails do not inspire confidence in the user and most likely he will consider your email to be soulless. A potential client will not want to send you a response, as he will consider that this mailing was made by a bot to a large number of emails.

    HTML vs plain text emails. When to use what?

    Email marketers no longer have to sacrifice deliverability for added visual elements. Hybrid emails allow businesses to balance simple HTML content with the familiar appeal of plain text, and provide spam filters enough data about what’s inside one’s inbox so that important messages don’t get lost in cyberspace – all while adding sophisticated visuals such as colorful calls-to-action buttons or interactive media.

    A/B testing is your compass for determining the most successful means of customer communication. Despite their eye-catching appeal, plain text emails offer many advantages over HTML templates–particularly when it comes to business-to-business cold outreach and correspondence with senior personnel.

    With the right message tailored to your audience, images in an email can be highly effective. Whether you’re running a retail business, providing branded content or even tracking data – HTML-heavy emails could prove invaluable. 

    So, you should already understand how many disadvantages and complexities are associated with HTML emails. Therefore, most marketers and salespeople prefer to use plain text letters, which are as simple as possible to create and save our nerves and time.

    It is also worth mentioning that there are quite a few “primitive” users and haters of HTML code in emails, and therefore they simply won’t be able to see your email the way you would like it to be.

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    In the debate between plain text and HTML for cold emails, both formats present their own sets of advantages and challenges. Plain text emails offer authenticity, simplicity, and a higher likelihood of bypassing spam filters, making them ideal for straightforward communication. On the other hand, HTML emails provide visual appeal, interactivity, and branding opportunities, though they come with potential deliverability concerns.

    Ultimately, the choice between the two hinges on your specific outreach goals, the preferences of your target audience, and the nature of your message. It’s essential to test and adapt based on feedback, ensuring that your emails not only reach the intended inboxes but also resonate with the recipients.


    What are the key differences between plain text and HTML emails in cold outreach?

    Plain text emails are simple, text-only messages without formatting, while HTML emails can include images, links, and styled content. HTML emails offer visual appeal and interactivity, while plain text emails are more straightforward and authentic.

    Which format is better for cold outreach to senior executives and B2B clients?

    Plain text emails are often preferred for B2B outreach and correspondence with senior personnel due to their authenticity and directness. They tend to resonate better in professional contexts.

    Do HTML emails have a higher risk of ending up in spam folders?

    Yes, HTML emails can have a higher risk of being flagged by spam filters, especially if they contain certain elements or are perceived as overly promotional. This risk can impact deliverability.

    Can HTML emails be effective for specific purposes, like retail marketing?

    Yes, HTML-heavy emails can be highly effective for specific purposes like retail marketing, where visual elements, colorful calls-to-action, and interactive content can engage recipients effectively.

    Should I use A/B testing to determine the best email format for my audience?

    Absolutely. A/B testing is a valuable tool for understanding your audience's preferences and optimizing your cold email strategy. Test both plain text and HTML formats to see which resonates better.

    Are there any security concerns associated with HTML emails?

    HTML emails can pose security concerns, as features like JavaScript are often disabled in email clients for security reasons. This limits interactivity and can affect the email's functionality.

    How do I strike a balance between visual appeal and authenticity in cold emails?

    Consider using hybrid emails, which blend simple HTML elements with the authenticity of plain text. This allows you to maintain a professional appearance while ensuring a more personal touch.

    What are some best practices for writing effective plain text emails?

    Effective plain text emails should be concise, personalized, and focused on the recipient's needs. Avoid excessive formatting and ensure a clear and compelling message.

    Can you provide examples of when to use plain text and when to use HTML emails?

    Use plain text for initial cold outreach to establish authenticity. Consider HTML for follow-up emails with visual content or for marketing campaigns where branding is essential.

    How do I ensure my cold emails aren't marked as spam?

    To avoid spam filters, focus on using personalized subject lines, relevant content, and avoiding excessive use of promotional language. Regularly monitor your sender reputation and engagement rates.

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