Attachments in Email Marketing

Attachments in emailsLately, we’ve gotten questions from a few email marketers asking for best practices when adding an attachment to your message. Our best advice: Don’t.

When deploying a new email campaign, you probably ask yourself “Would I open this?” to determine how your list will receive the message. Think of what an attachment would look to a new subscriber who is not familiar with how your email subject lines look – An attachment from an unknown sender could be a virus. Their first instinct will be to simply hit the “spam” button and move on with their day.

Similarly, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will have the same reaction when seeing your inbound message. Those that send a large number of emails on a regular basis that includes attachments typically are spammers. Here’s a prime example that I found in my spam folder just today:


Needless to say, I’m not about to open that email or its attachment and my ISP (in this case, Gmail) knew that would be the case; hence, I found this message in my spam folder. Perhaps I missed out on my chance to claim $10.5 million from the United Nations (I’d like to imagine Ban Ki-moon himself set aside time from his busy day to personally approve this transaction), but that’s not a risk I am willing to take.

Not only do email attachments run a risk for your campaigns deliverability, they are also cumbersome and difficult for all readers to download due to firewalls, the size of the attachment, and whether all mobile devices are capable of reading the file. Rather than banking on only a small percentage of recipients willing to open your email that are able to view your attachment, change the way you incorporate content in your campaigns to avoid emails altogether.

Instead of using an attachment, use your email platform to link to templates, graphics, and links to content hosted on the server or the Internet. By linking to content, you not only decrease the risk of getting sent to the spam folder like my once-in-a-lifetime chance at $10.5 million from the U.N., you also make it easier for the recipient to view your message. Also, make sure if you are linking to HTML-coded content that you also provide an alternative for recipients who cannot view HTML, such as with some mobile users. This will broaden the pool of how many recipients can view your message and access the images hosted through your server without having to attach a file.

However, if your Email Service Provider (ESP) is overly restrictive in terms of message size limits or does not provide you the space to create a content-rich email, try utilizing outside hosting for your larger files. Amazon Web Services and Google Drive can host the files that you would like to embed. Also, if your ESP doesn’t provide video hosting or coding, consider using YouTube to host your video messages. YouTube will not only host and code your video content for you, it will make it easier for your readers to share if you do not have social buttons.

By following our advice not to use email attachments, you’ll create a more aesthetically-pleasing, engaging email campaign with higher deliverability rates.

Food for thought: How often do you typically open mass emails with attachments? What are other creative ways to avoid attachments and garner the recipient’s interest?

Sarah Zibanejadrad
Inbound Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

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