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care2team 4 min read

Do Images Really Make A Difference?

photographer.jpgIt has commonly been assumed that including a related image in a fundraising appeal or action alert would make it more effective. However, recent tests conducted by M+R Strategic Services show that images may not actually boost response rates or giving. Actually, they might undermine your cause.

Why might this be? First, images are being blocked. The default setting for Microsoft Outlook is to block all images and other email providers (like AOL and Gmail) either block images by default or offer image-blocking options. Individuals who see the blocked images as white holes can be confused and not open the full message. In addition, if height and width attributes are not specified, blocked images can take up the entire screen, which is unsightly and discourages readers to do anything more than preview the message. Second, images trigger spam filters and blockers. With the increase in spam blockers, more and more messages with images are being mistakenly identified as spam.

To test if images help or hurt email campaigns, M+R conducted three separate tests on behalf of nonprofits. First, they conducted an action alert test on polar bears. They divided their email list into thirds and sent out three different messages to subscribers: one message contained only a header image, the second no images, and the third a header and a picture of a polar bear family. Surprisingly, the differences in the open rates and response rates between the three messages were so small that they were not statistically significant. Second, M+R used two tests to check whether or not images made a difference in fundraising appeals. As in the first test, the differences in the open and response rates between messages with images and without images was not statistically significant. In addition, the version of the message without the image actually raised more money in both test cases.

M+R's results suggest that images tend to have very little influence on response rates in email campaigns. So, if you have a great image that really does say 1000 words, use it, but follow these steps to ensure that it is properly formatted:

1. Use small header images- They take less time to load and don't force text down the screen as far.

2. Remember to include dimensions and alt text- Images without these things can look terrible once the spam blockers are finished with them.

3. Cut back on spacer images

4. Don't overload your messages with images- The more images you include the longer our message will take to download.

5. Add a "view web version link"- This allows people to view the message as you intended it to look.

But don't take our word for it... download the full article by M+R's Eve Fox.