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10 things you should know about email signatures

Email signatures have been a source of hot debate for as long as email has existed. What should be included? How branded should they be? How can you make them appear the same across different devices and platforms? Throw into the mix the fact they rely on the wildly inconsistent and standards-lacking interpretation of HTML provided by the various email clients, and you have a surprisingly complex subject, and a source of considerable frustration for many.

Having just developed our own new email signature, we thought we’d share some of the lessons we’ve learned and information we’ve gathered along the way.

1. Keep it slim

Width is crucial in email signatures. The maximum width you should work to is around 620px-600px, but be aware some mobile screens are as slim as 320px, so building a responsive signature that will adapt elegantly is important.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Email signature on mobile
Our email signature, as it appears on a portrait mobile screen.

2. Simplicity – less is more

No one likes to receive large and ungainly email signatures. You know – those ones where it looks like the entire content of the company website is on the bottom of the email! Our advice is: keep it short, sweet and minimal.

Signatures are, above all, functional. They’re supposed to provide key contact information. If you can fit in one or two other messages and some branding, great; but don’t forget the original purpose.

In ours, we include:

  • Personal contact details (Name, job title, mobile)
  • Company contact details (Name, logo, web address, physical address)
  • Social links to our Twitter and LI company pages
  • Legal details

You may also want to include accreditations, company strapline and, maybe, a single promotional message.

3. Images – to see or not to see?

Probably the hottest of the email signature debates – should you include images? There’s no right and wrong answer here. The advantages of using images are largely visual: impact, branding and aesthetics. The downside is that many email clients block images by default, either breaking your signature layout or simply replacing images with small, ugly boxes. Another is that sometimes when a person hits ‘reply’, your images will become attached to the email instead of showing inside it. I’m sure you’ve experienced that “where did all these attachments come from?” moment!

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

My email signature in full (600px) width, containing three images.
Our email signature in full (600px) width, contains three images.

We’ve opted to include images because we’re a marketing agency, so visuals and brand are very important to us. We figure that most people we send emails to will already have some sort of relationship with us and therefore hopefully have added us to their safe senders list or will approve the displaying of our images.

TOP TIP: NEVER embed images in emails; always host images somewhere on the web (use Google Drive, DropBox etc if you don’t have a website) and use absolute URLs to show them. Get around the attachment problem mentioned above by including nosend=”1” on your image tags.

4. Use web-safe fonts

The advent of web fonts now means you can use all manner of typefaces on your websites. Unfortunately, this doesn’t extend to email signatures as many of the major email clients don’t support the @font-face rule. Therefore, you can only use web-safe fonts, such as the all-too-familiar: Arial, Tahoma, Verdana, Trebuchet, Courier, Lucida, Times New Roman and Georgia. Whoopdee-do.

TOP TIP: Specify a fallback font in your CSS so that if the one you want is not installed on the user’s machine, your next preference will take its place. E.g. font-name: ‘Trebuchet MS’, Arial, Helvetica, ‘Sans Serif’.

5. Don’t use bullets

They don’t display consistently across the multitude of email clients, so best avoid them in their entirety.

6. Be on brand and consistent

Email signatures are an opportunity for your brand to gain some of that much sought after share-of-mind. Remind people of your colours, style, logo, strapline, etc.

Even in Gmail (which we use), where it appears you don’t have much control over colour and layout, you can in fact paste in any HTML design you like. So there’s no excuse for not including some branding.

Consistency is key in any strong brand. Ensure all people within your organisation are using a standardised email signature.

7. Track it

Assuming your email signature contains at least one link to your website, why not tag it so that you can track how much website traffic your signature generates. If you’re using Google Analytics (and why wouldn’t you be?) on your website, UTM tags allow you to pass this information through to it via the links in your email signature. E.g.

<a href=”http://inthebox.marketing?utm_source=signature&utm_medium=email”>

8. Test it

There are online tools for testing HTML emails which could use to test your email signature, such as the ones built into email systems like Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor. There are also dedicated testing platforms such as Litmus. Alternatively, try sending emails to as many different devices and email clients as you have access to and compare the results.

9. Be legal

In the UK it is a legal requirement for companies (PLCs, LTDs and LLPs) to include the company’s registered name, registration number, place of registration and registered office address to ALL email communications. It is not enough to provide a link to this information from an email footer. Therefore, include it in your standard email signatures.

10. Don’t get binned

Advice for avoiding your emails ending up in people’s spam bins is probably cause for a blog in itself. However, some of the most common reasons for email signatures causing spam issues are:

  • use of white text (used to hide text by spammers)
  • use of tiny text
  • long URLs. If they get long, use a link shortener like Bitly.
  • linked images having strange names
  • linked images on different domain names. Put them all in one place.
  • use of spam keywords. Back luck if your name is Dick Sexton-Gamble.

Conclusion

Your email signature represents your company – therefore make sure it is presented, and reads, professionally. Unless you know how to hand-code HTML for emails (which is subtly different from web HTML), we suggest you seek professional assistance from experts like us, or use dedicated email signature software such as Exclaimer.

If you’d like us to review or redevelop your corporate email signature, please get in touch.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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