Have you ever sent an email campaign or e-newsletter only to discover that Gmail has chopped off the bottom of your message?
Not all email programs do this, but given that Gmail has 1.2 billion users, we need to pay attention when it cuts off what might be a killer punchline. Gmail does provide a link at the bottom of a truncated message that gives readers the option to see the entire message on the web, but this option is less than ideal for three reasons:
- Chances are slim that readers will bother to click through. Folks are busy, after all; and unless the text they can see is super compelling, they’re most likely not going to take the extra step to see your full message.
- The tracking code may also get clipped. This is the code that email marketing giants like Constant Contact and MailChimp add to measure whether recipients open an email and what links they click. This information is essential for you to be able to see what worked and what needs improving for next time.
- Clipping usually cuts off the unsubscribe link—a violation of the spirit of the CAN-SPAM Act, the consumer protection law that gives readers the right to opt out of receiving your emails. Not having this link visible also increases the likelihood that your email will end up in spam.
Read on for specific steps you can take to ensure your emails will never be clipped by Gmail, including how size matters, what not to do, and an important note about image size.
Getting your full message across
Gmail has a 102 KB size limit; anything over that limit gets clipped. Gmail determines size by counting every character of text, the code for your links, and the styling code, among other things. The good news is that you don’t need to know how to read code to test whether you’re within the 102 KB limit. You just need to follow a few easy steps:
- Keep your message short and on point. Ideally, include only one major topic in your email, with a strong call to action. If you have a list of topics or a single long message, use a “Read more” link after a few sentences to bring readers to your website, where they can continue reading the article. This strategy has the added bonus of increasing your web traffic and improving your SEO.
- Never cut and paste content directly from a website or Word document. The ease of cutting and pasting makes this option tempting, but doing so brings over extraneous code that increases the file size and can affect formatting. The simple fix is to use a plain text editor, such as TextEdit, to ensure that all code is stripped before pasting text into your email campaign.
- Always send a test email to yourself, and ensure it’s a Gmail address. You’ll see immediately whether your email is truncated. As a corollary, if you send multiple test emails—which often happens as you tweak this and that in the course of creating a stellar message—be sure to delete any old copies before sending a new one. This is necessary because Gmail aggregates messages from the same sender with the same subject, which may make it look as if your message is clipped when in fact it isn’t.
A word on image size
You’ll note that we did not mention reducing image size as a strategy for keeping your message under 102 KB. Images in your email don’t actually affect file size, as they are loaded by external servers (such as those from MailChimp or Constant Contact) once the recipient opens the email. What is counted towards file size is the code that tells the server to go get the image and display it in the email. This means that the number of images matters more than their size—one of many reasons email marketers have taken to using fewer, stronger images.
That said, image size matters in another way. Large image files slow the loading of your email when your recipient opens it, which makes for a negative user experience. We recommend sizing images to the exact pixel width needed for the email and then using TinyPNG to compress your image files before dropping them in an email.