I am frequently asked how to create and send HTML email, usually with regard to how to broadcast it to a mailing list. This article presents the various options available to you.
How to create HTML email:
Creating the content of an HTML email is very similar to how you would create a basic web page. Just use your normal web page editor, such as FrontPage or Dreamweaver (or even Notepad can be used, in conjunction with a browser to preview the code), and construct a web page in the normal way, saving it as an .html or .htm file.
You may consider creating an HTML email template that you can use as a basis for all your future HTML emails. If so, once you're happy with the basic look, save it and then just open and re-edit for your future emails.
There is an important difference that you need to remember between writing HTML for your web site, and writing HTML for email.
All the URLs in your code need to be absolute, rather than relative, for all links and images, eg. http://www.yourdomain.com/image.gif, rather than something like just image.gif. This also means of course that any images used in your HTML email need to be stored on a web server, the same as when you use images on a web site.
How to send HTML email:
To send the HTML email to an individual, such as to yourself in order to check on its appearance, you can open the web page (i.e. the HTML email) you have created in the latest version of IE (File -> Open...), and then click File -> Send.
However, if you're creating HTML email for use in email marketing, you will normally want to use a completely different tool in order to send it to numerous recipients.
There are two main options to enable you to send email to a mailing list - you can either use some special software on your own computer; or use a web-based solution, either on your own web site, or via a service run by a third party.
If you are looking for software, you can find a variety of solutions by going to somewhere like download.com, and searching for 'send email'.
You can also install some software onto your own web site, which can give you more control but also gives you all the responsibility for maintenance of the software/script if things go wrong.
However, I personally have a preference for using a third-party web-based service when sending out my newsletter. For one, it means my broadcasts are not reliant on my own Internet connection or PC, and it also let's someone else take care of delivering my messages to several thousand recipients.
There are literally hundreds of third-party web-based services available, all varying widely in quality and ease of use, and suiting different budgets and email requirements. One of the best ways to do your research on this is to check out your competitors or your favourite newsletters and ezines, and, if they send out HTML email, find out what service they use. Often the unsubscribe link, that should be at the bottom of their messages, will point towards the relevant web site.
(HINT: By signing up to my own newsletter at http:/ akanomi.com/newsletter, you will be able to find out which service I personally use.)
Finally, and importantly, should you send out HTML email? It entirely depends on the preferences of your own list. But, in general, look towards big business. Most big businesses tend to send out HTML email, and there's only going to be one main reason for that - response rates. But you do need to ensure that your HTML email is professional, easy to read, and has an attractive layout.
Steve Shaw creates systems and software for effective e-marketing. His powerful PopUpMaster Pro software creates popups that beat the popup blockers and can significantly increase your conversion rates. For more information: http://www.popupmaster.com