HTML Has a Low Ratio of Text-to-Image Area

By Carla Jean McKinney

Emails consisting mostly of images can be blocked as spam.
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Spam filtering software is designed to stop unwanted bulk advertising email, known as "spam," from clogging users' inboxes. Programs such as Spam Assassin and Postini, among others, have established screening standards for identifying and blocking spam emails. One feature that can trigger spam filters is a low text-to-image ratio in an email message.

Spam Filtering

In order to stop bulk emails and autosent messages, spam filters screen incoming emails for a variety of triggers, including keywords such as "free shipping" and "buy now," phrases in subject lines such as "prescriptions for less," and certain types of sender information that can identify scams, such as those originating from Nigeria. Spam filters also examine an email's HTML code for specific tags and for the percentage of elements such as text and images. Emails are assigned a spam score, and those scoring high on these red flags are blocked from appearing in a user's inbox.

Emails and Images

Although text and images are features of many emails, some users choose to limit the kind and amount of images shown. Images can be blocked altogether using image-blocking controls in email preferences, or blocked for specific sites only. Users who block images see only an email's text, with ALT text identifying the contents of accompanying photographs and other graphics. This option affects only images embedded in an email; attached files, such as photographs, are not blocked.

Text-to-Image Ratio

When screening HTML for red flags, spam filters examine the ratio of text to image. If an email contains either too many images or a large single image area relative to a small amount of actual text, points are added to the spam score, increasing the chances that the message will be blocked. Emails consisting primarily of a large single graphic with minimal accompanying text are particularly likely to score high on the spam filter, especially if other keyword flags are present.

Avoiding Spam Filters

Email campaigners can craft emails to avoid spam filters by increasing the amount of text and reducing the size and number of images in the message. For example, Lawyercasting, an online legal resource, recommends severely limiting the use of visuals in important emails and email advertising campaigns. Although other filters may apply, newsletter formats and other types of text-based messages are less likely to be flagged for a low ratio of text to image.