Complex formatting in mass email is bad. There. I said it. I just don’t like it. When I look at a message (and I look at messages in a preview pane that is less than a 3rd of a screen high) and there are complex headers that mimic the website through the use of tables and all the image elements are suppressed by my mail client, it looks ugly. If the point of the message is to… well… to convey a message, I should be able to see/read that message easily. The website mimicry interferes with me getting the message.
So how do you make your email look pretty? If you think it matters, use simple HTML formatting that will be easily interpreted by mail clients. Don’t use embeded images images that will be suppressed by the mail client, and link back to your site often throughout the email if you want people to come back to your site.
Tests with one of our clients seem to show that over 70% of tracked opens result in a click through to the site from an inline link. The messages we send out for this client have no links in the header at all. No images. No color even. And we send out text only version and an html version that are manually formatted. Sometimes the text version doesn’t have links in the same places in order to make the text read better, but we know that when people look at the email, regardless of their mail client, they are going to see who it is from and they will be able to easily read our message.
M&R Strategic Services did a small study on email deliverability and inline images, they don’t have any strong conclusions, but it is worth a read.