How to Add Video to an Email Newsletter

By November 26, 2012

Including video in email is a proven way to increase conversions. But what is the best way to add a video?

A video can’t be embedded or attached directly to the email since video files are typically much too large. You should instead link to a video which is then embedded on your website which will also provide a way to track clicks and conversions.

There are two techniques you can use to accomplish this.

‘Click to View’ Image

You can link to a video which is embedded on your website or on YouTube with a regular text link, in the same way you would link to any other webpage. However, this hardly takes advantage of the inherent appeal of video content. Using a thumbnail image of your video instead creates the allusion of the video having been embedded directly in the email, giving extra incentive for people to click through.

A nice trick is to use a screen capture of the video right within its player and including the big play button. You would then add a hyperlink to the image the same way as you would with any other image in an email.

This assumes that your newsletter is being sent as an HTML email, as images cannot be embedded directly in a plain text email. Be sure to include appropriate text (eg. “Watch video on YouTube”) for the ‘Alt’ and ‘Title’ tags in the image, in case the viewer has images disabled in their email software, as this text will appear in its place instead of simply an empty box.

It might be a good idea to also include a regular text-based hyperlink to the video underneath the image, just in case.

Animated GIF Image

A nice variation on the ‘Click to View’ image is using an animated GIF instead of a regular JPG image. GIF images allow you to include multiple frames of the video as an animation, simulating the effect of a video.

Note that this is not meant to act as alternative to the video itself as there is no support for sound content and you typically can’t achieve a frame rate of much higher than 10 frames per second (as opposed to 24-30 per second for regular video). GIF images also ‘play’ automatically upon loading and cannot be controlled. They also don’t seem to function on mobile email clients due to the increased CPU load required and typically result in much larger file-sizes than JPG images.

Side Note: Embedding Videos in a Blog

Unlike an email newsletter, videos from YouTube can be easily embedded directly into a blog post, especially when using applications such as WordPress. The only problem with this approach is that when your blog is viewed using an RSS reader, embedded videos often simply show up as a blank spot in the page.

Using a ‘Click to View’ image is one solution, although it would force a viewer to click through yet another webpage when already viewing your blog on your website. A better solution may be to include an alternate text-based hyperlink underneath the embedded video (eg. “Can’t see the Video? Click here…”).

We are hopeful that in the near future HTML5, the new version of HTML and XHTML, will allow for videos to be embedded directly in emails with consistent results. Until then, using the method described above will allow you to increase conversions without a significant increase in file-size.