You've worked hard to create an awesome website to showcase your images, and you want as many visitors as possible. You might be overlooking one of the simplest promotion tools you have: the email signature.
It gets sent out thousands of times, it can be an effective way for you to get more traffic towards your portfolio and to contribute to the overall tone of your emails.
But how do you get it right?
Before we dive into the best practices, let’s first cover the main elements that a photographer can include at the end of their emails.
Most important email signature elements
- Company & position (not for personal emails though, more on this later)
- Website URL
The name and the site URL are the absolute minimum for an effective email signature, you surely want to direct your email correspondents to your main website.
You can simply use the public URL of your site, most email clients will automatically convert it into a link (even if you don’t use a more advanced HTML email signature). Always include http:// at the start of the URL!
Regarding the phone number, pay attention to the formatting, it should use regular spaces between digit groups, instead of dots. This makes phone numbers interactive on mobile devices, prompting to call or add a new contact, instead of having to remember or copy-paste the number. And don’t forget the prefix or country code if you work internationally.
No email address? Unless you have multiple email addresses for different purposes, and you need to specify them, what’s the reason for including it in your email signature? People already know what your email is if you’re emailing them, and most email clients include it in header information in replies and forwards anyway.
Other elements to consider
1. Portfolio link
Some photographers keep their portfolio separate from the rest of their image archive. If that’s the case, you can include both links, they serve different purposes.
2. Blog link
If you have a photography blog that’s separate from your main site, it might also be a good idea to include a link to the blog in the signature. What do I mean by separate? On a different domain/provider, with a different look, under a different name.
Otherwise, if your blog is tightly integrated into your site, no need to include it here too, just the main website link is enough.
3. Address / location
You usually don’t need to add your physical location to all emails, this is something that people can (hopefully) find on your website easily. If you have multiple offices, don’t list them in your email signature, this has zero SEO value and it usually looks messy, leave that for your Contact page.
4. Social media links
It’s generally acceptable to include your main social media profile links, though try to limit them to your 2-3 main ones. Listing 10+ links to all your possible profiles online would do more harm than good.
When choosing which ones to use, try to think of the business value they each have. Own a nice collection on Flickr that acts like a portfolio? Include that. Frequently use Twitter to post updates about your work? Add it, sure.
If you have both personal and business profiles, you should carefully consider which ones you’d like to include. And don’t forget, that if you also have separate email accounts (a personal one, and another one for work), each of them can have its own email signature, thus using the appropriate social media buttons.
Using a dynamic signature service, this gets easier to set-up, and they can usually also display your latest social media posts/tweets. More on this below.
5. Events & products
Email signatures can be a great way to promote your photography products. If you’re selling photography workshops, have just written a book or simply want to promote an event, don’t be shy about it!
You’re not just trying to sell your products, it also helps position yourself as more of an expert, it adds to your credibility/authority in the field. It’s not a small thing, you’ve actually turned an idea into a living product, you can now use all the exposure you can get.
Here’s a great example from photographer Matthieu Paley:
A special mention for free content: if you’re also offering some sort of free content to your visitors (wallpapers, calendars, eBooks, videos, demos etc.), you absolutely have to harness email signatures for their marketing power. Free content engages visitors faster than anything else, allowing you to later grab their attention with the services/products you offer.
6. Logo / portrait / icons / graphics
Sometimes, adding images to email signatures makes things a little more personal.
Try to keep the image size small, both in terms of file size (ideally below 10-20KB) and pixel dimensions (if you can get away with just a 50×50 portrait or logo, that’s great). GIF, JPG or PNG file types are recommended.
When in doubt, don’t use them. Images are sometimes blocked by email clients before even being opened (although Gmail recently started displaying them by default). Not to mention that this also increases the size of the emails greatly. So if you don’t want headaches, don’t use images, keep it simple. About 95% of people don’t use any images in their email signatures.
7. Legal info / disclaimers
If you run a registered business, don’t forget to check your country’s laws for any specific info on this topic (sometimes called “Business Stationery”), or you risk a fine.
As brilliantly pointed out by this great article on email signatures from Smashing Magazine, in the UK for example, you’re legally required to include your company number, address & VAT code.
Same thing goes for non-disclosure agreements, check your country’s privacy laws, and see if you can avoid putting them in, they’re usually very distracting.
8. Environmental notice
Some people like to discourage email printing with something like this:
** Please consider the environment before printing this email **
Email signature best practices for photographers
1. Don’t make them too large
A good rule of thumb is to try to keep it within 3-4 lines. The signature is not the place for an auto-biography or for listing all your photo gear! To help reduce the number of lines, condense information using pipes (|) to separate text blocks. Formal business emails (which usually also display addresses and other legal info) can obviously be an exception.
Whenever I see email signatures that take up half of the browser window,
I let out a deep sigh…
2. Keep lines short too. Some email clients limit the width of the emails to 80 characters (including spaces), so try to avoid reaching this limit. Once again: eliminate the noise, keep the essentials.
3. Properly separate the signature from the rest of the content.
You should start the signature with the recognized delimiter:
Email content -- Signature
It’s a single line consisting of exactly two hyphens, followed by a space, followed by the end of line. This is the standard these days for email clients, and it allows them to automatically contract/expand the signature block as the viewer wants.
4. Don’t go overboard.
Email signatures are not the place for:
- Quotes & mottos
- Parts of your CV/resume
- Lists of your services/skills/experience
- Photo gear
- Ads / affiliate links
5. All the content should be left-aligned. If the signature gets opened in text-only mode, spacing will only look OK when aligned to the left.
6. Write the actual website URL (instead of turning it into a link that says “My Website” or something similar). Many people like/need to copy and paste the site address elsewhere.
7. You don’t need to include a salutation in the signature either.
Words like “Sincerely”, “Best regards” etc. are usually left for when ending the actual email content.You should write a relevant ending to each email! Some emails need to end in “Thanks”, other need to end in “Looking forward to your notes”, you shouldn’t use a canned response here.
8. Try not to use URL-shortening services (like Bit.ly) as this can sometimes “upset” spam filters!
9. A little color can be used at times, if it’s consistent with your brand/site colors. Never use white text though, some spam filters think you’re trying to hide content so they’ll mark your emails as spam.
10. If your email signature is big, only include it in the initial email interactions. For all follow-up replies, you could maybe remove it, or at least reduce it considerably. Most of the times, the email signature should just the there at the beginning of the thread, not in every message.
11. Create different signatures for different people/situations
- Large for initial reply, short for all follow-ups
- One for personal emails, one for business
- One for each type of client etc.
12. Have a little personality, remove your email client’s default signature (“Sent from my …”). People don’t really need to know what phone or email client you use. It’s also a good way to show your sense of humor:
The minimalist approach
Just name/company and website URL (preceded to the separator line, see point 3 above).
On frequent email exchanges, why not go even further in email replies? Just your initial.
In some email follow-ups, I simply replace my name with “- A”, it’s short and elegant.
HTML signatures or not
Most email clients these days automatically convert URLs into active links, but it doesn’t happen always. HTML gives you the opportunity to make sure your website is a link.
Although HTML is supported, there are usually problems with images and spacing between elements. Not to mention that HTML can be used in privacy/phishing attacks, and it can confuse spam filters. So only go down this path if you have some experience with HTML.
If you don’t, but still want the flexibility such an option can give you, you can use this great HTML signature generator: http://htmlsig.com/
Dynamic email signatures
Their advantages: easy management of multiple templates, statistics, social media integration (ability to display your recent posts/tweets)
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Email signature examples
Like with every other content you create, it’s always great to try to infuse some of your personality. Take a look at the examples below and draw inspiration for how you can add a personal touch to your own email signatures:
Resources & further reading
Signature installation instructions (DigitechBranding) http://www.digitechbranding.com/pages/Signature-Installation-Instructions.html
Email signature HTML programming (DigitechBranding) http://www.digitechbranding.com/pages/email-signature-HTML-programming.html
The art and science of the email signature (Smashing Magazine) http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/04/the-art-and-science-of-the-email-signature/
Creating templated email signatures in Apple Mail http://halftonemedia.ca/blog/2013/05/speeding-up-workflow-by-creating-templated-email-signatures/
Email Signature Design, Layout and Content (Sitepoint) http://www.sitepoint.com/email-signature-design-layout-content/
Leveraging your email signature is a powerful thing, regardless if you’re just starting out or already have a successful business.
1. Update your email signature.
Go right now and take a close look at your existing email signature, and follow all the points made above to try to improve/simplify it. Don’t know how to add/edit a signature, check the first resource link below.
2. Track links using Google Analytics.
If you’re already using Google Analytics to track your site’s visitors, it’s quite easy to also track the usage of your email signature. Just head over to Google’s URL Builder and use the resulting URL as the destination for your website link (in case you use HTML of course). You’ll then be able to view all the traffic from your email signature inside Google Analytics (Traffic Sources -> Campaigns). If you don’t use HTML, putting that long and ugly URL in your text-only signature shouldn’t be done.
Let me know if you’ve made any experiments with your own email signature, maybe even write it here below in a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.