Conversion Alert: Invisibility Ray Hurts Email Open Rates and Click-through Rates

New technology renders emails invisible. Customer Chaos Labs suspected.

Everyone who seeks to do good in the world will inevitably be challenged by an arch-nemesis; someone who’s view of the world is diametrically opposed to yours.

At Conversion Sciences we have Customer Chaos Labs, whose motto is:

If we’re not working for you, we’re working against you.

They are an organization who seeks to lift their clients’ online Web success by simply bringing everyone else down. We see them as basically evil.

This week, one of our clients became the victim of a new Customer Chaos technology: an email invisibility ray.

The results are devastating.

Proof of the Invisibility Ray’s Existence

The folks at J’Tote Bags crafted a beautiful email, with professional photography, strong reasons to buy, and clear calls to action. Exhibit A shows the intended email.

Then, J’Tote sent the email to eager prospects and customers. Somewhere in transit, many of these emails entered the range of the invisibility ray. Exhibit B shows the result.

Click to enlarge

Exhibit A: Email sent by J’Tote Bags

J'Tote Bags Email before invisibility ray
Click to enlarge

Exhibit B: Yes, this is the same email after being hit with an invisibility ray!

The invisibility technology rendered the email almost completely invisible to the human eye. Clearly, an invisible email is going to be read less, depressing open rates and clicks.

Conversion Sciences Defense Technology

Conversion Sciences has worked with the major email clients to develop a “de-cloaking” technology. For example, recipients can restore the email by clicking “Display Images below” in Gmail, or “Click here to download pictures” in Outlook.

Most email clients have implemented something similar.

The problem is that many recipients of your emails may not find a good reason to click on the de-cloaking links if they can’t see the email.

Clearly, this is not an ideal solution.

Defending Yourself Against the Invisibility Ray

A detailed analysis by Conversion Sciences has exposed some weaknesses in the invisibility ray.

It only works on images

Apparently, the invisibility ray doesn’t affect text, but only images. Thus a proper defense against this kind of attack is to use images more sparingly in your email and place text strategically around the email.

This will allow readers to understand the point of the email if the images have been inviso-rayed.

Image “Alt” Text is Sometimes Impervious

If you look closely at Exhibit B, you will see some text appearing in places where the images would have appeared. This is the images’ “alt” text and is created using the “alt” parameters in the HTML <img> tag.

Here’s an example:

<img src=”picture.jpg” alt=”Text that describes the image” />

Use the “alt” text to tell the reader what they will see if they click “Display images below” and invoke the de-cloaking technology.

This does not work in all email clients. Microsoft Outlook won’t show these cues, for example.

However, some email clients will actually allow you to format your “alt” text, making it different sizes and colors.

Don’t Fall Victim to Invisible Emails

Email remains one of the most effective online marketing tools available. No wonder the foes of good marketing have targeted it for disruption.

Let a Conversion Scientist review your email strategy. This will ensure that


  1. You are using best practices to maximize deliverability, open rates, clicks and conversions.

  3. You are sending content that is relevant and interesting. This gives you permission to continue sending email to desirable prospects.

  5. You are sending with the right frequency. Sending too often or too rarely can render an email strategy impotent.

  7. You are defended against the invisibility ray and other weapons of chaos. Enough said on this one.

If you’d like to learn more, schedule a free consultation or contact Conversion Sciences directly. Ask about our Email Review service.

Brian Massey

P. S. There are still seats left at the PubCon Masters Group Training July 21 in Austin. You will not leave without a new, deep understanding of Search Marketing or Social Media.