What Is an Email Template?

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If you’re brand new to the email industry—or even if you’re a veteran—there may be some confusion about what an email template actually is.

Is it a single email sent to a subscriber? Something saved in an email service provider’s WYSIWYG editor? A collection of code snippets to build new campaigns?

In this post (and the accompanying video) we break down exactly what makes an email template, well, a template.

Defining a template

An email template can be described as:

A reusable HTML file that is used to build email campaigns.

Let’s break that down.

An email template is an HTML file. HTML—or hypertext markup language—is the code that defines the structure and content in an email campaign. It allows us to add things like images and links to an email and, along with CSS—or cascading style sheets—lets us style the campaign to better reflect our company or personal styles.

The defining feature of a template, though, is its reusability. Templates are distinct from one-off email campaigns because they can be reused to build multiple campaigns. They’re normally saved in your email service provider (ESP) or in something like Litmus Builder, and provide a base on which to add copy, images, and links specific to that email campaign.


The benefits of using templates

Using an email template allows you to produce campaigns faster, since the underlying code is already written. Instead of having to rewrite an entire email from scratch for every send, you can simply add copy, images, and links to an existing template before testing and sending it to your subscribers.

And, with the reduced effort, you have more time to focus on crafting better content and copy for your email campaigns.

Templates also keep your emails more consistent. If you were to rewrite the code from scratch for every email, there’s a good chance that there would be variations or mistakes in that code—leading to broken emails and a bad experience for your subscribers. Typos can happen to even the best developers and, in the unforgiving email landscape, can lead to disastrous results for email marketers.

While templates are usually made by designers and developers for a marketing team—and are typically well-tested before handoff—it’s a good idea for everyone working with templates to test their campaigns before sending.

Some ESPs introduce code that can break even the most well-tested templates, and different copy and images can cause problems, too. Running your campaign through Litmus Checklist helps insure that your email works great in over 50 different email clients and running a spam filter test lets you see if any content tweaks affected your deliverability.

Don’t have time to make your own?

If you’re looking for templates to use as the basis for your campaigns, the Litmus Community now features modern, easy-to-use templates built by industry veterans to cover a wide range of campaigns. Find the perfect template for your product launch, monthly newsletter, and everything in between.

Explore our free templates →