How to embed video in email for marketing success

Here’s why and how to embed video in your emails.
Abstract illustration featuring an envelope embedded with a video and a geometric animal logo on a purple background with design elements.

Video is an incredibly powerful medium. We spend almost three times longer on web pages with video than on pages without video. Email is also an amazing marketing channel. Email gets more customer engagement than almost any other type of marketing. So it goes without saying that video in email is a powerhouse combo.

Embedding videos in email is also simpler than you might expect.

Create a quick video with Biteable, plug it into one of your best emails, and get mind-blowing results in a matter of minutes.

Since it’s such a good idea, here’s why and how to embed video in your emails.

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Why embedded video is incredible for email marketing

Well-crafted video captures attention and imagination in a way text can’t. It puts us in the same room as the other person and mimics face-to-face interaction. That makes videos feel more personal. So much so that most people would rather watch an embedded video than read a long email.

If you don’t believe us, try this one on for size: according to HubSpot, adding video to emails increases click-through rates by an average of 300%.

When you combine the power of video with the ability to deliver videos directly to customers via email, you get a heavy-hitting — and profitable — marketing tool.

Why embed videos in your emails?

But it’s not all sunshine and virtual roses. It’s best to embed your promo video directly into your email. Otherwise, your video ends up looking like any other text with a clickable link. That strategy won’t get your video nearly as much attention as it deserves.

Unfortunately, most major email providers like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo don’t support embedded video. This means there is a chance the embedded videos in your email will get flagged as spam and never reach your inboxes.

Also, if your video is embedded into the email incorrectly, there is a chance it won’t play at all. This could cause video to hurt your email marketing performance more than it helps. But fear not. There’s a quick workaround.

How to embed video in email the right way

There is a way to embed video in your emails without getting penalized by email service providers.

Meet the two-step image+link workaround. This simple solution gives you the benefits of embedded video without the email deliverability issues.

The image+link method works because your video doesn’t get sent as part of your email. Instead, it is embedded as a clickable link. This relieves deliverability issues because links usually don’t trigger spam filters. You get all of the benefits of embedded video without any of the drawbacks.

Step 1: Create an impactful thumbnail image

First, you need to create a thumbnail for your video. This thumbnail acts as a play button that email recipients can click to play your video.

There are tons of ways to create a compelling video thumbnail, but here are the quick and dirty best practices.

  • Start with a screenshot from your video. Start with a screenshot, then use a graphic creation tool to overlay text and build out your thumbnail.

  • Add a play button image. The Wistia team ran a series of A/B tests and found that a thumbnail that resembles a video (play button and all) performs better than a pure video screenshot.

  • Use text in your thumbnail image. A quick snippet of text gives even more context for your video and ensures viewers start watching it with the right expectations.

  • Create a thumbnail template. A consistent thumbnail layout creates a brand for your videos and makes them readily identifiable, even among a slew of other thumbnails.

  • Make a high-contrast thumbnail. Your thumbnail image is usually pretty small. Using a high-contrast image makes it legible. The most foolproof way to do this is to use a bright background with dark text.

  • Set realistic expectations. Always use thumbnails that accurately represent what is in your video. Avoid using an outrageous thumbnail just to get people to click. This diminishes trust in the long run; it isn’t worth it.

Your end result will look something like this:

Woman presenting content with a Youtube play button graphic on a green screen background to demonstrate how to embed video in email.

It’s also a good idea to create a thumbnail that is sized correctly for YouTube, Vimeo, or where you’ll host your video. This creates less work for you when it comes time to upload your video to the hosting site.

Step 2: Grab the URL for your video

If you plan to upload your video to a hosting site like YouTube, you’ll need to grab the video URL before you move onto the next step.

If you don’t plan to host your video on YouTube or another site, no problem. When you create your video using Biteable, you get a unique link that you can use to embed your video into an email, post it on your website, or add it to a social media message.

Step 3: Link to your video

Finally, insert your thumbnail into your email and link the image to your video.

Each email provider has its own intricacies around creating clickable links. So check for specific instructions based on the service you use. However, the process goes like this, generally speaking:

  • Insert your thumbnail into your email just like any other image.
  • Select the image.
  • Click the “add link” button.
  • Make sure you select the option to link to a web address, if that’s required in your email software.
  • Copy your video’s URL into the field for the link.
  • Save the changes.

Once your thumbnail is set up to link to your video, it’s time to test.

Step 4: Support your video with text

Although your thumbnail and the allure of a video has a lot of power, you’ll get even more clicks if you add a short bit of text that encourages people to watch your video.

Add a few sentences to your email that tell people why they should watch your video and add a call-to-action that prompts them to click. Let your audience know how your video will help them achieve their goals. Be clear about what they should do after they’ve watched your video.

But keep the text short. The star of your email is your video; the big message should go there.

A woman gesturing with her hand during a video tutorial on embedding videos in email.

Step 5: Send a test email

This step is pretty simple. Just send yourself a test email and double-check to make sure your link works. The last thing you want is to use your customers as your quality control team.

Why this alternative to embedded video works

Embedding videos in email this way may not produce a totally seamless experience, since the video doesn’t play directly in the recipient’s inbox. However, this method offers a few things that the direct play method doesn’t.

More control over the viewer experience.

Since your video plays outside the recipient’s inbox, you can house your video on a custom landing page where you have complete control over the messaging, call-to-action, and other links on the page.

Obviously, this takes a bit more work than simply uploading the video to YouTube. But it gives you far more control over the end-user experience and eliminates all of the other distractions in the user’s email inbox.

Access to better analytics.

Your email marketing program tracks key actions like open rates and click-through rates.

Guiding the viewer to a separate page creates even more trackable actions and gives you more data for optimizing your emails. You’ll be able to see exactly how many people watch your video and how many take the next step in the process once they watch. If people never leave their inbox, it’s much more difficult to quantify their actions.

Fewer email deliverability issues.

A video that plays in the inbox doesn’t guarantee that your emails will get marked as spam or blocked. But it does make it more likely.

Spam filters are generally wary of any non-standard email content, including emails that retrieve large files and pull them into the inbox. If you embed a video directly, you have to do a lot more work to ensure that your email lands in the inbox rather than the spam folder.

How to convert with email

One of the biggest challenges in email marketing is getting people to open your email in the first place. If the recipient never opens your email, they’ll never watch your video. Here’s what you can do to get people to open your emails:

Use the word “video” in the subject line. As we discussed earlier, adding the word “video” to your email subject line increases open rates. It also tells people exactly what’s in your email. That way, they know what to expect.

Be clear about what viewers will get from your video. Use a subject line that states very clearly what your video is about.

Even more than that, make sure your subject line clearly communicates the benefit of watching your video. What will viewers learn? How will your video make your viewer’s life better? People are much more likely to open and click if there’s something in it for them.

Tell people exactly what’s going to happen when they click your thumbnail. Make sure people know that the video will not play right in their inbox. Write a bit of copy to clarify. This can be as simple as a caption that says “Click here to play the entire video.”

Always deliver on your promise. The content of your email should deliver on the promise you made in the subject line. It might be tempting to use an outrageous or clickbait type subject line to boost open rates. But this tactic will cause your click-through rates and conversion rates to plummet.

3 examples of video in email marketing

These three examples showcase video in email marketing at its best.

1. Contiki: slideshow video

Elderly man in a suit standing in front of a banner with text, indicating a promotional or informational Biteable video is about to play.
Image source:

The video in this email from Contiki is simple: a slideshow featuring different people along with the one year that stands out in their minds.

It’s a good reminder that you don’t have to go to great lengths producing videos for your marketing emails. Sometimes, a simple video slideshow is just as powerful.

2. Shopify: how-to video

Overhead view of a person working on a laptop with Shopify's promotional message encouraging setup of an online store and highlighting how to embed video in email.
Image source:

Creating a quality onboarding sequence for new users is an important step to keeping them around. Shopify sends its new users a how-to video that helps demystify the platform.

3. YNAB: first-person video footage

An illustration presenting a gas pump fueling a piggy bank, promoting a budgeting app's tutorial on allocating finances, now with an embed video in email feature.
Image source:

Budgeting platform YNAB has a series of marketing emails that include video tips for thoughtful budgeting. This helps keep current YNAB users engaged with the platform and its features while also giving them useful information they can apply to their lives right away.

Our one critique: YNAB should’ve included a play button on their video thumbnail. But that’s small potatoes.

Making a video with this type of first-person footage personalizes your marketing emails and makes your brand more accessible. Creating first-person video footage is easy with Biteable’s record tool. Record footage of yourself from directly within the app and add it to your video with the click of a button. No pesky uploads necessary.

FAQs for videos embedded in emails

Embedding a video in an email is a useful marketing tool. Below, we answer your burning questions to all things video embeds.

Can you put a video in an email?

You can put a video in an email by embedding it directly, but we don’t recommend this option. Many email providers don’t support embedded video, so the message could get flagged as spam. Instead, we recommend creating a thumbnail that links to an external URL of your video. We explain how to do this in the next question.

How do you make a video appear in an email?

Here’s how to make a video appear in an email:

1. Create a thumbnail image of your video.

2. Add a play button icon overtop.

3. Insert the thumbnail into an email message.

4. Link the thumbnail to the video URL.*

*To do this, you’ll need to host your video on a website like YouTube or use the link generated when you make a Biteable video.

Can you insert a video into a Gmail email?

Yes, you can insert a video into a Gmail email. Here’s how:

1. Copy the video URL. For example, a URL from YouTube or a trackable video URL from Biteable.

2. Click the “link” icon in Gmail.

3. Past the video URL into the web address box.

4. Send the email. The video displays as an embedded video at the bottom of the message.


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