Email marketing is a vitally important factor in keeping your brand at the top of the subscribers’ mind, successful customer acquisition and customer retention. Yet, due to the numerous variables that have to be taken into account, it can be quite complex. With so many elements to consider when creating and sending an email campaign, it’s inevitable to occasionally make a mistake.

Email marketing mistakes fall on a scope that stretches from “oops” to absolutely disastrous. Even the most proficient email marketers are not impervious to making a mistake now and again. However, what matters the most is how you can prevent an email marketing mistake from happening again.


“Your subject line is just like a movie trailer. It gives just enough of a preview to the recipients so they know what to expect.” – EmailOut

Have you ever had the profoundly awful realisation that you’ve made a mistake in your email milliseconds after sending it? Whether it is a grammar error, typo, broken link, broken image or incorrectly selected segment, things can take a wrong turn even for the most experienced email marketers. Poorly crafted email campaigns can harm not only your reputation but also send your email straight to the dreaded spam folder. But, don’t despair. There are ways to prevent making email marketing mistakes. 

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:

  1. 11 Common email marketing mistakes to avoid
  2. A checklist to prevent email marketing mistakes

Let’s dive in.

With an ROI of 42:1, email marketing has proven to be one of the most successful weapons an email marketer can have in their marketing arsenal. However, what can you do when your open and click-through rates are not what you expected them to be? Do you start wondering if your recipients received your email campaign but didn’t open it? Do you think they opened it but didn’t like the content? Or, maybe they are not engaging and unsubscribing causing damage to your email marketing KPIs because there was an unforgivable email marketing mistake.

Email marketers are merely human. Hence, email marketing mistakes are inevitable at one point or another. Instead of focusing on the petrifying feeling that you’ve made a mistake, make sure you address it head-on and do everything possible to prevent this from happening again. 

11 Common Email Marketing Mistakes

To help you avoid the email marketing embarrassment of sending campaigns with email marketing mistakes in them, I’ve compiled a list of the most common email marketing mistakes to avoid.

Are you ready to take your email marketing strategy to the next level?

1) Neglecting to welcome your subscribers

A new subscriber just joined your email list. That’s amazing news. Since they took the time to read through your website, understand the benefits they’ll get by subscribing and fill out your signup form, the least you can do is welcome them into the fold.

If you were not planning to do so then you are making a big mistake. Why? Because first impressions matter and you don’t want yours to be that of an uninterested business, do you? As an email marketer, you get one shot at making a great first impression. So, don’t waste it. After all, your first point of contact will set the expectations for the entire relationship. Thus, how you go about it is of crucial importance. The secret: creating an impactful onboarding email series. Moreover, welcome emails generate four times more opens, five times more clicks, three times more transactions and revenue per email as well as boost open rates with 50%; with the bonus of increasing revenue by 51% by sending just a single welcome email.

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the power of a welcome email or you risk losing customers and missing the opportunity to boost your ROI.

2) Sending emails without personalisation

You already know how important email marketing is for your business’s success. But, can you make it even more powerful? The answer is ‘Yes!’ All you need is to fine-tune your email campaigns and here’s where email personalisation comes into play.

The best audience is an engaged audience. Your subscribers probably receive tons of emails daily. Thus, to stand out amongst all the email clutter, make sure that everything from your subject line through your email copy to the call-to-action (CTA) is carefully crafted and properly personalised to fit the recipients’ persona.

1) Subject line

It often takes us milliseconds to glance at a subject line and decide whether or not to open or delete an email. With 47% of recipients opening emails purely based on the subject line, you need to make sure your email makes the cut. To do that you need to craft subject lines that compel the recipient to take action. They have to – 

a) provide value instead of misleading the recipient;
b) be short, clear and straightforward – the recommended length for a subject line is no more than 50 characters;
c) be focused on the topic and avoid any fluff or filler words;
d) sound professional;
e) be personalised; and
f) avoid YELLING at the recipient. 

2) Email content

To take your email personalisation beyond just the subscribers’ first name, you need to utilise all the data you’ve gathered from your subscribers. You can personalise the content based on two main types of customer data –  demographics and psychographics. (I’ll talk more about the distinction between the two and how they can be used in creating a customer persona as well as crafting perfect content shortly.)

When your subscribers first opted-in they’ve probably provided demographic data such as date of birth (DOB), gender, location, job occupation, age, annual income, etc. Hence, engage them based on those demographics and make sure you utilise them correctly when personalising the content – it’ll help increase your chances of having them interact with your brand further.

N.B. What you ask for in the signup form is what you’ll get. So make sure you’re not asking for too much info, or you’ll risk losing the new subscriber midway. Ask for just enough to ensure personalisation will be on-point.

Overall, to plan and create the perfect email copy you need to know at least the basic demographics about your subscribers. Though the more you know, the better your personalisation will be and the greater the results.

3) Call-to-action (CTA)

Probably the most important thing after having your email campaign send is getting the recipients to take action. Cue, call-to-action (CTA)

First and foremost, remember that an effective CTA is one that focuses on the customers’ needs/interests, not on the product or service. If there’s no CTA what’s the recipient expected to do with your email? 

Don’t forget to include a call-to-action in your email campaigns. Make sure all of your emails have a clear purpose, bring value and include at least one clear call-to-action (CTA). Don’t overwhelm your readers with tons of CTAs. You risk having none of them clicked on.

Secondly, your email copy should gently lead and prepare the recipient for the call-to-action. For example, if you are hosting a webinar, your CTA should be about singing up.

Lastly, if you are asking your recipients to take too many actions – buy multiple products, sign up to another email list, re-post your latest Instagram photo, take part in a webinar and a few other things, you risk not only confusing them (which is the least of “oops” mistakes) but also for them to completely ignore your email and either delete it or worse, report it as spam. 

Remember, it is always best to have 100 people taking the same action than 100 people taking 10 different actions. 

3) Ignoring your targeted audience’s interests

Creating valuable and engaging content that’s relevant to the subscribers on your email lists can sometimes be a Herculean task. You can’t ask them what they want to read all the time, you’ll come across as somewhat irritating and it might result in losing the subscribers’ attention.

Instead of pestering your subscribers constantly, focus on creating customer personas (a fictional representation of your target customers). I’m sure you have a pretty good idea who your subscribers are, what they want/need and how to craft content based on that. However, by using demographics and psychographics you will be able to gain more insight into what your subscribers need and how they think.

11 Common Email Marketing Mistakes (and How To Prevent Them) | EmailOut.com - free email marketing software

Demographics such as DOB, location, occupation, annual income, marital status, age, gender, etc. will allow you to focus your email copy on who the subscriber is.

Psychographics (which are essentially the demographics of personality) like values, thoughts, interests, concerns, opinions, attitudes, lifestyle, etc. will help you create content focused on how they think

Understanding what drives people’s decision-making is incredibly important to marketers. If you don’t know how they think or why they are buying your stuff, you’ll be wasting a huge amount resources either scatter-gunning people in that bracket who would never buy your stuff in a billion years, or missing the mark entirely with your target audience because you misinterpret the reasons for their interest.

4) Disregarding segmentation

Now that you have created customer personas to help you establish what your subscribers (and customers) want and think, it’s time to finally give it to them. But remember, just as you have to go to different shops to purchase what you want, various customers and subscribers have different reasons for coming to you and signing up to your email lists. Thus, sending all of them the same email that will only relate to some, will ultimately end up costing you the subscribers’ interest in your business.

To avoid such an email marketing mistake, take advantage of email segmentation. Based on both the demographic and psychographic data you’ve gathered, you can ensure that the right people are getting the right message at the right time.  

If, for whatever reason, you only have the basic demographic data about your subscribers, don’t panic. The best way to go about segmenting your email lists from the get-go is by asking for the subscribers’ preferences right on the signup page. Alternatively, to improve your segmentation efforts for existing subscribers, you should add a link in your email campaign redirecting them to your preference centre. Give them the freedom to choose what they want to receive and how often they want to receive it.  

5) Not allowing recipients to reply

Are you sending from a donotreply@yourdomain.com or no-reply@yourdomain.com address? Well, trust me when I say this, no one is looking forward to receiving emails from their ‘good friend’ Do Not Reply. 

Using such a sender email address is not only uninviting but it also appears very unwelcoming. Don’t be surprised if your open rate suffers if you use such sender addresses. In fact, 64% of recipients open an email based entirely on the sender’s name.

So, to avoid a rapid decrease in open rates, make sure to always send emails from an email address your subscribers are familiar with and to which they can reply if needed. If your email fails to allow the recipient to reply or ask questions then there’s the possibility they’ll look for a more personalised experience where brands are interested in hearing back from their customers. 

Overall, always allow recipients to get in touch. In case you become too overwhelmed with replies, why not add a ‘Contact Us’ link in your email which leads readers to a landing page where they can send their inquiries or ask for further information? 

6) Dismissing mobile optimisation

Is your email campaign optimised for small screens? 

Stats point out that 42% of all email opens happen on a mobile device. Furthermore, nearly 43% of recipients delete emails if they are not optimised for mobile devices. Now, I can only assume you are using a desktop to craft those awesome email campaigns since well… the screen is bigger. But, as much as everything might look great on the desktop, the same does not apply for mobile screens. So, before you hit ‘send’, make sure that you’ve not neglected to optimise your email for mobile devices.

Professional email marketing software – like EmailOut – often have a free design test tool which allows email marketers to preview their email campaigns in 70+ different email clients and mobile devices in seconds. Another great way to check how your email will look is to send a ‘preview test’ to yourself. Then, you’ll not only be able to see how the campaign looks in your email client/browser or on your mobile device but also double-check for potential email marketing mistakes such as spelling errors, typos, broken links, broken imagery, formatting errors, etc. 

7) Not paying attention to your sender reputation

Your sender reputation portrays your authenticity and credibility as a sender. If you are unaware of what it is, there is a high possibility it’s affecting your email marketing KPIs more than you know.

Your sender reputation is a score awarded by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to determine if the emails you are sending are genuine or spam. 

Your sender reputation can be determined by multiple factors but the main four are – 

a) Email bounce rate. As you know, there are two types of bounces – soft (temporary issues like a full inbox) and hard (permanent issues such as a closed email account). To prevent this from affecting your email marketing efforts, review and clean up your email lists regularly. This will not only reduce bounce rates but also ensure your email lists consist of only active subscribers.

b) Daily email volume. Spammers just love emailing to huge lists all at once since their aim is maximum reach. If you are following a similar practice, sending numerous irrelevant emails to massive email lists, this will most certainly affect your sender reputation negatively. If ISPs see that emails are coming in bulk from a new IP address they’ll start to investigate. But, if you are using a professional email marketing service (which you should), they have IPs ‘warmed up’ and ready to go.

c) Unsubscribe rate. People unsubscribing from your emails en masse is another red flag for you and ESPs. They can and will do so for numerous reasons – too many emails, irrelevant content, hard to understand copy, no clear benefits, etc. To avoid spikes in unsubscribe rates, make sure you use a double opt-in signup form. It’s an extra measure that will help prevent low-quality sign-ups, keep you on the right side of the law and, most of all, ensure that the people interested in what you can do for them (or have to say) are successfully subscribed to the correct email list. Remember, including an unsubscribe link is a legal requirement under anti-spam laws.

d) Complaint rate. This metric is also known as abuse or spam complaint and it is a representation of subscribers’ response to your emails. Complaints usually happen when recipients click on the This Is Spam (TiS) button in their email client. Now, there’s no such thing as a ‘good’ complaint rate, however, anything below 0.1% is considered as acceptable as an industry standard. Anything above 0.1% is considered high and will affect your email deliverability.

8) Failure to utilise email marketing analytics

To understand how your email campaigns are performing and what your subscribers are most interested in, you need to make sure you are monitoring your email marketing KPIs such as open rate, engagement rate, click-through rate, deliverability rate, conversion rate, etc. 

Once you have a better insight, you’ll be able to pinpoint what content resonated best with the subscribers to inspire them to take action. Moreover, by fully evaluating your email campaigns effectiveness you will be able to accurately target those subscribers most likely to take action and proceed to interact with your emails. 

Bottom line, without email marketing analytics it would be extremely difficult for email marketers to develop and improve their email marketing strategy. So make sure you measure your results and then start tweaking your email strategy accordingly to achieve the success you want.

9) Using purchased, borrowed or rented email lists

As much as purchasing, borrowing or renting email lists might seem like the perfect idea and the best shortcut to achieving a boost in your subscriber numbers, don’t be fooled. It will do your business more harm than good. After all, isn’t it preferable to have no subscribers than unengaged ones?

The top five reasons why using purchased or rented email lists is a massive No-No are – 

1)  unreliable quality of the email list;
2) reputable ESPs do not allow their users to send to such lists;
3) people on those lists have absolutely no idea who you are;
4) you will be flagged as a spammer; and
5) you are violating anti-spam laws.

Using purchased, borrowed or rented email lists is a poor alternative to building and growing your email list organically. It is also damaging to your brand, harmful to email deliverability, has a high potential of flagging you as a spammer and will lead to poor results.

10) Disappearing from the face of the Earth

Unfortunately, many marketers can make the email marketing mistake of sending unwanted emails or, worse, neglecting their subscribers completely after the welcome email and one more successful email campaign. 

People subscribe to your email list for a reason. Thus, as much as they show their appreciation in one of the few email campaigns you’ve sent, if you let too much time pass by between emails there’s a high possibility subscribers will forget about you and next time you email them either delete your message, unsubscribe or, worst-case scenario, report it as spam.

The best way to avoid all of this is to set the email frequency expectations and stick to them. Additionally, let subscribers tell you how often they would like to hear from you. For example, if you’ve promised to send them a monthly email newsletter, just send it once a month – not weekly. With a professional email marketing platform at your side, you can easily create an automated series of emails that will be sent at set intervals  – it will avoid any communication gaps and keep your subscribers happy.

11) Ignoring GDPR, CAN-SPAM, CCPA, CASL and other anti-spam laws

With anti-spam laws like GDPR, CCPA, LGPC, CASL, PDPA and the CAN-SPAM Act, email marketers have a lot to comply with to be on the right side of the law. They have to prove subscribers have given their explicit consent to be contacted, there must be a valid physical address included in their emails, an unsubscribe link must be added and so much more other requirements in order for email marketers to make sure that their emails will not only be delivered to the recipients’ inbox (instead of being marked as spam) but also to avoid being hit with hefty fines for violating all those anti-spam laws.

Bottom line, by avoiding email marketing mistakes and following legal guidelines, email marketers will put their business in a position that allows them to reap the benefits of all those long hours devoted to crafting and improving their email marketing campaigns.

How To Avoid Email Marketing Mistakes: A Preflight Checklist

Mistakes happen all the time. Rather than panicking and apologising (which you should if the mistake is obvious), the best preventive measure you can take is to have a plan in place. That way you’ll be able to go through and check all possible worst-case scenarios and ensure you will not be sending an email with mistakes. 

There are 6 essential elements email marketers must consider before releasing their emails into the world – 

1) Personalisation 

Personalisation works. In fact, according to stats, personalisation improves open rates by 14% and increases conversions by 10% – and all you have to do is use the subscribers’ first name. Pretty good return on something so simple, right?

2) Timing

Do you send emails regularly? Are you using the same template each time, or perhaps the previous email as a template for the next one? Is your previous email referring to a month, date, day or some other time that has now passed? Always make sure to double-check or you risk looking super sloppy!

3) Links

This one is so easy to overlook, but such a pain when you slip up. Go through your email and double, even triple-check that every link you’ve added goes to the right place. This also applies to your call-to-action. Leave no link unclicked.

4) Subject Line

Your email’s subject line is the first thing people see, the biggest factor in whether they click through and pretty much your make-it or break-it moment. Therefore, make sure it’s really good. To get some inspiration and write irresistible subject lines take a look at these seven amazing subject line examples.

5) Proofread

Okay, so you can’t wait to unleash that awesome email you spent countless hours crafting and perfecting onto your list. But, that’s no excuse to lower your standards. Read over everything you’ve written, carefully, to make extra certain you haven’t done something daft.

6) Testing

It’s hard to spot email marketing mistakes when you’ve been staring at the same screen for hours. Hence, send yourself a test email and check that over instead. While you are at it, why not recruit a few of your colleagues to be your little helpers and get a fresh pair of eyes to check your email, too. This will also allow you to check how the formatting looks on different screens and that your subject lines, names, etc. are displaying properly before you send.

I know what you might be thinking – “Is that it? Six points?” The answer is “No. There’s more, much, much more – like 38 points more.”

The Ultimate 44-Point Email Checklist >>>

Final Thoughts

At best, making email marketing mistakes and sending your campaigns to hundreds or thousands of recipients will be somewhat embarrassing – all depending on the mistake of course. At worst, it will possibly cause irreparable damage to your brand, costing you not only customers (and subscribers) but also getting a bad sender reputation.

However, sometimes a mistake can be a good thing. Right now you are probably thinking I am crazy saying this but bear with me and think about it. Okay yes, you did send a campaign or two with some minor mistakes to your mailing list but… the hardest part was discovering the mistake and you’ve done it. From here on, you can create a game plan (because you have an idea what can go wrong) and follow it religiously to avoid making any more email marketing mistakes in future.

It’s inevitable, and to an extent acceptable, to make mistakes and as long as you are willing to correct them your subscribers will forgive you. But, before earning forgiveness, you first need to make sure you’ve apologised. Yes, that’s right. Create a short, sweet and straightforward apology email template explaining to your recipients what has happened and offer them an ‘apology discount’ or something else beneficial. As long as you treat them right and with respect, and don’t make a big deal out of the mistake, they’ll understand and appreciate your consideration.

Highly recommended further reading – 

1) Subject Line Mistakes To Avoid
2) How To Write Marketing Emails 101
3) Email Segmentation Top Secrets
4) Responsive Email Design
5) Why Using Purchased Email Lists Is A Very Bad Idea

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