With an ROI of 42:1, email marketing is not only the king of all marketing strategies but also marketers’ top priority. Yet, many email marketers find themselves wondering why their open and click-through rates skyrocket whilst their conversion rates plummet.

There are tons of posts outlining different ways to improve your email conversion rates and increase the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. However, what are the email conversion issues marketers should avoid at all costs?


“Customers need to trust you because without trust it would be nearly impossible to make meaningful conversions.” – EmailOut

Email marketing is not only about crafting the perfect email campaign and sending it to your subscribers’ inbox. It’s about reeling people in by creating both urgency and curiosity from the get-go. Yes, we mean your subject line and from address. Those are the two things subscribers will notice first. But, how do you know if your email marketing efforts are working? Is what you’re currently doing good enough? If yes, then is there something you can do to get better results? If no, then what are you doing wrong? 

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics on email conversion issues:

  1. What is an email conversion rate?
  2. What kinds of conversions are there?
  3. Common email conversion issues and how to avoid them

Let’s dive in.

High open and click-through rates might be nice but how can you convert subscribers if they ignore your email’s offer and decide they are not interested? After all, your business’s success depends on whether people buy what you sell. Do you know what that’s called in marketing terms? A conversion. The email conversion rate is a critical metric for marketers to keep track of. Yet, if your email is not driving enough conversions, don’t blame it. Certain email conversion issues might be causing those lacklustre results.

Email Conversion Rate: Definition & Formula

Email marketing conversion rate is a metric which represents what per cent of your subscribers have completed a goal action (signup, purchase, etc.). Of course, that action is entirely dependent on your specific conversion goal. 

For example, on many occasions, the conversion goal could be entirely purchase-related (turning people into customers), while in other instances it could simply be turning people into leads. No matter the goal, this email metric is essential for marketers to be aware of as it indicates the return-on-investment.

How to determine your email conversion rate? The formula is quite simple – divide the total number of people who completed a goal action by the total number of successfully delivered emails and then multiply the result by 100. 

Email Conversion Issues: How To Prevent Them From Killing ROI | EmailOut.com - free email marketing software

Example: 400 completed actions / 8,000 emails delivered x 100 = 5%

Ah, and if you are wondering what a good conversion rate in email marketing is there’s, unfortunately, no definitive answer – the higher, the better. You can achieve this by taking a closer look at your email marketing KPIs, determining what can be improved and then optimising your email campaign.

Types Of Conversions

Have you ever wondered how an email conversion rate is different from other channels’ conversions? What and how many different types of conversions are there? What’s the distinction between one type of conversion and another?

Here are the most common conversion types – 

a) micro and macro conversions

The first relates to opens, click-throughs (CTR), delivery rate, etc. in other words, navigation, interaction and engagement-based conversions. The latter covers revenue-based, lead acquisition and enquiry conversions such as sign-ups, sales, etc. Often micro-conversions precede macro-conversions.

b) email and website conversions

Conversions take place on your website (or dedicated landing page) and not within the email. However, your email is the bridge. Therefore, make sure all parts of your email marketing funnel are aligned with your end-goal (i.e. the subject line, email copy, from address, preheader, footer, etc.)

c) direct and indirect conversions

Some marketers often have difficulty determining the value of a conversion if it is not tied to a sale. It leads marketers to think that if the email campaign is not making money directly, then it is a failure. Nevertheless, it’s essential to remember that conversions don’t always happen immediately and they don’t always follow a straight line. Some emails lead to direct conversions (you promote a product/service, the subscriber buys it). Others, lead to indirect conversions where your email campaigns inspire the subscribers to take other actions on your website or landing page or at another time.

Let’s say you are sending your subscriber an email promoting top email marketing trends for 2020. Yet, when your recipients open the email they do… nothing. But, the email itself reminds them that your blog has additional content that would be beneficial to them. They visit your website, read a few articles and then come across your newsletter signup and decide to go for it. This is a clear example of an indirect conversion. A direct one would be if your email promotes a webinar, the recipient clicks-through to the registration page and then completes the attendance form. 

d) conversions and conversions-to-sale

For some, conversions aren’t always money-exchanging transactions. They can be a simple act of filling in a form or downloading a survey/report/whitepaper. In other words, anything that results in the subscribers taking the desired action without money changing hands. Still, for most businesses, conversions always mean sales. And those are known as conversions-to-sale

Regardless of conversions involving immediate sales, it’s essential to keep track of this metric on either a monthly or quarterly basis. Conversion-to-sale formula: establish the number of sales resulting from the period’s conversions and then divide the number of sales by the number of conversions.

It’s important to keep in mind that conversions associated with your emails can differ depending on the email marketing funnel stage, be it at the top or bottom. More often than not, businesses and marketers care about the conversions primarily located at the bottom of the email marketing funnel. 

Common Email Conversion Issues (And How To Avoid Them)

You’ve crafted the most amazing email campaign with the perfect subject line and send it out to your mailing list(s). Then, you look at your email analytics and discover your message’s email conversion rate is plummeting and nowhere near satisfactory. Your email may not be to blame. Take a look at these seven email conversion issues that may have never crossed your mind but they are the ones causing disappointing results and decreasing the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.

1) Tracking conversions: Are you doing it the wrong way?

To be a masterful email marketer, there’s one very important thing to keep in mind – it takes time. You might have read, seen and heard all you think there is to know about email marketing but… if you do not map-out your business goals at the outset having an understanding of common email conversion problems, and how to avoid them, you will be setting yourself up for failure from the start.

In terms of online marketing optimisation, it’s essential not to spread yourself too thinly by focusing and tracking too many email marketing metrics at once. Email marketing KPIs such as opens and click-throughs can give you enough insight into whether something resonates with your subscribers or not. They will also help you establish if there are changes that you might need to make to your subject line, call-to-action (CTA), email copy or another element of your campaign. However, as helpful as these metrics are, your ultimate goal is conversions and you need to make sure you’re tracking them the right way.

The best way to successfully measure this very important email metric is by integrating your ESP as well as your web analytics (like Google Analytics) and by creating a unique tracking URL for each link in your marketing emails. It’s important to keep in mind that your CTAs are directly linked to your conversions. As such, they must be linked directly to the end-goal of your email campaigns (If you’re using EmailOut you do not need to worry about this as we do it for you automatically).

2) Email frequency: Why email once when a series would be more appropriate?

It’s quite unfortunate that there are businesses that haven’t considered the power of a good email series. Most of them are worried about overwhelming subscribers with one too many emails. However, as a legitimate concern, establishing a trustworthy relationship with leads and customers through relevant and helpful email series is a huge plus to your email marketing strategy’s end goal – conversions.

Imagine this: a recipient takes an action in the form of signing up for your product/service, however, you send them only one single welcome email and then – nothing. What do you think the outcome will be? The answer: you’ll be missing out on the opportunity to convert them into a customer. Another example is sending cart abandonment emails – if you’re not sending them you are missing out on a huge amount of sales. 

There are a lot of variables to consider as to why people might miss your emails. They might be more interested in playing Candy Crush on their way to work or they just scroll through emails from co-workers and clients or they’re simply rushing to a meeting. Regardless of the reasons, this does not necessarily mean they are not interested in your email. Thus, instead of focusing all your efforts into landing a conversion through one single email, consider sending an email series of three – or more – emails spread over a specific time period – i.e. one email in the week and a follow-up one during the weekend.

By implementing such a simple email marketing tactic, you will not only increase your chances of people becoming engaged and interacting with your emails but also, ultimately, reach the holy grail – conversions.

3) Lack of segmentation: Do you know your subscribers at all?

With customers becoming more comfortable about sharing personal information online, capturing their data has become fairly easy. So much so, as an email marketer, you shouldn’t have any obstacles preventing you from doing basic data segmentation before releasing your email campaign out into the world. All research I’ve seen says the more emails a company sends, the more engagement they get.

Now, you can’t possibly make your competitors send fewer emails, but, what you CAN do is ensure your emails are reaching the right crowd and deliver them relevant content that speaks to their interests and needs. One way to do this is not only structuring your content but taking into consideration the uniqueness of your subscribers. This is where segmentation comes into play.

Don’t treat your subscribers as just one big mailing list without segmenting them based on their unique characteristics and behaviour (i.e. demographics, gender, links clicked, purchase history, etc.). If you DO NOT segment your data you risk not only sending the wrong message to the wrong people but also dramatically decreasing your open and click-through rates as well as increasing your unsubscribes, spam reports and ISP complaints – bad. It wouldn’t matter if you’ve done everything else right (e.g. awesome email design, perfectly crafted CTA and attention-grabbing content), without segmentation your subscribers will feel alienated and they will not convert.

Overall, by better understanding your subscribers, you will be able to fine-tune your email campaign with more relevant content fitting the recipients’ needs and interests which will lead to a boost of your email conversion rate.

4) An excessive number of CTAs: How many call-to-actions does your email have?

According to science, a well-designed call-to-action (CTA) can have a massive impact on your conversion rate. However, there’s nothing as damaging to your conversion rate as an endless amount of call-to-actions. 

For example, you’ve rolled out the perfectly designed email campaign with outstanding copy getting you higher open rates. But, in the end, your campaign failed to convert. What do you think could be the reason? Was it the overwhelming amount of call-to-actions? Or, was it the fact your CTA led to a weak landing page discouraging the recipients from taking further action?

Instead of having multiple call-to-actions, why don’t you draw the readers’ attention to one or two – at the most. It’s important to remember your subscribers are smart. So, don’t be generic when designing your call-to-action. Instead of saying ‘read more’ or ‘call now’, why not substitute those with a more actionable and intriguing alternative such as ‘find out more’ or ‘see proof’’

These pro tips will help you boost the success rate of your CTA – 

a) CTA button colours – having a big CTA button in green or blue, for example, will draw the subscribers attention much more than a hyperlink that’s fused within your email copy. Our advice is to think carefully about both the design and colour choice of your emails’ call-to-action. After all, they are the bridge to having successful conversions.

b) repetition – we know we said multiple call-to-actions can kill click-throughs and conversions. But, including a couple of CTA (g. one as a button and one in your email’s footer or signature) offers you a greater opportunity to reiterate the action you initially asked your subscribers to take. 

5) Test, test, test: Did you proofread and double-check your campaign?

If you enjoy improving your knowledge and reading email marketing blogs like ours, then you’re perfectly aware of how important things like copywriting, segmentation, email design and CTA design are. But tell us: When was the last time you split tested your email campaign?

You may think your email campaign’s design is very good, but your subscribers may have a problem with your copy. Or, both your design and email copy may be perfect but the call-to-action somehow gets lost because there’s not enough emphasis on it. If you fix the issue then conversions will increase. But, how would you pinpoint what the problem is? Should you ask your subscribers? Should you flip a coin?

The answer is test, test, test. If your conversion rates are nowhere near what you want them to be, or expected, the best solution is A/B testing. It will allow you to create two versions of the same email and test which one will drive higher conversions. 

It’s very important to test one variable at a time – subject line OR call-to-action OR preheader OR email copy, etc. – to get conclusive results. Otherwise, you won’t be able to establish which improvements did the trick and boosted the email conversion rate. Now, don’t go into full panic mode. Ultimately, you’d be able to establish a routine with split testing by creating a list of rules to follow and you’ll end up as a master of conversions in no time.

6) Landing pages: Do your CTAs have dedicated landing pages?

One of the most crucially important elements of a successful, high-converting email marketing campaign is directing your subscribers to a beautifully crafted landing page. Hence the importance of a carefully designed call-to-action – they are the bridge. It doesn’t matter if you are building a subscriber list or offering a limited promotion on your products/services, make sure each landing page is focused on the core offer. 

For example, if you are promising your subscribers a free whitepaper, you will be more likely to get higher conversions if the CTA takes them directly to the landing page they can get it instead of creating more navigation elements or unnecessary form-filling processes.

These pro tips will help you create a landing page that converts – 

a) carefully crafted headlines – the headline is the first thing that will draw the subscribers attention. If you fail to design a good one then chances are you’ve already lost a conversion. To prevent this from happening think through your headline(s) carefully, don’t exceed a maximum of 20 words and make sure you are making an offer the subscribers cannot refuse.

b) persuasion through subheadings – while headlines are the first thing subscribers see, subheadings are where you drive the point home. The thing to keep in mind when designing your subheading(s) is to give the subscribers enough detail on your products/services that they are intrigued and then clarify further down the page.

c) proper use of visuals – visuals are the third most important element of your landing page. But, how are you to pick the right ones? Where are you to place them? The answers are quite simple. Your visuals should be large enough to draw attention and emphasise on the core offer, highly relevant to what you are offering and lastly, of high quality. 

d) clarification about your products/services – you’ve already hooked the subscribers. Now’s the time to drive the point home and convert them. Explain how and why your products/services are beneficial to the subscriber but do your best to be concise. Ah, and remember, talk to your subscribers, not at them.

Final Thoughts

Boring chunks of text in emails don’t work. Neither do heavily designed, CTA ‘infested’, irrelevant campaigns. Email marketing may be the perfect way to connect to leads and subscribers, but a high-converting email campaign does not create itself. To get those conversions you first need to understand how it all works and what email conversion issues you must avoid at all costs.

All it takes to make sure you are staying away from those dreadful email conversion issues is a bit of patience whilst you pinpoint where the problem lies and then a bit of time to improve on the few mistakes you might’ve made. 

You can start by making your email campaigns more interesting with the help of a carefully crafted subject line and preheader. Then, make sure to apply basic segmentation and finally, split test your emails to see what works best and what doesn’t. And keep in mind, resolving email conversion issues and boosting your email conversion rates is not rocket science.

Highly recommended further reading – 

1) How To Increase Your Conversion Rates
2) Subject Line Mistakes: Things Marketers Should Never Do
3) Ideas for Irresistible Email Subject Lines
4) How To Develop An Impactful Onboarding Email Series?
5) Email Segmentation Secrets
6) How and Why You Need to Split Test Your Emails?
7) How to Pick the Best CTA Button Colour for Emails

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