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16 Awful Email Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

by Nedim Talovic · Updated 22 Feb 2022}}

No matter how good are you in the email marketing field, you will be making some mistakes, like we all do. We usually talk about the benefits of email marketing and using it to increase sales.

Why do we avoid talking about mistakes? The same reason is with startups. Everyone wants to hear success stories and avoid reading about failures although even though 97% of startups won’t exist after three years.

Everyone is making mistakes and that’s fine as long as you learn something from it. However, your goal should be to minimize it, and that’s what this blog post is about.

Here, I’ll show you lots of real-life examples and of course, I’ll tell you what you need to do if you wish to see top results.

Here are the most common email marketing mistakes.

  • Responsivity Issues
  • Not Tracking Open and Click Rates
  • Lack of Photos
  • Sending Too Many Newsletters
  • Avoiding Personalization
  • Lack of Segmentation
  • Not Using Magnet Words In a Subject Line
  • Not Having CTA or Even Having Too Many CTA
  • Sending Newsletters From No Reply Email
  • Not Using Email Marketing Automation
  • Using Bad Apps & Having Deliverability Issues
  • Buying a List
  • Not Offering an Unsubscribe Link
  • Lack of Strategy
  • Sending Subscribers To Horrible Landing Pages
  • Lack of A/B Testing 

Let’s see these mistakes in more details.

#1 Responsivity Issues

Millions of people are using mobile devices. It’s completely impossible to walk down the street without seeing someone holding a mobile device.

Whenever you send a newsletter, you must know that someone will read your newsletter on the mobile. 48% of emails are opened on mobile devices.

Responsive email statistics

Source: SEOPressor

For that reason, you must be sure that your emails are mobile-ready.

Furthermore, it’s a defeating fact that only 11% of email templates are optimized for mobile, and what’s worse for those who haven’t optimized their email design, 64% of decision-makers read their email on mobile.

Google has rolled out mobile responsivity as a ranking factor, so it isn’t only about email. Your whole digital presence must be responsive.

#2 Not Tracking Open and Click Rates

You always have to worry about stats. How many emails did you send? How many of them opened it? How many of them resulted in clicks?

Sending newsletters without getting clicks isn’t the best thing. Ok, it might be good for increasing your brand awareness, but at the end of the day, conversions are what you need, and without clicks, there are no conversions.

According to SmartInsights, here are the benchmarks by industry.

Opens and clicks

What your stats will look like depends on the industry.

For example, Public Sector has the highest rate - 11.76%. This is because a government has an AUTHORITY so people are curious about their newsletters.

This tells you that you have to focus on building authority to see the best results. However, on average, you should expect:

  • 22.87% open rate
  • 3.26% click rate (CTR)
  • 0.53% unsubscribe rate

How do you analyze your newsletters?

#3 Lack of Photos

Newsletters without photos don’t look attractive at all. If you don’t use photos, CTR will be lower without any doubts.

This is what most people think, but is that a fact or fiction? Well, guys at LaunchBit did some research and they claim that there’s no correlation between CTR and having photos in a newsletter.

The results come from the sample of 465 campaigns and 155 publishers, but it claims that there’s an impact on forwarding your emails.

I’m not sure if their sample was statistically significant or was it simply too bad, but my experience tell me that there’s a correlation between CTR and having photos in newsletters.

Palm and paint newsletter

Imagine this newsletter above without photos - just think about fashion stores and photos of new dresses to female subscribers, for example.

Hiring a photograph or buying photos at professional services might be expensive. But, there are services such as Pixabay and Free Images.

These two services will absolutely fit your needs since their databases have more than 1 million photos.


You can test and learn which type of photos add the most value.

#4 Sending Too Many Newsletters

I don’t know about you, but when I receive too many emails from someone, I’m starting to consider unsubscribing or moving a newsletter to the spam folder.

On the other side, if marketers don’t send enough emails they will see a lack of new visitors.

For example, research from HubSpot tells how B2B companies that send 16 - 30 email campaigns per month have the highest median click rate of 6%.

B2B vs B2C Email Open Rate

Again, this research is surprising because sending 16 newsletters a month seems too much. Honestly, I think everyone should send a maximum of 2 newsletters a week, or 8 newsletters a month.

The same study shows that every business has to find a sweet spot.

Impact of monthly email campaigns on email click rate

In other words, if you send too many emails your click rate and the open rate will go down, but if you send a too small number of emails you also can’t expect something good to happen.

#5 Avoiding Personalization

Collect as much as possible data about your subscribers so that you can send personalized emails. Personalized emails will always receive a better engagement.

Email Personalization

The photo shows that subject lines with personalization have an open rate of 19.5%, and emails with no personalization only 15.1%.

Maybe this doesn’t mean much but calculates the difference with 1 million emails. Here’s what can you do:

  • Begin a newsletter with a name (Dear John, ..)
  • Talk about subscriber's birthday
  • Recommend products only for subscribers

The latest suggestion is very interesting. Thanks to Machine learning, E-commerce businesses are able to predict which products are the best for someone based on the historical data.

Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transactions rates, but 70% of brands fail to use them. This way, you’ll increase the number of sales!

#6 Lack of Segmentation

Segmentation and personalization are similar, but not the same. According to Pareto’s principle, top 20% of your customers will make 80% of purchases in your store.

Pareto principle

There are other examples as well:

  • Top 20% blog posts will drive 80% traffic
  • 80% of the problems in your app are caused by 20% of bugs
  • 80% of the sales come from 20% sales reps

Now, what if you segment the top 20% of customers and create a unique strategy only for them?

That would be awesome because you’ll probably increase the number of sales, push your CLV up, reduce churn rate, and so on.

Furthermore, you can segment your customers by gender and location.

For example, before 8th March arrives you can shoot a message to all male customers and recommend top gifts for the International day of women.

Segmenting by location also seems logical since customer behavior isn’t the same in every country.

#7 Not Using Magnet Words In a Subject Line

Since your newsletter will see only 22.87% in opens, it means that the rest 77.13% subscribers will ignore your email. But, if you use magnet words then you can improve the percentage.

Magnet Words

As you can see, the word Powerful will lead to better stats.

Ask yourself how many times did you use that word? Magnet words are nothing else than a psychological game where you must win.

You have all the time in this world, so just test different words. This week, use Powerful and measure the results. Next week, use Promising, and measure the results. Over time, you’ll learn what brings the best results.

#8 Not Having CTA or Even Having Too Many CTA

Call-to-action (CTA) is a very important part of email marketing campaigns. You must call your subscribers to take specific action. For example, you can use the following CTAs:

  • Buy
  • Register Now
  • Learn
  • Download
  • Order Now
  • Save 20%

But, you can’t have too many CTAs because you’ll see the lack of results. Here’s the newsletter I received from Kissmetrics.

Kissmetrics Newsletter

Notice how they ask me to register for the webinar. Also, check this Limited seats - Register.

They make pressure by telling me that number of seats is limited. I’m just wondering have they ever declined someone because all seats were full. I guess the answer is no because it’s not a conference where physical seats are needed.

However, if you use too many CTAs, your subscribers will get confused, and they won’t respond to your newsletter as you wish.

#9 Sending Newsletters From No Reply Email

Sometimes you’ll receive a newsletter that comes from a non-existing email address - [email protected]. Check out the photo below and see the newsletter I received last month.


Honestly, it seems very unprofessional.

Firstly, I think that I’m not welcomed at all. I understand when tech giants like Facebook and Google use “no-reply” email accounts because they can’t handle all the emails they receive.

But what about small and medium businesses? It doesn’t make sense. What if you receive such a newsletter and you would like to ask a couple of questions related to the product? You have to:

  • Find a link in the newsletter
  • Find a contact page
  • Send a message

People on the Internet don’t have too much focus. Website owners have only 6 seconds to present themselves in the best way. I don’t think the situation in the newsletter field is much better.

Usesr attention span

The photo above is a few years old, but I don’t think things are better now.

Whenever you create a campaign, you have to be sure that everything is a 1-click away.

When you advertise on Instagram you shouldn’t tell your audience to contact you by Viber or email - there are Instagram messages.

#10 Not Using Email Marketing Automation

There’s an estimate the marketing automation industry will see $14 billion in revenues by 2020.

What is marketing automation? It’s creating a set of rules that have triggers that wait for the specific action to happen.

For example, whenever someone subscribes to your site, you can shoot a welcome email.

Adding a product to the cart without making a purchase happens very often, and that’s a case where you can apply marketing automation by sending an email to those who abandon it.

Abandonment rate in the retail industry is around 70%.

Abandonment rates in retail

Returning your visitors through remarketing is another way of reducing the percentage of abandonment rate.

Next, growing a SaaS business isn’t easy. You send a welcome email whenever someone new subscribers, and after that, you can continue sending newsletters in cycles.

  • Day 0 - Welcome email
  • Week 1 - Promoting a blog post
  • Week 2 - Sending a free eBook
  • Week 3 - Offering a webinar
  • Week 4 - Sending a new 2 weeks of trial for those who didn’t subscribe.

In short, you’re building your authority with email marketing automation.

#11 Using Bad Apps & Having Deliverability Issues

Having deliverability issues is the worst nightmare of email marketers. There are various reasons why this happens.

Firstly, maybe you have a problem with an IP address that can be shared with other marketers who are potentially spammers.

Most marketers have nothing with their IP address since they usually use professional apps that provide an IP address for them.

However, sending lots of emails usually means that you need a dedicated IP address reserved only for you.

Next, there might be a server configuration issue. If you use a custom solution, you have to talk with your server administrator to check all the adjustments.

This doesn’t happen with email marketing apps. Furthermore, you can’t use spammy words in subject lines. According to Mequoda, here are some words you should avoid in subject lines:

  • $$$
  • 100% free
  • Act Now
  • Affordable
  • Cheap
  • Credit
  • Earn
  • Free gift
  • Income from home
  • Leave
  • Order now
  • Remove
  • Save $
  • Weight loss

While magnet words help a lot, using the words above might complicate your life and you don’t need that.

Finally, you can consider using services such as Jellymetrics as a bridge between delivery providers such as Mailgun and SparkPost.


Top Silicon Valley companies use these two services and they are completely reliable with a deliverability.

#12 Buying a List

Experts will offer you buying a list and your job to deny the offer due to two most important reasons.

Reason #1: Sending newsletters to people who didn’t give you permission is against SPAM ACT.

Reason #2: Your IP address and the domain name can be blacklisted because your bounce rate will be very high.

If you get blacklisted you can say goodbye to email marketing. I think that buying a list adds only a short-term value and the purpose of email marketing is literally the opposite.

Email marketing is the greatest marketing channel for presenting yourself as an authority by sending articles to your blog posts and converting them into customers in the end. 

Mock data

Some don’t buy email lists for sending newsletters in the future months. They use it as a sales tool by sending cold emails.

Cleaning the list using services that simulate sending emails to make sure that non-existing emails get removed. After that, they send two or three emails and that’s all.

I haven’t tried this but I know for a startup that did and stopped. Google figured out a pattern and moved their emails to the spam folder.

#13 Not Offering an Unsubscribe Link

Some marketers don’t include an unsubscription link in the footer of the newsletter.

The newsletter’s footer shows you the best practice. newsletter's footer

People think that it’s enough to get permission. Well, these days it’s not, and here’s why.

People will move your email to the spam folder and email providers such as Gmail will count that. If too many people click on This is a spam button then you are placing into the risk zone for getting penalized.

#14 Lack of Strategy

I mentioned that email marketing is the best marketing channel for becoming an authoritative guy in the industry.

I still think that but you won’t see guest blogging requests from top niche blogs without a strategy. Neither you’ll see how the number of sales increases.

Whenever you start with marketing campaigns, you have to answer the following questions:

  • How many subscribers do I have?
  • What are top landing pages that provide me new subscribers?
  • What type of opt-ins has the largest subscription rate?

Once you find answers to these questions you’ll obviously need to create a strategy. For example, creating a blogging plan in Trello seems as a good idea.

Trello Board

With the exact plan of future blog posts you can estimate how many new visitors will be there in a few months, and that means you’ll know how many visitors you’ll capture.

We always tend to publish a new blog post every two days. That’s about 15 blogs posts per month.

#15 Sending Subscribers To Horrible Landing Pages

A landing page is a place where leads and conversions happen. Without a good landing page, the efforts are useless.

Marketers need to create a landing page related to the newsletter they send.

For example, if you offer a webinar to your subscribers, you have to create a landing page for it. If you offer an eBook, you have to create a landing page for that too.

Here are some common mistakes.

Low Speed

One second delay

Your site needs to be loaded very fast. Kissmetrics claims that a one-second delay can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. So, if you’re making $100,000 per day, a 1-second delay will cost you $2.5 million every year.

Too Many Fields

According to VWO, removing 3 form fields increases conversion by 11%.

A/B Test

If you don’t get too much information, you’ll have less information about your customers.

But, if you ask too much, you’ll see a decrease in sales. In simple terms, you have to find a sweet spot.

Not Explaining What User Gets

Whenever you send subscribers to your landing page you must explain the product or otherwise, converting a subscriber into a customer will be so hard.

Here’s one example of how displaying a price doubled conversions by 100%.

Adding a money amount

As you can see, even a small change can dramatically increase the revenue.

#16 Lack of A/B Testing

If you remember, I told you to test one magnet word in the first week, the second magnet word in the week after, etc.

There’s something much better - A/B testing. The concept is pretty simple. You have to split the subscribers into two groups (A and B) and see which metrics are better for your business.

A/B Testing Illustration

Never forget to get a statistically significant result since that’s a mistake a marketer often make.

Lots of apps have A/B testing feature in itself, but thankfully to VWO, you can even calculate in Google Sheets if A/B test is statistically significant.

A/B Testing Significance Calculator

You only have to add your values for Control and Variation versions.

For example, if you have 10k subscribers, you can segment them into two groups - the one with 8,000 subscribers, and another with 2,000 subscribers.

A/B Test Significance on Email Marketing

Send your newsletter and check which has a better click rate. If the control version has a click rate of 5%, and the variation version has a click rate of 8%, then it looks like the variation version is much better.

You can be 99% sure if you check if the A/B test is statistically significant. In this case, it is.


As you could see, there are lots of possible mistakes email marketers can make. Your job is always to make that number as low as possible. Some will say that emails are the past, but that’s not true. They are the present and the future as well.

Focus on building your list today. Don’t wait for your site’s traffic to increase because every subscriber is important. For me, the biggest mistake you can make is a non-responsive site and avoiding A/B tests.

With a couple of tests, you can dramatically improve your metrics. After that, automation is also very important.