Email Marketing Mistakes

Email Marketing Mistakes that Drive Us Crazy


There are many pitfalls in email marketing, but some are easier to avoid than others. We recently polled some of our colleagues about their biggest inbox annoyances:

Sending Too Many Emails

Rachel Girard, graphic designer, Email on Acid

One of my biggest pet peeves is an overzealous sending frequency, which seems to happen more often with retailers. Sure, they enchant me with the first few emails. But once the honeymoon is over, I realize that they’ve inundated my inbox. I like to see what my favorite brands are up to, but I don’t need a daily update.

Email Frequency I just Want it to stop gif

There are a couple of ways to avoid this email fatigue:

  • Give your customers the ability to choose how often they receive emails. They can change their settings through an email preference center you set up on your site.
  • Test out different frequencies and measure your results to find what appeals to your subscribers. If you’re noticing a drop-off in engagement, adjust your send schedule.

Lack of Responsive Design

Justin Khoo, email developer and founder of Freshinbox

My pet peeve is single-column emails that you can’t read on a mobile device without pinching and zooming. These mobile emails are some of the easiest to fix because they don’t require reconfiguring the layout of the email.

To avoid the need for pinch-and-zoom, email marketers can use responsive design to increase font sizes or make tables and images scalable. With so many subscribers checking email on mobile devices, why wouldn’t marketers put in the effort to make the mobile experience better?

Bad Preheader Text

John Thies, CEO/co-founder, Email on Acid

It bugs me when I receive an email with bad preheader text. How many times have you seen this in your inbox:

Bad Preheader Text

That is a wasted opportunity. Preheader text gives marketers another chance to encourage your subscriber to open the email. Engaging preheader text is one of the easiest things to do for your campaign, yet email marketers often overlook it. Plus, if the preheader text is done correctly, it won’t affect how the email is displayed when opened.

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“Engaging preheader text is one of the easiest things to do for your campaign, yet email marketers often overlook it.” -@johnethies

Lack of Accessibility

Alex Ilhan, email developer, Email on Acid

It’s easy to make a positive impact with good email accessibility, and it seems backward that we, as developers and designers, have pushed email into a non-accessible area. After all, an email is just sending words electronically – we over-complicate it with heavily-designed HTML emails.

Some of your email subscribers may be visually impaired or require adaptive tools to help them read email. It’s important that they can understand your message, too.

By making a few small code and design tweaks, we can make a huge difference in how people with accessibility challenges can consume email.

Too Much Content

Amy Jones, vice president of marketing, Zeta Global

Getting an email that looks like a yard sale is overwhelming, and it’s too much work to absorb when I’m scanning hundreds of promotional emails every day.

It’s just too much!

Opening a congested email gif

Email marketers need to grab my attention with:

  • Clear, personalized copy
  • Imagery
  • An offer that I’ll be interested in

If I subscribe to your email list, you should know enough about me to make the email relevant and help me make quicker decisions. Too many choices with overwhelming amounts of images or copy will get you a fast ignore, or worse, an unsubscribe.

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“Too many choices with overwhleming amounts of images or copy will get you a fast ignore, or worse, an unsubscribe.” -Amy Jones, @ZetaGlobal

Including “Forward to a Friend”

Jose Cebrian, senior vice president of digital messaging, Merkle, Inc.

When was the last time you listened to an email that asked you to “forward to a friend”? Consumers don’t use it. Period.

This ask is a waste of space. Eliminate it from your email and instead, use that space for more engaging, helpful content.

Hiding the Unsubscribe Link

Melanie Graham, content manager, Email on Acid

It drives me crazy when a brand makes it difficult to unsubscribe from their emails. Sometimes, they make the link hard to find (ahem, 4-point font that’s the same color as the background). Other times, they require a multi-step process to opt out.

Not only is this frustrating, it also reflects poorly on the brand. If your customers want to say “no,” respect their wishes. Your email lists will be cleaner, and your marketing efforts won’t be wasted on customers who aren’t interested in your product.

While we’re at it – why is the link at the bottom of the email, anyway? Unsubscribing from an email should be as easy as it is to subscribe. Unsubscribe links should be easy to find, easy to read, and easy to use.

Avoid Making These Mistakes

At Email on Acid, testing is at the core of our mission. After you’ve finished setting up your email campaign design, make sure the email looks good in every inbox. Every email client renders your HTML differently, and Email on Acid helps you test your email across the most popular clients and devices.

Try us for free for seven days and get access to email, image and spam testing. Make sure your email gets delivered and look good doing it!

Start testing today!

Author: Melanie Graham

Born and raised in New England, Melanie has a background as a writer, editor and journalist. After roaming the U.S. as an expert vagabond, she’s landed in Denver as Email on Acid’s content manager. She’s a music nerd at heart who loves spending time at the piano.

4 thoughts on “Email Marketing Mistakes that Drive Us Crazy”

  1. Another one is not being able to view the email on the web. Some images tend to break depending on the email platform I’m using.

    My biggest annoyance would probably be the wall of text with the unsubscribe link blended into it. A quick “Ctrl + F” still won’t find these types of unsubscribe links.

  2. Considering that majority of the email clients used today are still outlook and outlook doesnt support responsive emails not to mention a majority of common CSS used in the last decade how to you work around that limitation?

    1. @Jared – The outlook preference you mention only applies to businesses (not consumers) so if you are a b2b marketer, follow outlook, else, dont worry about outlook for your final consumers (although it makes the review process, done in outlook, a royal pain)

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