avoiding common email marketing mistakes

The Rulebook for Avoiding Email Marketing Mistakes


If someone ever claims that creating emails is easy, they are most likely not an email marketer. Most experienced email professionals, at one time or another, have run into head-scratching hiccups when trying to craft the perfect message. Moments of panic like this happen frequently enough that we’ve compiled eight tips on how to avoid email marketing mistakes.

Whether a marketer is seasoned or brand new, mistakes happen. They’re both unexpected and costly. Whether it’s a rendering issue in the inbox or an error made during creation, the repercussions of these mistakes can affect your ROI.

But you can always avoid mistakes. That said, let’s look at the common types of issues marketers deal with while trying to create their stellar email campaigns.

How to Avoid Email Marketing Mistakes

When the deadline is approaching…

Most of us have probably been here. Your email deadline is approaching, and you begin to panic about whether or not you’ll meet it. As a result, you rush and end up sending a lackluster campaign to your (or your client’s) recipients.

Avoid this by:

Having a concrete plan in mind ahead of time. It isn’t wrong to work on a campaign close to the deadline, but having a plan can help you manage your time. If you have two weeks to complete a project, set aside the first week to plan things like design, and spend the next week in creation. Prior planning helps save time and reduce the stress of email marketing.

Maintaining a marketing calendar is another handy tip—you can mark your campaign dates, important schedules, and holidays so you can see what you’ll need to complete and by when, without any hassle.

When images don’t render for some subscribers…

There are days when you perfectly align images with text, strike a healthy image-to-text ratio, and form the perfect email. What’s worse than realizing a portion of your subscribers aren’t able to see the images at all due to rendering issues? Knowing all that hard work went down the drain can be dispiriting.

Avoid this by:

Checking your images in Campaign Precheck. Campaign Precheck will verify that the images in your email will render promptly and properly for all subscribers. If there’s an issue that needs fixing with any of them, you’ll know before you send.

Some email clients will automatically block images. You can give context to these by adding alt text. Alt text helps subscribers who either use a screen reader or digital assistant, like Alexa or Siri, to understand the context of the image even when they can’t see it. Also, make sure to upload images to your email marketing software’s library so your email can properly host them. If you use external image URLs, make sure they’re hosted on a public web server so they don’t break.

Lastly, preview how the email will render across email clients and devices before you send. It’s important to know that your email will render on devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets and PCs, and likewise on email clients like Zoho Mail, Gmail, Outlook and so on.

When you send a wrong (or broken) link…

The worst facepalm moment in an email marketer’s life is when you send an email with a wrong (or broken) URL in the call-to-action (CTA) buttons or inline links.

Imagine your company having its biggest sale of the year. Different versions of the email are going out to all sorts of list segments. Lo and behold, your web traffic shows that no one is taking advantage of the sale because the main CTA link is broken and people can’t navigate to it. Not a great situation to find yourself in.

Avoid this by:

Checking every link, redirect and URL prior to sending. You can either manually verify these in your campaign editor or use Campaign Precheck to automatically ensure that each URL in your email routes to a live destination.

Another technique is to decide the position of and embed the CTA and inline links at the very start. This way, you can check them in the beginning as you beautify the rest of your layout.

When you overlook a typo…

Spelling errors are the ones most likely to skip human eyes. Depending on the error, it might be able to be overlooked, but other typos, such as accidental profanities, can cost your brand its reputation. (After all, “ask” is just one slip of the finger away from potentially offending subscribers.)

Don’t fret when “nuture” or “sneak-peak” go out in your email content. Though it might be embarrassing, there’s always a solution to avoid repeating the mistake.

Avoid this by:

Using Campaign Precheck’s Spell Check tool before sending any campaign. Spell Check reviews every inch of your email, from the title to body copy, alt text and even the HTML for misspellings or potentially offensive words.

Renowned psychologist Tom Stafford says making typos is really a sign of self-belief. The reason these errors miss our eyes is that we merely “take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning.” We easily notice typos in others’ content because we’re carefully trying to construct meaning by processing sections of their text. In our own case, we’re re-reading content that’s already etched deep in our minds, so it’s easier to skim certain parts which can lead to overlooking typos.

Another method is to take breaks from creating your email, completely away from the screen, and then come back to re-read the content with fresh eyes and identify anything that’s wrong. Above all, test and preview every email before you send. It will surely help you on this front and avoid costly errors from slipping through.

When something’s wrong with your font…

When people read text, their reading pattern is affected by three things: fixation, saccade, and the scan pathFixation refers to the points in the text where the human eye rests and focuses, and saccade is the jump between fixations in a line. Scan path is the path that your eyes take to read the entire chunk of content in the email.

This is why fonts play a huge role in making content readable. Sometimes, marketers end up using an unsupported font (such as a custom brand font) that renders imperfectly in a recipient’s inbox. Custom fonts differ from email fonts, which is why certain email clients can’t always render them properly.

Avoid this by:

Using a special category of fonts called web-safe fonts. These are used predominantly by marketers since they render perfectly in all email clients. Clients like Gmail, Apple Mail, or Outlook also have fallback fonts when certain fonts are unsupported. Web-safe ones include Arial, Roboto, Helvetica and Calibri. You can also style email CSS with licensed web fonts from various sources.

Most marketers conduct an audit of which clients, browsers and devices their subscribers predominantly use before venturing into new font territory. You can gather these insights using Email on Acid’s Advanced Analytics.

Your efforts to use a unique font become moot when all your readers end up seeing the fallback anyway. Play around with fonts using a calculated approach!

When dynamic content doesn’t populate…

Email personalization has always been a favorite technique to resonate with subscribers, but unfortunately, sometimes it can turn saboteur. Say your brand is having an annual sale where customers for five years get a 50% discount, customers for three years get 30% and so on. Imagine sending a dynamic message to your customer list only to find out that “DISCOUNT CODE” displays as the text instead of the unique coupon code ‘OFFER50’ or ‘OFFER30’.

Issues like this can extend to basic emails as well. An email will go out with “Hi FNAME” if the recipient’s first name field is empty in your mailing list. Empty merge tags or dynamic content fields can be frustrating for you and subscribers, so it’s crucial to understand that dynamic personalization only works when there are organized data in your subscriber lists.

Avoid this by:

Segmenting your lists. Create specific groups for your audience in a way that subscribers whose details are missing will never have to see a flubbed merge tag instead of dynamic content. While you’re syncing contacts from external sources into your email software, don’t forget to map all the possible/relevant fields so you can use them to personalize future messages.

If you have data silos, be sure to revisit and re-organize them in an understandable fashion. With a lot of email marketing regulations like GDPR in place, it’s crucial to standardize data collection and storing methods. Eliminate unwanted data and make sure you’re only storing critical details like recipients’ preferences, purchase history, demographic info, and so on to help with email segmentation and personalization.

When you deploy at the wrong time…

Another email snafu is failing to deliver an email at the ideal time your subscribers would want to see it. A simple example is sending your email to recipients while they’re asleep. Sure, they’ll see the email in the morning, but by then it will be buried beneath other brands whose emails came in later. This can greatly diminish your email’s impact as well as open and click rates.

Avoid this by:

Understanding when and where your subscribers are most likely to open an email. If your audience tends to open emails around mid-morning, schedule emails for that time. Smart email tools powered by machine learning (ML) can help you identify the prime open time for every email contact as well.

If your recipients come from multiple countries and time zones, you can also use Email on Acid’s Advanced Analytics to collect specific information about their email activity. Use a calendar to mark the dates and times your emails will go out so you can avoid deploying emails at low engagement times.

When you want to revert to an earlier version of your email…

It’s common to spend hours working on a new email layout with modified content placement, CTA buttons and branding colors, only to realize your first version looks better and may have even been more responsive. Did you make a copy of it? What if you didn’t, and your email is due in 30 minutes?

Avoid this by:

Saving different versions of your email. Regardless of whether your modifications to a template design are a simple button change or a total makeover, it’s important to have the different versions to revert back to. If you’re making 10 iterations, save each one so you can go back to any version you want later on. Plus, it will help you to reference these ideas for future campaigns. You can document what worked and what didn’t so you can save time while creating templates later.

Diligence is Key

Mistakes and rendering issues can be troublesome and costly, but hopefully these tricks on how to recover from email marketing mistakes will help to ensure you avoid them in your upcoming campaigns. Being diligent with your data organization and email creation is honestly the best trick to avoid email mistakes.

Learning from these situations is crucial if your goal is to be an email marketing pro. Have some funny or interesting email error/horror stories? Share them with us in the comments!

Simplify the Email QA Process and Deliver Perfection

What’s the best way to run through your pre-send checklist? With Email on Acid’s Campaign Precheck, we’ve simplified the process and set everything up for you. Use it to double-check your content, optimize for deliverability, ensure accessibility, and preview how campaigns look on the most popular clients and devices. All before you hit send!

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Author: Aishwarya Ashok

Aishwarya is a Product Marketer at Zoho Campaigns, the email marketing platform from Zoho’s business suite. She is a techno-futurist and has a passion for driving marketing through technological humanism. She loves writing as much as painting, and certainly wishes to retire on one of those seascapes she paints. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn, where she never misses the daily rundown.

Author: Aishwarya Ashok

Aishwarya is a Product Marketer at Zoho Campaigns, the email marketing platform from Zoho’s business suite. She is a techno-futurist and has a passion for driving marketing through technological humanism. She loves writing as much as painting, and certainly wishes to retire on one of those seascapes she paints. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn, where she never misses the daily rundown.

8 thoughts on “The Rulebook for Avoiding Email Marketing Mistakes”

  1. Great stuff. One thing I would suggest to add value? In email the best emails are ones that compel people to open. Subject line as well as PreHeader. Don’t forget the PreHeader’s significance and importance to that job = compelling emails to open.

    1. Hey Keith. Very important point. We couldn’t agree more. Preheader is the teaser to your email, so don’t waste this precious real estate. Thanks for mentioning it. And for reading our blogs. Happy email testing!

  2. Whenever I have to shootout an email, I check it by sending it to a multiple test users (my colleagues) who open and check it beforehand and let me know about the things they feel can be better. It is by far one of the finest ways to keep your email campaign mistake free and moreover A/B test it beforehand.

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