avoiding common email marketing mistakes

10 Email Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

A mistake is a mistake only if you don’t learn from it. But email marketing mistakes can be pretty disastrous. So, if you can avoid them, you should.

As most email marketers will tell you, they’ve all had hiccups at one point or another while trying to craft the perfect email campaign. In this article, we’ll look at 10 common issues that marketers deal with while trying to create email marketing campaigns. Then, we’ll give you tips on how to avoid them.

What you should know about email marketing mistakes

Email marketing mistakes cause panic frequently enough that we’ve produced a report on email marketing mishaps based on survey responses. Here are some of our key takeaways:

  • Pre-deployment testing prevents problems: Errors increase when pre-deployment testing isn’t done on every email. We discovered that six in 10 respondents who didn’t test every email reported sending an email with at least one mistake.
  • Larger email teams use pre-deployment lists more frequently: More than 50% of respondents follow a written pre-deployment checklist. Among them, larger email teams were more likely to follow checklists and, thus, avoid errors.
  • Build in email testing automation to reduce errors: Since pre-deployment testing remains a manual process for most marketers, there’s room for error. Regardless of team size or frequency of sending, testing automation is a step toward eliminating errors.
  • Larger teams tend to believe their emails are error-free: In this case, brands that send more campaigns in a shorter time are more likely to send mistakes in emails. In this case, the most common mistakes include errors in email copy, wrong links, and wrong recipients. See how your email team measures up.

10 common email marketing mistakes

Email marketing mistakes can be both unexpected and costly. Whether there’s a rendering issue in the inbox, you’ve sent an email to the wrong recipient, or you’ve dispatched email copy that’s riddled with formatting, spelling, and grammar mistakes, the repercussions of these mistakes can affect your ROI.

In this section, we’ll go over the 10 common email marketing mistakes. Let’s get started!

1. Letting the quality drop because of a pressing deadline

Most of us have probably been here. Your email deadline is approaching, and you begin to panic about whether you’ll meet it. As a result, you take shortcuts and end up sending a lackluster email.

How to avoid this: Have a concrete plan well ahead of time. Working on a campaign close to the deadline isn't wrong, 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. Advance planning helps save time and reduces the stress of email marketing.

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

2. Your images don’t render for all your readers

image width problem in Outlook
Images blocked in Outlook

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.

How to avoid this: Check your images in our Campaign Precheck functionality. Campaign Precheck will verify that the images in your email will render promptly and properly for all subscribers. You'll know if there’s an issue that needs fixing before you hit send.

Some email clients will automatically block images. You can give context to these by adding alt text. Alt text helps subscribers who 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 digital 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 mobile devices, laptops, tablets, and PCs or on email clients like Zoho Mail, Gmail, and Microsoft Outlook.

3. You send a wrong (or broken) link

This is probably the worst facepalm moment in an email marketer’s life. A wrong (or broken) URL in the call-to-action (CTA) button or in the copy is the absolute worst.

Imagine your company having its biggest sale of the year. Different versions of your very important 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. What a way to tank your click-through rate!

How to avoid this: Check every link, redirect, and URL before 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 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.

4. You overlook typos and other common email copy mistakes

You can get a co-worker to proofread your email copy, but chances are they’ll miss one once in a while. Some typos are insignificant enough to be overlooked, but others, 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. These mistakes are easier to laugh off face-to-face. In this case, however, it’ll mean an immediate response and follow-up emails to correct your mistake. Remember, grammar mistakes and typos can affect your conversion rates.

How to avoid this: Use Campaign Precheck’s Spell Check tool before sending any campaign. Spell Check reviews every inch of your email, from the title to the body copy, alt text, and even the HTML.

email on acid spellcheck product screenshot

Renowned psychologist Tom Stafford says making typos is really a sign of self-belief. In other words, 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 return to re-read the content with fresh eyes and identify anything 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.

5. Your font isn’t supported

When people read text, their reading pattern is affected by three things: fixation, saccade, and the scan path. Fixation 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.

How to avoid this: Use a special category of fonts called web-safe fonts. Marketers use these predominantly 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 see the fallback anyway. Play around with fonts using a calculated approach!

6. Your dynamic content doesn’t render correctly

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 and customers for three years get a 30%. Imagine sending a dynamic message to your customer list only to find out that your discount code displays as “DISCOUNT CODE” instead of the unique coupon code “OFFER50” or “SAVE30.”

Issues like this can extend to basic emails as well. A personalized email can 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 your subscribers. It’s crucial to understand that dynamic personalization only works when you have organized data in your subscriber lists.

How to avoid this: Segment your email lists and 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.

7. You send the right email – but 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.

How to avoid this: Understand when and where your subscribers will most likely 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 also help you identify the prime open time for every email contact. That includes solutions like send time optimization from Sinch Mailgun.

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.

8. You want to revert to an earlier email version – but you didn’t save it

It’s common to spend hours working on a new email layout while modifying content placement, CTA buttons, and branding colors before realizing that your first version looked 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?

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

9. You don’t replace the default subject line and preheader

Yep, there’s this very common mistake. You added some filler text to the email subject line and preheader text. Then, you forgot to add your actual content. That’s basically like flushing your open rate down the toilet.

How to avoid this: Instead of using filler text, you can insert low-fidelity email copy. This way, even if you forget to change your subject line before you hit send, at least the subject line is on-brand and on-topic. In addition, use our Campaign Precheck tool to test your subject lines before you send. 

10. You send your email to the wrong person

While this is more likely to happen with personal emails, professional emails also go astray.

How to avoid this: Automate your email sends and ensure you maintain your mailing list hygiene.

Wrapping up

Email marketing mistakes and rendering issues can be troublesome and costly. Hopefully, you can incorporate these tips and tricks into your email marketing strategy to ensure you avoid them in your upcoming campaigns. Determining your data organization and email creation is the best trick to avoid email mistakes.

Learning from these situations is crucial if your goal is to be an email marketing pro. As we like to say, don’t forget to test! Before you send your email into the wild, check out our Campaign Precheck tool to boost your chances of error-free success.

This article was updated on October 13, 2022. It was first published in December of 2019 with help from Aishwarya Ashok of Zoho.com.

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