17 Email Writing Mistakes To Avoid


In the last sixteen years, email has helped me win more business than any other tool. It’s turned cautious readers into enthusiastic buyers. It’s brought in prospective customers from the edge and driven repeat traffic to the money pages. Here are some of the mistakes I’ve made and how to get around them.

Emails Mistakes To Avoid

One of the dilemmas for web marketers is how to know what their customers really want. Email is one of the best ways to form a strong relationship with your readers.

It’s an inexact science. Everyone has an opinion. Here are some of mine!

1. Plain Text v HTML

Some of world’s biggest web marketers send out plan text emails. John Chow and Yaro Starak are two good examples. I’ve experimented with this format and have to say that it does seem to work, well, for certain types of content.

If your readers are after tutorials, for example, plain text will be fine. If it’s a Fashion newsletter or something up-market, then a splash of color is in order.

Plain text is also very powerful as the reader is ‘forced’ to read the text. Maybe guided is a better word but you get the idea. There’s nothing to distract them. Click-throughs can be very high if you use plain text with a single call to action.

2. Size Matters… kinda

The word count of your emails, and possibly the number of images, may also affect how readers respond. Some prefer short, snappy emails. Think Seth Godin’s pithy observations.

Others prefer long, detailed articles. ProBlogger and CopyBlogger are both, on average, 800-1000 words per post.

Some of this depends on your readership. If you’re sending 3 more emails per week, they may prefer short posts and/or abstracts.

But not always…

3. Use Abstracts Rather Than Full Post

One way to address this is to offer an abstract, say twenty words and then a link to the site.

The advantage is that you get them to the site where they can add comments, interact and/or buy something.

The disadvantage is that they may not be curious enough to click-thru, have web access at their work office, or feel that you’re trying to trick them into having to visit their site.

I give the full feed in my emails. I don’t want people to feel short-changed in any way.

4. No Endorsements or Testimonials

Use testimonials as social proof that others enjoy your newsletter. Get the right balance here with the wording and photos. Text that sounds too polished and flattering will make the readers suspicious.

Use the real words folks have sent you (a few typos never hurt) to give it that authentic sound. Try to avoid re-writing what they said.

If you don’t have testimonials for your newsletter, see if your current blog readers have favorable things to say about the site and then refer to this.

5. Hi, {Firstname}, we got your email!

Is there anything worse than a personalized email that’s gone berserk? If you’re going to use it – I don’t – be careful and test first. Most email software companies will have videos no how to do this right.

6. Not Testing Subject lines

Ever wonder how your email looked in different browsers?

Instead of setting up accounts on Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook, use this free tool to see how your subject line will look. It also shows how it will look on mobile devices. Great way to test your subject before you send it out.

Remember, if people don’t like your subject line, the email doesn’t get read.

All the effort you’ve put into writing the article, finding the right image, creating links and so on… all wasted. Test and test again until you see which subject lines work the best.

Tip: 5 words works best for me, especially if there is some call to action or pressure put on the reader to click Open.

7. Buying Email Lists

You can buy emails links if you’re mad enough but why would you? It’s about as effective as walking down the high-street with a megaphone talking about your blog. Think anyone will buy?

Instead, learn as much as you can about email list building, write content the folks want to read, and test. I use the Reports tools in Aweber to see where I’m making progress and what needs to be refined. Feedburner is fine for broadcasting for your can’t dig down segment the lists, schedule emails or broadcast followups.

8. Keep It Consistent

Even if someone leaves your company, there’s an argument for keeping the email address active if that person has a large readership. Think twice about changing the name in the From field as you may confuse the readers and/or give them a reason to unsubscribe.

Don’t change a winning team!

9. CAN-SPAM Compliance

‘Real’ companies include their physical address at the footer of their email. I know this can be made up but most companies do comply with the Can-Spam Act and add their contact details in the footer. They also make it easy for you to unsubscribe.
If you don’t include this in the email, aside from the legal obligation, it shows your subscribers that you have a legitimate identity and that can phone you if there is a problem. Remember to add the country code suffix as well.

10. Email Schedule. What Email Schedule?

Create a schedule and then stick to it. This ‘trains’ your readers to expect your emails. I look forward to certain emails during the week and make time to read them. Your readers are probably the same.

Also, don’t chop and change the schedule. Keep to the same schedule for at least a month. Don’t push too hard or be over-ambitious. Try to get one out per week. If you can manage that for a week, try then and so on…

11. Don’t Send on Wednesday

Choose the best day to send the emails based on YOUR stats.

9 out of 10 web marketers will tell you that Wednesday (or is it Thursday now?) is the best day to send emails. Their ‘research’ shows it.

Well, if they all use that day, you choose another.

Makes sense, right.

Also, think of your readers. If you’re sending out an Entertainment email, maybe Friday lunchtime is that best so they can plan their week.
Sunday also works for me as people have time to browse and aren’t in a hurry.

12. Remove Deadwood

If they haven’t read your emails for six months, delete them.


Different reasons. One is that large ISP counts the number of bounced emails (e.g. From dormant accounts) and may punish you if your negative rating gets beyond a certain level.

Again, my buddy Aweber has tools that let you do this.

13. Not Testing Before Sending

One of the advantages of Aweber is that I can sent test emails to different accounts before I sent it out.

It sounds like a small thing but it lets me see what the email will look like from the reader’s perspective.

Sometimes I catch a typo. Other times I look at it and see it needs to be revised. The tone doesn’t feel right or there are too many links.
Testing helps with this.

You don’t get a second chance with first impressions.

14. Use Special Reports

Let’s say you have a site about Travel. Send out special issues every quarter with tons on info getting your readers ready for special events. Focus on a single issue, say traveling to Asia for the first time. Include a link to a PDF version of the ‘report’ so they can keep it with them and/or share with friends.

Sprinkle in some links to your money pages or affiliate sites.

15. Use Follow-ups To Sell Longtail Products

Create a list for each type of class you offer (Yoga for Strength, Qigong and so on). When members enroll at the beginning of each new rotation, ask them to sign up for that list.

With a follow-up series for each list, you can prepare students with tips they can use to succeed that particular discipline, clothing suggestions, links to buy any special equipment they’ll need and a short biography of their instructor

Here’s an idea. Say you run a site about Finance. Follow up after 5 days and tell the new readers that you have the 5 part free newsletter about Personal Finance. Send them a link to a sample issue. If they like than – and take the course – send them another email towards the end offering another free course about Buying Shares For the First Time.

You get the idea. Don’t let your list sit there. Use it as much as you can. If the quality is good, no one will complain.

Then sprinkle some links into the newsletters that go to your money pages or affiliate sites.

16. Use Your Email Signature, Business Card and Stationery

My email address includes links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and my email account. I also add a PS for sales, discounts, and special offers that we run from time to time. And it’s very effective.

Over the course of the week, I’ll email several 100 people. Some days I have 200 emails in my inbox when I arrive. Many of these are getting in touch with me for the first time.

Adding my contact details and social media sites to the email, makes it one step easier for them to contact me. It takes one minute to setup but can be very effective in the long term.

17 – always use a PS. We all tend to scan down to the end of a document, report, or email from habit. Add a little ‘linkbait’ there and some will take a nibble.

Don’t forget to add your email to your stationery; you never know where it ends up. Business cards are the same, especially if you make them creative.

17. Impossible to Recognize “From” Names

My ISP sends me emails from nobody@nameofisp.com. This isn’t the best way to engage with your customers. Personalize the email’s From field so it shows a real name.

As my name Ivan isn’t that common, I use it where-ever I can. It stands out from others and helps reader remember my posts.

Even if you’re a one-person company, you can create names for different functions in your business.

Rather that everything going to info@, create Sally, Tom, Stacy, Dion… and use these for your Sales, Customer Support, Finance emails.

You’d be surprised how many small companies use this tactic to big themselves up!

Are You Making These Mistakes With Your Emails?

Those are some of the ways you can get it wrong with email. I know I have and am still learning. If I were to nail down three things that really help, I would say:

Make the sign-up super simple. Don’t complicate things and get too fancy. Place the web form in the top right of the web page. Use simple words like Sign Up! or Subscribe! Don’t be clever, clever. Include a small benefit in the text near the form, such as free reports, discounts or gifts. Links to previous issues are another way for cautious readers to sample the goods first.

Write interesting headings. Study how others do it and write out 20 variations of their headlines. After a while, you’ll get into the right mindset and see how they do it. Like all things it takes practice.

Stay in touch. I send out one personal email every month. I just say hello, share some info, maybe giveaway a free book. Something that lets the reader know that I’m not taking them for granted.What else would you add?