11 things to avoid doing with your email marketing.

11 things to avoid doing with your email marketing.

In order to maximise the results you get from your email marketing activities there are a number of practices that you should avoid doing at all costs. 

In this article I’m going to take you through 11 things to avoid, that’ll make it easier for you to stay on track when starting or growing your email marketing system.

❌ Email marketing "don't dos"

❌ 1. Don’t use too many trigger words or terms.

What are trigger words and why should I worry about them? Well, in simple terms, it’s words (or terms) that mail clients (e.g. Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo Mail etc.) will detect as those more likely to be part of a spam email. 

Of course, not all emails that have trigger words are actually spam, but in the game of chance, all bets are off and your email will probably be chucked straight into the junk folder!

Trigger words and terms include things like (but not limited to);

  • Free
  • Buy
  • 100% OFF
  • Clearance
  • Sale
  • Guaranteed
  • Extra income
  • Make money
  • Affordable
  • $$
  • Cash
  • Miracle
  • Click here
  • Unbelievable 
  • Offer
  • Discount
  • Limited time
  • Urgent

Hopefully, you get the gist.

Now, having said that… let me caveat how the email clients work. They’ll score your email based on many factors (including your domain authority and sender reputation), and NOT just these trigger words, but with an accumulation of negative factors, you could just tip the balance in favour of the spam folder.

So, in summary, if you’re going to use these types of words and terms, do it sparingly – this includes your preview text, subject line, body text, CTAs, and even your links and buttons.

An image of a cartoon man in jail for using spam trigger words.

❌ 2. Don’t use attachments inside your emails, use links instead.

It’s good to include additional content inside your email; it can feel special to your readers – but when you do so, use links to refer to the content rather than embedding as an attachment.

Attachments are just more likely to be flagged as spam, especially if it’s a file that could potentially prove malicious when opened. To increase your chances of a successful delivery into your subscribers inbox, use links to your additional content which the recipient can them click on to access it.

An example could be a template for something that you want to give your subscribers for free; so the best way to give them access to it is to store it in a cloud-based storage (e.g. Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox etc.) and then create a shareable link so that they can click on it to gain access.

Don't use email attachments, use plain text links instead.

❌ 3. Don’t use URL shorteners inside your email, use plain text links instead.

URL shorteners do a great job of shortening lengthy URLs, ultimately making them more readable and memorable, however email clients dislike them because it creates a mask that makes them nervous about what may lie beneath.

The way they work is like this; you enter (or paste) your URL into the URL shortener tool and click ‘Create’ – this creates a very short URL that you can make reference to, and when anyone navigates to the shortened URL, then they get redirected to the original URL.


Original URL: https://provenflows.com/the-beginners-guide-to-email-marketing/

Shortened URL: https://bit.ly/EMMRSguide 

When you click on the shortened URL you’ll see that you are taken to the first URL.

The reason email clients don’t like shortened URLs is because of the disconnect between what the link ‘says’ and where the user will ultimately be taken (in this case, instead of the ‘bit.ly’ domain, the user is being taken to the ‘provenflows.com’ domain – which could be interpreted as misleading).

The best way to format this function in your email is to simply use plain text and then add a link to the URL in the text; e.g.

If you’d like to find out more about email marketing, check out my beginner’s guide. (This is an example of using plain text to link to a URL).

Don't use URL shorteners, use plain text links instead.

❌ 4. Don’t send too many emails.

Once you’ve done the hard yards of getting your subscribers onto your list, don’t have them reaching for the unsubscribe button by bombarding them with more emails that they’re expecting from you.

For example, if you join my email list you’ll know that you can expect my weekly newsletter and perhaps another 1 or 2 emails each week that add value to you or your business – and that’s it.

The only time you’d receive any more than that was if I was running a campaign that I believed would benefit you and I’d send reminder emails to keep you informed of what’s going on.

Contrast me with someone who runs an email list providing daily updates on stock markets – let’s say they send out an email every morning at 7am giving advice on what stocks and shares to buy or avoid – those subscribers would be disappointed if they DIDN’T receive their daily email – so it’s ‘horses for courses’ so to speak.

So, just be cognisant of what your subscribers expect from you, and then deliver on that expectation.

P.S. Another good way of figuring out how often to email your subscribers is to ask them – if you want a deeper dive into this, check out this article here.

Don't send too many emails

❌ 5. Don’t send emails that are too big - they might get clipped!

What do I mean by ‘clipped’? 

Well, essentially, your subscribers (especially Gmail users) would only be served part of your email because the email would be clipped at 102kb in size, meaning that the remainder of your email would not be served.

One of the more invisible side effects of your email being clipped is that the pixel that tracks your open rates would NOT be loaded (it’s one of the last things to be loaded in your emails) and therefore your reported open rates would be incorrectly stated by your email marketing provider (or your ESP). 

So, when you’re composing your emails, don’t go overboard with your content otherwise you could find your open rates dropping and your deliverability being negatively affected.

Don't make your emails too big otherwise they could be clipped.

❌ 6. Don’t use auto-confirm for new subscribers.

When you configure your email marketing platform, including your opt-in forms and your landing pages, you’ll have to decide whether to go for ‘single opt-in’ or ‘double opt-in’ – my recommendation is always to go for a double opt-in.

Essentially, this means that in order for someone to join your subscriber list they have to confirm twice (I.e. double) that they want to join your list; firstly when the enter their details, and secondly when the email marketing platform sends them a confirmation email that they need to acknowledge and accept the terms of joining the list.

With a single opt-in policy, subscribers are auto-confirmed and therefore have no need to click any confirmation to say that they definitely want to join the list and that it was they themselves who requested to join.

It’s my opinion that adopting a single opt-in policy will only bring you problems at a future date – don’t do it!

If you want a deep-dive into opt-in policy selection, check out this article that I created for you.

Use a double opt-in policy to keep a clean email list.

❌ 7. Don’t jump from EMP to EMP.

The grass is always greener”. This can sometimes be the reason for people moving from one email marketing platform (EMP)  to another, but in truth, it could be doing you more harm than good.

EMPs need to have certain records inserted into your domain host’s system to give them permission to send emails on your behalf (e.g. I consent to ConvertKit seeing emails out from my ‘provenflows.com’ domain).

Once you are established with your list on a particular EMP then your reputation will increase as time progresses, providing you are using best practices with your messaging. To jump from one EMP to another too frequently can negatively impact your sender reputation.

Now, let me caveat that by saying that it’s perfectly okay to to move from one to another, but just don’t overdo it by constantly moving from one to another.

EMPs are always introducing new features and plans to attract us, and understandably we want to try these out, but when doing so, you should use a domain that is not your main domain, during testing. If the new EMP proves worthy of a move, then you can start to transfer providers.

Moving between EMPs can negatively impact your results.

❌ 8. Don’t use misleading subject lines, e.g. bait and switch.

It’s probably not even worthy of a mention because it’s just common sense, but I’ve included anyway – just to reiterate the importance of being consistent with your emails.

Don’t compose an email that has a subject line (or preview text) that promises (or even suggests) one thing, and then the body of the email talk about something completely different or intentionally misleads the subscriber – it’s just a bad vibe.

Here’s an example of what NOT to do…


Subject: John, get this course for just £50 – normal rate £997 – limited offer!

Main email body:

Hi John,

I had to share this with you because it’s just too good an offer to not tell you about.

For the first 10 people to click on this link and buy this course, you can get access for just £50.


But then…

Low and behold, what do you know… the user clicks on the link only to find that the course is now £997 but comes with chance to get a ‘special discount’ of £400, reducing it down to “just £597”, and that unfortunately the £50 offer had now been snapped up! 🤷🏻‍♂️

It’s just NOT how to operate a business – people hate this behaviour, so don’t be a slimy company who does this – always be honest, open, transparent and give people accurate and true information with which they can then make an informed decision, and not feel like they’ve been duped into spending money that’ll only result in buyer’s remorse.

Don't use misleading language just to try and make a sale.

❌ 9. Don’t get too obsessed by email open rates, they’re not 100% accurate.

It’s good to track your email marketing performance; in fact, it’s important that you do as it can help us improve our content. 

However, don’t get yourself tied up in knots about them. Even though most email marketing platforms do a pretty good job of reporting them, they’re not 100% accurate, for a number of reasons.

When you send out your emails using your preferred email marketing platform, something called a ‘tracking pixel’ is invisibly included in each email – when the email is opened, it counts towards your ‘open rate’ metric.

But it’s not as straightforward as that…

🔴 Sometimes, the pixel is triggered by your email being previewed in a subscriber’s email client, even though they didn’t actually open it to read it. Other times, the converse can be true – i.e. the subscriber can read the email in preview form and never trigger the pixel. 

🔴 If your email is too big (> 102kb) then it can be clipped, meaning the pixel gets clipped too, as it’s the last thing to be added to your email.

🔴 Some subscribers (especially those with MS Outlook clients) have image-loading disabled on their client and therefore the tracking pixel never gets loaded (the tracking pixel is effectively a tiny invisible image).

So, in summary I’d say open rate tracking is good for measuring in relative terms, giving us a decent idea about how our campaigns are performing over time. In other words, when we compare campaigns, everything is equal, with all of them being similarly impacted by the skewed results.

As an aside, average email open rates tend to be in the 20%-30% range – although with an engaged subscribers list and good content being consistently shared, you’d really want to see that in the 60%-70% range, putting yourself amongst the top email marketers.

Don't get too hung up with the open rates, they're never 100% accurate.

❌ 10. Don’t ‘sell’ too often or your subscribers will be reaching for that unsubscribe link.

Nobody likes being sold to, especially on a consistent basis.

When you’re crafting your email campaigns, always have this question at the forefront of your mind; “Will my subscribers get true value from what I’m sharing?

If the answer is “No”, then don’t send it!

I get it – we all have businesses to run and profits to make, but don’t annoy your subscribers by constantly pitching to them. 

Not only is it annoying, but it sets you out as someone to avoid as you’ll become known for a ‘click and pitch’ company who just wants subscribers so you can sell to them – rather than being a company who consistently provides value for your subscribers, giving them solutions to their problems.

Don't pitch too often to your email list or they'll be reaching for the 'unsubscribe' link.

❌ 11. Don’t add anyone to your list who hasn’t given you their permission.

This is another one that falls into the ‘bleeding obvious’ category, but you’d be surprised at how many people do it – adding people to your subscriber list without their express permission. It’s wrong, and it’s not allowed.

There are a number of ways in which I see people do this and all are equally bad;

🔴 Manually adding people to your subscriber list, because you have their email address (e.g. meeting someone in a networking event).

🔴 Inviting people to a Zoom meeting and adding them to your subscriber list.

🔴 Buying an email list and uploading it to your email marketing platform.

🔴 Scraping email addresses from online resources.

The list goes on, and all are equally wrong – just don’t do it.

Only add people who have genuinely expressed a desire to be added to your list and make it very easy for them to unsubscribe – that way, you’ll grow and maintain a very clean list with engaged subscribers who will stay with for a long period and appreciate your content.

Never add subscribers to your list without their express permission.

If you’d like to learn more about best practices in email marketing, check out this article that I created for you. 👇

I hope you found value in this article. If you did, please share it with your community so that more people may benefit from learning about email marketing.

John Bellingham Email marketing strategist for freelancers

John Bellingham
Email marketing strategist for freelancers.

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