Email marketing sounds simple: get some subscribers, email them, profit!

The reality is that email marketing is just as much hard work, trial and error and failure and successes as the rest of sub-sections of internet marketing.

There are plenty of challenges ahead of you if you plan to take on email marketing as a way to make money online, and you should! Those challenges, once overcome, can lead to a wider follower base, increased brand recognition and of course, more profits.

Here are 5 of the main challenges that any email marketer can face, and how to tackle over coming them.

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#1 Subscriber Optin Numbers Are Low

Especially when first starting out, it can be difficult to get people to sign up to your mailing list. Even when you’re more established, increasing your list size can prove to be a drag.

How then can you increase the number of subscribers?

Offer something great as an incentive

This can be a free gift such as a report or access to a tool or content, or can simply be the emphasis of the great content of your site.

Use an obtrusive optin form

While having a pop up slam you in the face when visiting a site is often annoying, it’s been proven that this sort of method can increase sign up rates.

Use new tech

Using new ideas like the “exit intent” feature found in OptinMonster, where the pop up appears when the users mouse exits the browser screen can increase optins.

Use more than one optin

Multiple optins and CTAs to optin pages can increase subscriptions. Side bar optins are standard but you can also put CTA’s in a header bar (think Hello Bar), or after content. Don’t disregard the footer area either.

Having more than one way to sign up makes sure that people don’t simply miss your optin.


A/B testing your optin forms should be mandatory. Even simple things like adding placeholder text to input elements, or rewording the sign up button can have a drastic effect on subscription rates.

If you’re using an email optin plugin like Optin Monster, you already have the power to split tests forms. If not some email services such as Aweber also offer A/B testing features

#2 Low Open & Click Through Rates

You might have a bunch of people in your list, but they are worthless unless they are actually opening and reading your content and taking action on it.

There’s a number of reasons why you may find yourself having issues with open and click through rates.

Your Content isn’t Relevant

Even if your website focuses on a single niche, it’s rare that the site won’t still have some sub-niches, and this is where your content can become irrelevant.

Let’s say your sites about rock music, Billy Joe gets a kick out of your punk related content but couldn’t give a rats about the goth. Whereas Marilyn adores goth music.

Segmenting your email list is the key to sending out highly relevant content to your email list. So you can only send goth related emails to Marilyn and his gang, and punk to Billy Joe.

The Content is Boring

There’s no magic bullet for fixing this issue. If your content is dull and uninspiring, you need to rethink your email content, your content plan and perhaps consider hiring a writer. Upwork is a great place to start when looking for new writing talent.

Crappy and uninspiring subject lines can also reduce your open rate. Make sure you split test them and spend as much time as possible on crafting them.

As David Ogilvy says:

On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

Same thing goes for subject lines.

Your CTA’s aren’t Clear

The point of your emails is for users to be engaged and to take action.

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They can’t do this if you don’t tell them what to do.

If you want them to click through to a review, tell them!

Make sure the links are clear and obvious. Put them on their own line if need be.

Also consider using multiple links in an email. Be sensible with this otherwise you may end up increasing your SPAM score.

Also, when using multiple links, don’t make them do separate things, keep them all pointed to the same thing. This reduces user confusion; helps you keep your email focused and can help increase click throughs.

You’ve Used Images Incorrectly

Have you ever sent an email where the content was just an image? And then wondered why your click through rate sucked?

Around 50% of email users have images turned off. As such images such only be used as extras and should absolutely never contain content that cannot safely be ignored.

Just look at all the experienced email marketers out there – most of them never use images at all, some don’t even use HTML emails!

Emulate them and keep your emails image light.

#3 Not Knowing Your Success Rate

If you’re not tracking your stats you’re wasting your time.

Keeping track of things like open rates and click through rates is great and can lead to a lot of important realizations and can help shape future campaigns.

This isn’t the whole answer though, because what happens once they get to your site?

Do you know? If not then you need to start tracking your conversions as well, as only then will you know whether the campaign is really a success or not.

Luckily, Google Analytics allows you to track these metrics. It’s isn’t a push button system to get it done, but there are plenty of articles out there that go into detail about the process.

Plugins like OptinMonster also make it easier to do by allowing you to add Analytics options directly to the form.

#4 Unsubscribes & SPAM Complaints Increasing

The worst thing about creating an email list is seeing people unsubscribe from your list. A Little bit of your soul dies every time.

It isn’t the end of the world though, as all lists lose subscribers. In general, so long as your subscribes outstrip your unsubscribes you should be fine.

The problems start when your list starts contracting and shrinking, as people leave your list. Worse, they are not only unsubscribing but leaving feedback in the form of a SPAM complaint!

What could be causing this?

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There’s generally 3 reasons for a large number of unsubscribes and SPAM complaints:

  • Your content isn’t relevant
  • Your email frequency is off
  • Your sign up process is flawed

Targeted Content

Relevant content I addressed earlier, but make sure that your readers are being fed content that they actually want to read and that isn’t dull or uninspiring.

Email Frequency

Email frequency is an interesting one: should you email once a day or more? Or once a week or less? Or maybe somewhere in between?

The answer isn’t set in stone and often depends on your audience. However, it’s rare that people want to be emailed every day, after all people are busy and your emails will start clogging up their inbox and irritate them.

Same with the other end of the stick: if you only email once a month or less people will lose interest and unsubscribe.

Generally 1 -3 times a week is a good starting zone. I personally love it when the mailing list I sign up to tells me up front how often they will email. It’s something that can be tested.

The Sign-up Process

The largest number of unsubscribes and complaints come when you either import a purchased list (a huge no-no!) or use the single optin process.

There are arguments over whether single optin or double optin sign ups are better. Email service providers recommend double optins, which mean that the user signs up and then has to confirm their subscription before receiving any emails. These tend to reduce spam sign ups, fake sign ups and people who aren’t really interested in hearing from you.

In turn it reduces unsubs and SPAM complaints.

#5 Too Many Bounced Emails

A bounced email is when it is rejected by the email server it’s being sent to. There’s a few reasons for this, but the mains ones are:

  • The wrong email address
  • The mailbox is full
  • Other technical reasons
  • Your emails are being marked as SPAM

If you’re getting a lot of bounced emails, the first port of call is to contact your Email Service Provider to make sure there’s no technical issues occurring that could be causing the issues.

After that it’s worth checking your email spam scores. Some services such as Aweber offer in built spam score checks, otherwise there are several online spam checkers.

If your spam score is high, then you need to start looking at the wording in the email and subject.

There are certain trigger words that can make spam detection software kick in and block your mail:

  • $$$
  • 100% free
  • click here
  • earn
  • free
  • fast cash

That’s far from a complete list but a general rule of thumb is that if it sounds overly market-y or spammy, then it is!

As well as that remove some links, especially if you have a lot of them as too many links can be seen as a spammy.

Finally, use double optin when signing people up to your mailing list. Not only does this help confirm they truly want your content, but will also clarify their email address and therefore reduce the number of fake emails on your list.

The Bottom Line

Email marketing is almost as old as the internet itself and honestly it isn’t going anywhere, which is why you should give it a go.

The above 5 tips should help you avoid some of the most common challenges email marketers face.

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Join the Discussion

  • Abhinav Mohan
    Abhinav Mohan

    Great Article!!

    Keep doing the good work.

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