15 Bad Email Marketing Practices That Can Ruin Your Brand

bad email marketing practices

Email marketing has become a powerful tool to grow a business online; it gained popularity because it is less intrusive than phone calls and more appealing and friendly than ads. People can read emails at their convenience, have the flexibility to choose which emails they want to receive, and opt out when they want to. 

While email marketing attributes are designed to make marketers’ lives easier, it does have a hard-featured side: bad email marketing practices. In a marketing study by Radicatti, a business, on average, receives 96 emails and sends 30 emails daily. That totals to 126 emails per day, and in this, 19.79% of 96 emails received were spam. The statistic proves that businesses and even seasoned email marketers make mistakes, some of which are unreversible. 

To help you make better decisions, we want to spread the word about the worst email marketing practices, give examples of bad practices, and explain how they can harm your brand reputation.

Email Marketing: Essential Stats to Know!

Some people think email marketing is dead, but as email marketers, we know it’s definitely alive and well.

We have been in the game long enough to say — email marketing works wonderfully when you pay attention to the details. To help you discern what those details are and craft a better strategy, we compiled a list of interesting email marketing stats:

  • 77% of email marketers have witnessed an increase in engagement in the last 12 months (Not Another State of Marketing, 2021)
  • 33% of marketers send weekly emails (Databox, 2022)
  • 15.8% of all emails go missing or are caught by spam filters (Email Tool Tester, 2022)
  • 40% of consumers say they have at least 50 unread emails in their inbox (Statista, 2021)
  • 59% of respondents say marketing emails have influenced their purchases (SaleCycle, 2022)
  • Email marketing revenue is expected to reach 11 billion by the end of 2023 (Statista, 2021)
  • By 2025, there will be 4.6 billion email users (Statista, 2021)
  • 38% of email marketers who use AI use it to write emails (Hubspot’s State of Generative AI, 2023)
  • More than 306 billion emails are sent and received each day (Statista, 2021)

These statistics serve as a starting point for a well-planned email marketing operation, but if you’re not aware of the bad email marketing practices in the industry, your operation might fail despite good initial prospects.

15 Worse Email Marketing Mistakes

A few bad choices in design, copy, or email practices can wreck a wonderful campaign. These 15 bad email marketing practices have the potential to harm your open rates and conversions, let alone your brand image. It is always best not to:

1. Send Without Consent

Sending emails without permission from your customers can result in spam complaints and unsubscribes. Although you may not intentionally send spam, you can still be penalized for violation and spam, especially if you buy email lists.

ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are closely watching for this. If you fall prey to spam traps, it’s possible that your domain will be blacklisted and your emails blocked.

2. Sell Too Hard

Subscribers sign up for emails in the hope of receiving valuable information. When the emails contain hard-sell tactics, it can lead to a high unsubscribe rate, especially with larger email lists. Additionally, sending too many emails can also result in lower engagement, affecting your sender reputation

3. Avoid Customer Segmentation

Defining your target audience is one of the first steps in email marketing. When you disregard it, you could send emails to the wrong people and waste resources. Sending emails to an audience too broad can result in poor open and click-through rates, eventually leading to lower email deliverability and ROI. 

4. Mislead With Subject Lines 

A subject line is the first element subscribers notice about your email. It also determines if your emails will be opened or not. Misleading, boring, generic, or inappropriate subject lines can decrease trust and interest in your brand. For example,

  • ” Earn $1000 in 3 hours with this amazing system”
  • ” Thousands have succeeded with this product. Get it now!”
  • ” Want to earn more? Use this FREE tool”

These types of subject lines can confuse the audience, suggest scammy behavior, and trigger spam filters. 

5. Forget to Optimize For Mobile

More than ever, consumers are using their mobile devices to access emails. But almost 1 in 5 email campaigns is not optimized for mobiles. When emails don’t fit a mobile screen, they can be hard to navigate and sometimes impossible to read. 

Not optimizing for mobile is a missed opportunity to build a positive brand experience because smaller screens allow for brighter colors and have many options to create visually appealing content.

6. Ignore Sender Reputation

ISPs set sender scores to protect against malpractices such as spam. But many small-list senders neglect these scores, assuming it will not affect them. In reality, sending fewer emails does not always equal a higher sender reputation. Even worse, the more your emails bounce or go to spam, the poorer your sender’s reputation score will be.

7. Fail to Include Clear CTAs

Audiences will appreciate your efforts and reward you with higher engagement if you tell them what to do and how to do it. Failing to include a clear CTA will make the audience feel uncertain about your brand. They are bound to feel that your email campaigns do not have a purpose and are not relevant to them. 

8. Ignore GDPR Regulations 

According to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), all businesses must obtain the consent of subscribers and provide an unsubscribe option. Compliance is a fundamental part of email marketing, and ignoring these regulations can affect your email deliverability, sender reputation, and overall performance.

Moreover, compliance will become absolutely mandatory for all senders who send to Gmail and Yahoo addresses as of February 2024. Luckily, Campaign Refinery clients are well ahead of this.

9. Neglect Email Deliverability Best Practices

Email deliverability is an important factor in deciding your sender score. It represents the percentage of emails delivered to the recipient’s inbox. Neglecting this metric can result in poor sender score, making it difficult to reach your audience in the future.

10. Neglect Analytics

Analytics refer to the data such as open rates, click-through rates, conversions, unsubscribe rates, and bounces. Ignoring email campaign metrics is one of the most damaging bad email marketing practices, making it difficult to optimize and improve your email marketing campaigns.

11. Include Too Many Images

Although having images in your emails makes them more attractive, they can slow down the loading time of your messages if not formatted properly. Moreover, some subscribers might have disabled the images in their emails, which means your emails could look lifeless and unreadable. 

12. Forget to Personalize Campaigns 

Personalization is applying user data to create more relevant messages for each target audience. If you forget to personalize your campaign messages, it could lead to poor engagement. An example of bad personalization is sending the exact same email to all subscribers.

13. Forget to Check Email Size

Emails wider than 650 pixels are not optimized for all devices and may end up looking shabby on mobiles. Forgetting to run email size checks will make it hard for subscribers to engage with it.

14. Ignore Your Email Automation Process

Automation holds your email marketing in place — it sends emails at the right time, to the right audience. It is an added opportunity to send subscribers bonuses or rewards, such as free guides or coupons. Backsliding on this practice will make subscribers feel they don’t have enough incentive to subscribe to your emails.

15. Forget to Authenticate Email Domain 

Email domain authentication means validating email addresses and domains for accuracy and authenticity. Not performing domain validation could make your email activities seem suspicious to ISPs and the result is typically decreased email deliverability, bad sender reputation, and campaign failure.

Campaign Refinery team has a holistic approach to email marketing campaigns. We want our clients to be safe from falling into bad email marketing practices. Hence, we make it compulsory for clients to go through domain authentication after signing up, and we provide support every step of the way to ensure campaign success.

After working with multiple clients and sending out millions of emails every month, we know what email campaigns should not look like. And we want you to know it too. 

Bad Email Marketing Practices Examples

Consumers spend around 10 seconds reading emails from brands, on average. It is already difficult to retain their attention span, and bad email marketing practices can make it even worse. 

To paint a clearer picture what these harmful practices look like in real life, here are 3 examples of bad email designs and copy you should stay away from:

1. Lousy layout 

Event emails give readers easy-to-read information packed in a visually engaging layout. However, similar to the example below, the event emails could lack color coordination, have a clumsy typeface, and have too much text with no clear CTA. The result is frustrated subscribers and emails that can easily be discarded. 

Bad email practices Layout email example
Too-busy layout
Bad email practices layout example
A layout that’s too busy; it goes on and on…

2. Salesy Copy 

If you use lengthy subject lines, inappropriate puns, or extra long email copy, your emails will likely be deleted or tossed into spam. Explicit or aggressively salesy copy can tire readers and make them opt out.

A bad email copy would look like this:


Looking to make the most of your holidays? Then, look no further. We have the best packages for you without breaking the bank! 

It’s a bad example because

  • It has a generic introduction, and
  • It sounds salesy without featuring the benefits.

3. Too Many CTAs

Many senders think that if they fill their emails with CTAs, customers might click on one of them. The truth is that customers click on buttons and links only if they are convinced a product or service can help them. The image below is flooded with CTAs without room for important information like brand stories, product benefits, and customer testimonials.

Bad email practices CTA example
Too many CTAs, little product info

Bad email marketing practices not only interfere with your email marketing success but can also tarnish your brand image, and here’s how.

The Impact of Bad Email Marketing Practices on Brand Reputation 

The costs of rebuilding a brand reputation are significantly higher than starting afresh. These expenses can include re-marketing, PR, and customer outreach. The above is only one example; bad email marketing practices could have more adverse effects on your brand, such as:

  • Loss of trust and credibility,
  • Loss of potential customers,
  • Increased unsubscribes, 
  • Reduced email engagement, 
  • Even legal consequences in some cases.

In conclusion, bad email marketing practices can provoke negative consequences for your brand to an extent where it becomes unrepairable. 

Why Purchasing Email Lists Could Be the Worst Mistake of All?

Purchasing email lists is doable. But — it’s considered spam and is illegal in many regions. 

When you purchase email lists, you send emails to people who have not consented to receive them. Doing this damages your sender reputation.

If you constantly have bad results, you are likely experiencing the consequences of bad email marketing practices. Identify the consequence to understand the reason behind it:

Consequences Reason 
Low-quality leadsMay contain outdated or incorrect email addresses
Legal issuesConsidered offense under many anti-spam laws
IneffectivenessLow response rates
Lack of targeting Lacks specific segmentation 
Wasted resourcesROI is relatively low
Short-term strategy Can result in long-term problems
Bad Email Practice Consequences

Purchasing email lists is not a good way to go and is forbidden at Campaign Refinery. Our team regularly reviews accounts and suspends users with purchased lists or cold emailing practices. We know it is the most effective way to avoid the dangers of poor email marketing practices.

The Inbox Formula Could Be a Game-Changer for You. Here’s Why

A step toward the best strategies to scale and optimize your campaigns, The Inbox formula covers industry secrets to increasing email deliverability, opens, and click-throughs. Campaign Refinery was built on the foundations presented in The Inbox Formula, and we still use the same practices to date. Why? They give the best results on the market, according to our clients. 

Our goal is to get even better over time. That means we want to streamline the email marketing process to the level of a high-speed train — no bumps in the road, no friction. And you can have a part in our journey, too, even without subscribing right away.

Just download The Inbox Formula and start your email marketing journey in the right direction. 

It’s free and always will be!  

What worries us looking at the overall email industry landscape are still ongoing malpractices, one of the worst ones being purchasing email addresses. 

The Best Way To Avoid These Pitfalls is To Work With Campaign Refinery!

Once you go overboard with bad email marketing practices, they are difficult to reverse. The best solution is to follow proven email marketing best practices from the beginning.

At Campaign Refinery, we work with responsible clients to uplevel their email marketing revenue, while being a keeper of their good practices. With expert support, clear guidance, and easy-to-use features, we set the foundation for the highest performance for your emails!

Our clients continue to record their highest open rates after joining us —  one of them reached $0 to $3.6m in the first twelve months of using Campaign Refinery software. 

Apply now to become our client, and see your conversions and revenue grow!

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