Call it old-fashioned, but email marketing works.

Not only does email drive higher conversion rates than other marketing channels, but it’s also 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers when compared to Facebook or Twitter.

Still, email requires thoughtful attention to detail in order to drive sales. After speaking with dozens of marketers about their email marketing performance, I’ve pinpointed five reasons why emails don’t convert. I explain each below and provide solutions you can implement today.  

1. Your emails are from your company, not a person

The identity of the sender is among the first things your customers see when an email hits their inbox. They’re 15–30% more likely to read emails from a person than a company.

Set your next email up for success by changing your sender details to follow this format: [First Name] [Last Name], [Company].

We test sender names all the time at AdRoll. Our tests show that female names have higher open rates than male names, and names with two syllables perform better than names with one. Try testing different names from employees at your company, and see which generate more opens.

2. Your subject lines don’t grab attention

The average American adult receives 123 business emails each day. It’s easy to miss a message—especially if the subject line is ho-hum. Subject lines should grab your recipients’ attention and give them a preview of what to expect. Studies show that subject lines posed as questions perform 44% better.

We recently ran an email campaign to let some of our customers know that we could convert their Facebook ads into beautiful emails in SendRoll. Our CTA brought them back to the SendRoll dashboard to check out the emails we’d populated in their campaigns. Instead of using a generic subject line like “Announcing a new SendRoll feature,” we chose one that would pique our customers’ curiosity: “Your SendRoll email is ready to review.”


And it worked. Our email achieved a 54% open rate.

3. Your copy is not concrete

Email copy should be concise. Think of what you’re trying to say, and how can you say it in as few words as possible, before hitting send.

Janet Choi, from email automation provider, has found that concrete language makes you appear more credible and helps readers make better decisions more easily. Abstract language, on the other hand, confuses readers and discourages them from acting.

In her blog post, Choi references a study of linguistic concreteness, including the following examples of concrete and abstract language:

  • Concrete: In Hamburg, one can count the highest number of bridges in Europe.
  • Abstract: Hamburg is the European record holder concerning the number of bridges.

Concrete sentences are also quicker to read, cutting the time it takes for your customers to get to your call to action (CTA).

If you want help condensing your copy, download the Hemingway App. Paste in your copy, and the text editor will highlight sentences that are too long or confusing. My team uses it; it’s a lifesaver.

4. Your CTA doesn’t set expectations

How often do you get a promotional email and find yourself totally confused about what you’re supposed to do with it? It’s likely that the CTA was not clear.

The CTA is the reason you’re sending your email. It should tell your reader explicitly which step to take next and give them a heads-up as to where they’ll be directed.

If you’re an event marketer, for example, and you’re creating an email campaign to bring attendees back to your site to finish purchasing tickets, a weak CTA would read “Buy tickets.” A stronger CTA would say “Finish where I left off.”

I see marketers make these two common CTA mistakes:

  • Using a passive CTA (e.g., “Check it out” instead of “Browse new arrivals”)
  • Including too many CTAs (e.g., “You can read more about it in our whitepaper here, or start a free trial”)

Improve click-through rates by using buttons instead of hyperlinks. If you can, keep CTAs above the fold so recipients don’t have to scroll.

5. Your images are distracting

Adding images can dramatically improve your click rates. However, each image should support your email message by providing a visual counterpart to the text or a preview of what the reader will experience after clicking the CTA. Images can also boost email deliverability, which means your email is less likely to go straight to the spam folder.

Kevin Gao, founder of the email marketing and live chat service Comm100, has some great best practices for email images. These are my three favorites:

  • Keep image files small, compressed, and optimized to ensure that your email can load quickly.
  • Be sure that images do not make up more than 30% of an email—otherwise, your message may land in the spam folder.
  • Share important messages and CTAs in text as well as images. You’d hate for your customers to miss out on what you’re sharing if the images don’t load.

To make sure your images are working, check out Constant Contact’s thorough guide to the ideal file types and sizes for various image and email layouts.

Solve your email conversion problem with SendRoll email retargeting. SendRoll enables marketers to email their site visitors with personalized messages and recommended content built by our team. Get started with a free trial.

Sign up now for our upcoming webinar this Thursday, April 28: Email Marketing Reboot: 10 Tactics for Inbox Domination. Space is limited.