Emojis are fun, right?

Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than sending the perfect eye-roll to your sibling who’s teasing you in text messages, or express your excitement over a friend’s promotion with the party trumpet with confetti. But in email marketing campaigns, there’s a time and a place for emojis, particularly in the subject line.

And that time is never.

I know. I’m disappointed, too. Emojis are fun, and the good news is, depending on your industry and the specific promotion, they’re okay on some social media. Flash sale? A tweet with a couple celebratory emojis won’t be amiss.

But let’s be honest, emojis are better suited for personal situations, not business related ones.

These are also not the only things to keep out of your email marketing messages. Let’s take a look at some more email newsletter don’ts to keep your readers happily opening your emails…

Subject Line Art

Your newsletter subject line is the first thing your subscribers see to entice them into reading your newsletter, and there’s a definite art to them. But abusers of the crafty email subject line have made creating them that much harder, prompting my very serious opinions on them. Here are several things to avoid in subject lines:

  • Clickbait— Example: “You Won’t Believe What We’re Doing Now!” Ugh, nothing makes people hit “unsubscribe” faster. Worse, you could get flagged as spam, which is the death knell for your newsletter. Too many spam reports, and your name is mud. You spend too much time carefully curating your email list. Why ruin it with clickbait?
  • The Fake Reply—Example: “RE: This Weekend’s Event!” Do not ever. You want to tempt your customers into a conversation, not trick them. This is one step short of a lie, playing with their memory of prior interactions, and if you resort to this, you can say goodbye to any previous goodwill you’ve built.
  • The Non-Urgent Emergency—Example: “Urgent! The Email You’ve Been Waiting For!” Exaggerating about what’s in your newsletter will result in one thing: a let down. The last thing you want your readers to experience is disappointment when your “revolutionary” or “breakthrough” news is pretty much business as usual. These emergency keywords have become so overused, they’ve lost their impact, and now they’re spammy. Not to mention, people don’t check their promotional emails every day. Something like, “Discount Code Expires at Midnight!” will convey a sense of urgency and might get people to click so they don’t miss any savings, but it’s not actually an emergency. Unless your news is truly disruptive, you’re better off being humorous, clever, or informative rather than the email equivalent of a carnival barker.
  • The Grammar Mistake— Example: “Theirs Still Time to Save!” Please, please, please proofread your newsletter before sending it out. Better yet, send it to yourself only as a test so you can see what it’ll truly look like in an inbox. Using “you’re” when you meant “your” will make you look bad. Even the best writers in the world slip up now and then. Let’s not amplify a minor typo to 4,000 people if we can avoid it.
  • All-Caps and Punctuation Overuse— Example: “ONLY A FEW SPOTS LEFT!!!! RESERVE NOW FOR OUR UPCOMING WORKSHOP!!!!!” Here’s the thing. Yes, you’re offering a great opportunity, and yes, you’re excited about it. Your workshop may be the social event of the season, and you’ll teach your audience invaluable things. But they won’t make a reservation because you shouted at them and stole all the exclamation points that were left in the world. Sticking to capital letters the way we’re used to reading them, i.e. news headline style, or capitalizing the first word only is the way to go. Plus, exclamation points are for amateurs. You’re an awesome business owner, and you can convey your excitement over what you do so much better than that. I believe in you.


Categorizing your email marketing subscribers into segments is a good idea, but there’s a line not to be crossed.

Things like location, website behavior, customer lifecycle, age, and interests are all wise segments. It does you no good to send information about local events to someone living across the country. However, there is such a thing is too segmented.

Let’s take my favorite business example, The Yarn Shoppe, to illustrate. The Yarn Shoppe newsletter sign-up asks customers their favorite color, and promptly segments them into groups based on that color. Then, only sales pertaining to red yarns go to the subscribers who favor red, and so forth. But what about the person who loves blue, too? What about the knitter shopping for yarn in a relative’s different favorite color for a scarf? The Yarn Shoppe owner is missing a golden opportunity to promote all the yarn colors for various occasions because their segmenting is too regimented, too specific.

Be smart in your segmentation.

No, you don’t want to blast your whole list with the same email, but you also don’t want to leave customers out of relevant subjects because they’re multi-dimensional and your segments are too dialed in.

Embedded GIFs or Video

One of the best ways to irk a newsletter reader is to begin autoplaying a video in your email while they’re at work. Now, you’ve alerted their boss they’re doing something personal on company time, and those around them are aware they’re looking for a new job thanks to your oh-so-helpful interview tips. That next team meeting is going to be quite awkward. Videos and GIFs are never a good idea in email, not only because they take forever to load, but because you can surprise your audience with ill-timed volume and motion from their device.

Links to videos, or better yet, a link to your YouTube channel where they can subscribe to watch everything you have to offer later is a much better Call-to-Action.

Mobile Optimization

Speaking of devices, not being optimized for mobile viewing is another subscriber killer.

People are busy, and most of us check our email on the fly, while waiting for our hair appointment, after finding a seat at the movie theater, or surreptitiously at our kid’s basketball game. If you’re using templates that don’t convert to mobile friendly views, your email will get deleted before it can be read. Who wins there? No one.

Typographical Nightmares

Hand-in-hand with mobile optimization is the design of your newsletter templates.

A multitude of fonts, busy colors, or overwhelming text layouts will have people hunting for the unsubscribe button.

In fact, the Litmus State of Email report from 2017 reports 51% of people unsubscribe from emails that don’t look good on mobile, are too cluttered, or are otherwise poorly designed. Don’t be that guy.

Okay, so that’s a lot of “what not to do” in your email marketing isn’t it? For the positive side of things, here are some dos:

  • Do get permission to email. It’s illegal not to, according to the CAN-SPAM Act. There are hefty penalties for noncompliance.
  • Do curate your email list. Things change, and some people who once showed interest in your business may have dropped off the engagement scale. Take those who haven’t opened an email in 6 or 12 months off your list. They’ll come back if and when they’re ready.
  • Do segment your list. Just because it’s possible to go too far doesn’t mean you should ignore segmentation entirely. It’s useful. Just be smart about it.
  • Do consider your timing. Study your open rates on specific days, and specific times of day to optimize the most opens possible, and then build on that. Believe it or not, weekends are bad for open rates. People are busy and doing their own thing. Best not to interrupt that.
  • Do write content that’s friendly and conversational. Just because you can’t pretend you’re continuing an ongoing conversation doesn’t mean you can’t be personable, authentic, and interesting.
  • Do research what flags emails as spam, and then avoid that language. It’s not only the subscriber that can send your hard work to the spam folder. Email programs are really savvy in their own right at this.

Email marketing is still one of the most effective methods of marketing to execute. People love a good newsletter, and will develop their relationship with your business in very satisfying ways. Done right, email marketing is a powerful tool that can grow your list rather than shrink it.

Email is part of the bigger marketing picture. Opt in to our newsletter for more email marketing wisdom.