4 Issues Hurting Your Email Click-Through Rate (& How to Fix Them in HubSpot)


If your email marketing isn't converting leads, it's not because email marketing died. Emails have changed throughout the years to fit today's needs, wants, and habits. Gone are the days of boring, whitewash backgrounds, and the Times New Roman font. *Shudder.*

Now, we demand that our inboxes be filled with great tyopgraphy, styling, easy-to-digest info, and high-quality images — it's a lot to consider!

After developing emails you think are wonderful, do you still wonder why isn't your email marketing converting leads? Sometimes, all it takes is breaking them down to the fine details and really smoothing out the edges.

Thanks to HubSpot, identifying low-converting emails is easy. Here are four issues you may be having, how to clean them up, and how to start converting in those inboxes. 

4 Issues Hurting Your Email Click-Through Rate (& How to Fix Them in HubSpot)

First thing's first: Find a low-performing email

Before you start making any changes you need to make sure you're targeting the right email. My go-to tactic is to look at my email's click rate. Click rate tells you how well the email is performing on the whole. This metric considers who found your subject line appealing, opened the email, and then also converted on it.

In your HubSpot panel, navigate to a workflow that uses email.

We like to analyze our emails in the context of automated workflows because it gives you some context about how an email is performing in the context of others around it. If a workflow email isn't performing vs. a one-off email, it can show you a big blockage point in your funnel.

I'll show you a peek at one of my workflows to show you why I chose a particular low-performing email to focus on.

4 Issues Hurting Your Email Click-Through Rate (& How to Fix Them in HubSpot)

Here, you'll see that the first two emails are both performing well at a solid 30.00% click rate, but take a peek at the last one — it has a click rate of 0%.

We can gather that there is something about that email that isn't compelling enough. Now it's time to dive deeper and see what needs editing.

4 Issues Hurting Your Email Click-Through Rate (& How to Fix Them in HubSpot)

Issue 1: Your email isn’t visually appealing

"Visually appealing."

What does that even mean? It's an ambiguous term that a lot of marketing bloggers use when addressing email marketing.

A visually appealing email to one company's audience can be vastly different than another. Here are a couple examples of "visually appealing" emails that are very different from each other — but all deliver great conversion potential.

Exhibit A: Moo

I'm a sucker for a good GIF. Moo did a fantastic job with doing a making their gif email colorful and fun without outshining their email's message. Rather, they used their design to accentuate their promotion.

4 Issues Hurting Your Email Click-Through Rate (& How to Fix Them in HubSpot)

Perhaps you don't have any images in your email, or its format is messy and difficult to follow.

Try changing or adding some images, playing with the color, and placement of the content. If the email is an important one to your workflow sequence, consider a complete dedicated redesign of it. A blockage in your sales funnel is worth the effort!

Exhibit B: Flywheel

On the other end of the spectrum, too much design can skew the intended message of the email, too. Let's look at Flywheel for an example of more toned back email design.

4 Issues Hurting Your Email Click-Through Rate (& How to Fix Them in HubSpot)

There's more white space in Flywheel's email design, but it's the perfect design for those want compelling imagery with content-first.

Note that they aren't using a stock photo... they actually took the time to Photoshop their eBook covers onto the photo.

Details and extra effort stand out in emails, and can give you the extra moment of attention and intrigue needed to make a conversion.

Issue 2: Your email is overwhelming

On the flip side, maybe the problem is that your email is too "visually appealing" — There's just too much going on. Most people don't even read the whole email, and when there is too much stimulus it becomes more compelling to just click away.

Sometimes, one call-to-action is best.

Exhibit A: Grammarly

If adding images and colorful CTA's doesn't improve your conversion, try doing the direct opposite and strip away the frills leaving only the important components.

4 Issues Hurting Your Email Click-Through Rate (& How to Fix Them in HubSpot)

With simple design and one compelling and relevant call-to-action, Grammarly's emails pushes the intended action home.

In your low-performing email, try removing extra links, simplifying content and format, and highlighting one or two click opportunities, max.

HubSpot tip: If you're unsure which links to add or remove, you can view HubSpot's email click maps in your email optimization panel. This will tell you which links of many were getting the most clicks. Keep the most clicked, and tweak or remove the rest!

Exhibit B: INBOUND 2016 from HubSpot

We've seen quite a bit of success by using just plain-text email formats as well! They read more naturally and less like a marketing or sales pitch, and recent studies have revealed that people tend to click through plain-text emails at a higher rate.

4 Issues Hurting Your Email Click-Through Rate (& How to Fix Them in HubSpot)

HubSpot uses this template to imply that the email comes from a real human.

If you're unsure of whether whether plain-text or designed will perform better, you can always try some A/B testing on your HubSpot emails. 

Issue 3: You didn’t give clear next steps

In one glance, your email recipient should know precisely what it is you want them to do and find an easy way to do it.

4 Issues Hurting Your Email Click-Through Rate (& How to Fix Them in HubSpot)

This email from J.Crew is fun, but do readers really know what they're getting?

If you're intentionally unclear, you could be cute and entice people... but you run the bigger risk of being driving people away who aren't compelled by a clear takeaway.

A better option? You can't go wrong with a clear-cut button telling them to "Download the guide," "Upgrade now," or "Read the post." 

This button's clarity could be the key to a better conversion rate. But only if it's for the right offer...

...and that leads us to the final issue:

Issue 4: You're sending the right email to the wrong person

You can have the prettiest, cleanest, and clearest email out there. But if you're sending it to the wrong person, your email still won't convert.

First, every email should pair with one offer or call-to-action. And that offer should be something your recipient is ready for.

Ask yourself:

  • Does it promote a content offer that is relevant to the reader's needs?
  • Does it align with where the reader is in the buyer's journey?
  • Does it ask too much of the recipient, too soon?

Maybe it's not the email that's the problem. What if your email is a top-notch beauty that just got sent to the wrong person?

Contact list segmentation is crucial for email marketing to ensure that the email offer is relevant to a specific person.

Thousands of emails get sent per day, and nowadays everyone's inboxes are flooded with offers from a million different businesses. 

Make sure yours is relevant and useful!


First, double check your list segmentation so that you're not accidentally spamming anyone with too many subsequent emails, or re-marketing an existing offer.

HubSpot tip: You can view a recipient's contacts profile to see just how many emails they're receiving from you, and how frequently. Each contact is a case study for how much email is too much, so poke through these periodically! You can also exclude certain people from automated workflows in the workflow settings.

Next, ensure that these designated contacts are relevant and are ready for your offer when they receive your awesome email.

Setting up your marketing funnel and ensuring the email matches a recipient's place in the funnel is crucial.

And, as always, A/B test

Sometimes email best practices aren't enough to improve conversion. After all, these are people who are receiving your emails, people who have intricate thoughts, opinions, preferences, and personalities.

If your email marketing isn't converting, following rules or even this checklist isn't going to automatically improve it! Taking the time to analyze each and every component can make or break your email marketing's performance. 

To get started, try these easy split test ideas to upgrade your email newsletter!