I feel your frustration. This post is all about the ways that email fails us as a marketing tool. I know, I know — you put a lot of time and effort into building a new website, you want lots of people to visit, so you assemble an email list and send announcements to all your friends and family inviting them to come visit. You may get a nice bump in traffic for a day or two. But then… crickets.

Perhaps you send a message to your email list again, to remind everyone that your website exists. Maybe you send an email every month. And still your website is not getting a steady uptick in traffic. You start to wonder if your email messages are even being delivered. Are they all just disappearing into the ether? Every online startup faces challenges in trying to attract more attention in a world where attention is a limited resource.

Roadblocks to Email Marketing

These days, everyone is placing roadblocks in front of incoming email in an attempt to manage all the competing interests that are vying for our attention. As time goes on, it becomes more challenging to capture and hold your audiences’ attention via an email message.

Email is a vital communications tool that none of us can do without. Consequently EVERYONE wants to get in front of people there, in the IN-box. There are many automated processes to prevent “junk” or “spam” email from getting into our IN-boxes. Most of the time we can be grateful for this. But sometimes these automated filters fail us — they send things we want to see to the Junk/Spam bucket. This is one big reason someone might not have seen one of your monthly emails. Another reason is simply the volume of email some people receive every day. They could have missed your email even though it did make it through the gauntlet and landed in their IN-box.

Another reason is that some email users create rules to route incoming email into other buckets to help organize it, and then they don’t check those other buckets frequently. Sometimes messages get inadvertently mis-filed or accidentally deleted.

Opt-In Signups

Is the Signup process for opting-in to your email list too complicated? It is probably as simple as it can be. A Signup form requires a name and an email address; that’s all. The subscriber will then receive and must respond to an initial email asking them to confirm their signup. If a new subscriber ignores that, or they miss it, they will not receive your newsletter emails. 

Non-Delivery

Sometimes emails can’t be delivered, either because an email service provider is temporarily blocking them or because of technical or network causes. Whenever a message can’t be delivered, our own email service provider will let us know, and will provide some information about why. A message from our email service provider might appear to be from “Postmaster” or “Mail Delivery System” or the scary-sounding “MAILER-DAEMON, with a Subject line something like “Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender.” These are called “bounce” messages. Such messages can provide important clues about why an email wasn’t delivered. Most commonly, messages are rejected by the recipient’s email service because “the email account does not exist.” That means there is a typo in the recipient’s email address they subscribed with. Yeah, people sometimes can’t type their own email address correctly. Nothing you can do about this.

You will only receive a bounce message when an email can’t be delivered. For all other messages, rest assured, they were delivered. But they may have gone straight to Junk/Spam. Or are being ignored.

Why Would Anyone Ignore My Emails?

Some subscribers will stop reading your emails after a while — they lose interest. So hopefully you are able to market your online startup in a way that will keep funneling new visitors to your site. Some of them will become new subscribers. Some subscribers will unsubscribe. Others will simply start marking the messages as “Junk” so they won’t see them anymore. These are simply facts of life. This is not an exhaustive description of all the ways that email can fail us, but I hope it helps you understand that not all messages you send will be received or viewed.

Alternatives to Email

If email were the ONLY way to communicate with your desired audience that could be bad. But there are other ways — social media and in print being the two best ways to grab people’s attention. These days people are spending lots of time looking at Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. Which is why these social media platforms have become a target for marketing. So when you have new content on your website to share, then by all means link to it from your Facebook or Twitter account. And if your business (and website address) can get a mention in a newspaper or magazine story, that can provide a long-lasting boost to website traffic.

Online advertising is also an option, if you have a budget to be able to do it consistently and can measure its effectiveness.

Publish or Perish

One of the best ways to build an audience and help more people find your online publication is simply by putting new website content out there every week or every month. It gets picked up by the search engines, and the words and phrases in those new posts can turn up in searches so more and more people can discover your site over a period of time. The “Yoast SEO” WordPress plugin is a good marketing tool you can use to focus your writing on specific “focus phrases” that potential subscribers are likely to be searching for. Optimizing your blog posts or product descriptions using focus phrases can greatly improve the odds that someone will discover one of your articles, visit your website, and want to learn more.

Operating an online business is an ongoing “performance” in which showing up and doing the work — creating new website content — is what brings your website to the attention of more people who did not know about you or your business before.