Are your emails trying to do too much? Man thinking

It’s pretty common to open an email and see several calls-to-action (CTAs) with separate links taking you to separate pages. But if your emails are underperforming, it could be a sign that you are diluting your message with too many CTAs.

The more CTAs you have, the more spread out your clicks will be—and in some cases, the fewer clicks you’ll have overall because too many choices can make people feel overwhelmed and it makes your message feel incohesive. That means if you have a primary goal for your email and you tack on secondary goals, those secondary goals can actually interfere with your primary one.

If your emails are getting low engagement and they’re not accomplishing your goals, it could be a sign that your email is trying to do too many things.

Here’s how to tell.

Is your email a newsletter or roundup?

A newsletter often links to several distinct pieces of content. The point of a newsletter is usually to periodically share newsworthy content with your audience—whether it’s content you wrote, articles that are relevant to their interests, or something else that’s come up recently.

In that sense, all of the “unique CTAs” are contributing to the same goal: engaging your audience with content. And your audience likely expects your newsletter to have multiple links and CTAs, which invites them to skim and look for what interests them.

If you’re writing a newsletter, it’s totally appropriate to have multiple links taking your readers to different websites and pages. But the key is ensuring all of those CTAs are relevant to your newsletter’s stated purpose. You can talk about new sales or product releases, but this isn’t a place to just plug as many products as possible.

A roundup email, like you might find in a list of “deals,” is another instance where your audience is expecting to see multiple CTAs they can skim, and where all of those links are working toward the same goal.

What’s your goal?

Every email needs to have a purpose. But often, brands will give their emails a primary purpose as well as a secondary one (or even several secondary ones).

And it’s understandable. You want to maximize the return on investment (ROI) of every email you send. And your primary CTA isn’t going to appeal to every person on your email list. So why not give those people something else to click?

There are a couple big reasons why you shouldn’t do that.

First of all, when you have multiple goals, it makes the purpose of your email less clear. It’s more confusing to navigate because your email is driving your readers toward a button . . . and this other button . . . and that link over there . . . and this image that takes them somewhere else. It’s disorienting, and all the choices can result in less overall clicks.

Additionally, if people aren’t drawn in by your subject line, and the main body of your email doesn’t seem relevant to them, they aren’t going to keep looking to see what else you have to say. When people decide something isn’t relevant to them, they stop reading. So most of the people reading your secondary CTAs were already interested in your primary one.

Increasing the number of links and CTAs probably isn’t going to increase your click-through rate. In fact, it will probably lower it.

And if your primary goal is really your primary goal, don’t you want to optimize your email to drive as many people to that goal as possible? Why create distractions?

If your emails aren’t reaching your primary goal, try removing any CTAs that aren’t contributing to that goal.

What about ads?

To some degree, ads can steal clicks from your other goals. Someone who clicks an ad probably isn’t going to go back to your email to check out another link.

But at the same time, most ads are pretty distinct from the body of your email, so they don’t detract from your email’s purpose.

If your email isn’t achieving your goals, but your email ads are doing just fine, you may want to test whether removing them drives clicks to your main CTA.

Align your CTAs with your purpose

When your email has too many objectives, it confuses your audience and weakens its ability to achieve your primary goal. It’s fine to have multiple links if they’re all relevant to your email and contributing toward your main purpose, but adding goals (and CTAs that relate to them) will almost never make your email more effective.

Focus on your main goal, and make sure your email does, too.