Deliverability & Reputation

QA Testing Your Email Marketing Campaigns: Eliminating Mistakes in Emails

Busy and content woman focused behind her laptop
Busy and content beautiful woman focused behind her laptop doing email marketing QA
Source: Freepik

You spend hours, if not days, crafting your beautiful emails. You take a deep breath and shake the nerves off before hitting (probably the most stressful button of all) the “send” button. Once the email campaign is sent, it is sent. Period. There’s no recalling of those email campaigns. That’s why it’s crucial to have a thorough email testing and quality assurance (QA) plan in place.

Understanding the Complexity of Email Marketing QA

Some will define email QA as “simply” testing if the email is displayed as intended in an email inbox. That said, there’s nothing “simple” about that. It would be simple if all email recipients used one email inbox provider on one type of device. But that is far from reality.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of combinations of where your email could be opened. There are multiple email inbox providers. And there are numerous devices (desktops, mobiles, tablets, and now even wearable tech). These devices could have different operating systems. Your email recipients could be using different apps for opening and reading emails. You get the idea. 

Understand Your Audience and Prioritize

The fact is that you won’t be able to test all these combinations manually. Some ESPs (Email Service Providers) offer email rendering testing services. Also, third-party tools could help you with that. But if you’re on a tight budget and cannot invest in such tools, you can still do a good job QA-ing your emails. You just need to learn more about your recipients. 

For example, if 90% of your email recipients use Gmail and, let’s say, your Google Analytics shows that the majority of your traffic is mobile, then you could make an educated assumption of where your emails could be read and opened. Then, when building and testing, you know what to prioritize. 

Create Test Inboxes

Our strong recommendation is to create test inboxes for your email testing purposes. It helps not just for email testing and quality assurance but also for building emails. Too long? Too short? The text doesn’t flow well? It’s easier when you see your email in an inbox. Create different accounts and send your tests – you’ll soon start to learn how differently they might render!

Person clicking a mouse behind computer
Source: Freepik

Here’s another tip that we just had to share with you. If you’re trying to include Gmail annotations in your emails, you should create a separate mailbox for Gmail annotation testing. We won’t go into details about why annotating emails for the Gmail Promotions tab is worth doing, but for those who have tried or are regularly including the annotations code, the biggest pain point is validating if your hard work is going to show up in the inbox and what it’s going to look like. 

Gmail has some handy tools for developers, and you could use the annotations preview feature to see what it could potentially look like. Moreover, Gmail recommends that developers create a separate testing inbox ending in (for example This account will have a more “aggressive” email ranking and bundling to make your testing easier. That said, there are no guarantees your annotations will show up in the “promotabtesting” inbox every time, either. You can learn more about best practices for annotating emails here.

Gmail Testing Account Information
Source: Gmail Annotations Best Practices

What Should You Look for When You’re QA Testing Your Emails?

Let’s review what you should look for when QA testing your emails. 

  • You can start with the sender name, subject line, and preview text. When checking these elements, obviously check for any typos. But also check if they are cut off on smaller devices. Do they still make sense if they are? If you are adding emojis, are they showing up properly? Have you selected the correct sender name?
  • When you open your test email, re-read the email copy, checking for any typos, grammatical mistakes, punctuation, etc.  Also, double-check that no Lorem Ipsum or other placeholder text is hiding in your email.
  • Verify if all email sections are showing (or being hidden if that’s what they should be doing). Make sure to click all the links and CTAs. Test if they’re going to the correct pages. Do the URLs have the right tracking in place? These can get lost easily, especially if you manually add your tracking parameters to the URLs. 
  • Look at the images – are they being displayed correctly? No weird stretching of your visuals? Take note of their loading speed (slow loading could tell you that your images need optimization). Also, check their ALT texts. It’s easy to forget them or accidentally leave an old ALT text in the email. 
  • Evaluate email accessibility – running the email through a voice/screen reader is a good practice. 
  • Don’t forget to hit reply and see if your reply address is correct! You don’t want to miss out on any potential email replies. 
Young email marketing man relaxing behind laptop on a workday at the coffee shop
Source: Freepik

If you’ve included dynamic content and have merge fields in your emails, send multiple tests to check if the right values are being pulled into your email. Also, test your blank values – to see if your fall-back plan is working. For example, you’re saying, “Hello %%Firstname%%” in your email salutation. What happens if there is no first name? Test it! And, if you’re planning an A/B test, don’t forget to QA both A and B variants.

Double Check Your Lists and Queries

Not all testing is about the email copy and could be QA’ed in an inbox. It’s important to keep a close eye on your mailing lists. However you pull your lists – queries, data extensions, SQLs, or even Excel imports – make sure you have the correct list of people before you send or schedule the email.

Last Thoughts

We just wanted to say that we’re all human, and mistakes happen to the best of us. But a thorough email testing and quality assurance process can help ensure that nothing slips through the cracks or, at the very least, minimize the potential errors in emails. Email QA can be tedious, but it’s definitely worth it.

We will leave you with these wise words: 

Never assume an existing email template will work the next time you send it