How to Prevent Emails from Falling into Spam (Best Practices)
Every year, more spam is spread via email, irritating users and pushing email providers to work round the clock. As spammers get smarter, so do the anti-spam security measures. It’s a never-ending cycle, and it’s been like this for quite some time. Spam emails account for around 50% of all global email traffic, with the US taking the lead.
In this fierce battle, unfortunately, there are innocent bystanders – marketers and salespeople, who use email to connect people with their favorite products. To make things even trickier, explicit approval from users is no longer a guarantee that our emails will reach their inboxes. And if your email list was purchased or it’s your first try at email marketing, don’t even get me started, but be prepared for a gruesome journey ahead.
There’s no way to completely eliminate the risk of undeservedly falling into spam during a mass email outreach, but we can sure minimize that risk. Here are some tips on how to steer clear of spam filters and make your emails reach their hoped-for destination – the recipients’ inboxes.
Protect your IP and domain reputation
We’ve all heard the saying: You can’t buy a good reputation – you have to earn it. This couldn’t be more true with email outreach. Every IP address has its own rating: If it’s low – it’s very likely that your emails will be regarded as spam.
A mix of factors, including engagement levels, past complaints, and bounce rates (among others) determine your IP reputation. It’s basically the grand accumulation of all your emailing best practices.
- Businesses should aim for a dedicated IP address for mass, cold outreach, separate from their operational emails, and definitely not shared with others.
- Cold emailing is best with a permanent IP, while new IP addresses are considered high risk – since there is no rating on them, all outgoing emails are being thoroughly checked.
Domain reputation is a common spam filter for all the major email providers with the score being assigned to the company as a whole rather than the sending address. Consequently, never jeopardize your domain reputation because a bad domain reputation will follow your brand literally forever.
You can always check your IP reputation online to see what you’re working with.
Ensure proper email setup
Planning to do a mass email with a free mailbox such as Gmail? That will give you an instant one-way ticket to the blacklist. It’s crucial to have your own domain, preferably with the name of your company or product, which in itself increases the level of trust → email@example.com.
Next step is marking your domain with a special DKIM key (Gmail allows keys no longer than 2048 bits) and adding SPF and DMARC authentication. This will prove your company’s legitimacy in the eyes of your recipients’ ESPs.
If you cannot do it yourself, contact your hosting service's tech support or check their website for setup instructions.
Show your true self
It is no secret that an email sent by a real person will please the recipient more than an email from a robot. Use your real name, and add a photo to put a face to the name. On this note, it would also be a great idea to add a professional email signature. This will optimize all future emails with your brand personality – colors, tone, logos, etc. It’s also a sleek and subtle way to add your social media links and CTAs. 😉
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People will be more likely to trust you and remember you, both crucial in staying far away from the spam folder. A memorable name, face, or company name will increase the odds of emails being opened and – hopefully – replied to!
Oh, and lose the «no-reply» emails – your recipients should be able to respond to the communication.
We get the appeal of having a massive email list for your marketing campaigns, but be wary. In email marketing, it’s quality over quantity every single time.
Mass outreaching people who have not explicitly agreed to receive your emails will only destroy your sender reputation. In fact, it’s common practice nowadays to have double opt-in to be downright certain that you’re not, well… spamming anyone.
We’re mostly referring to marketing emails here, but what about cold emails, which by definition can’t be opted-in? There’s virtually no business that doesn’t use cold emails in their outreach, so don’t worry – you’re not alone. The best you can do is make sure you’re sending them to targeted, potentially interested parties rather than blast them to random people.
Similarly, users who joined your email list should be able to leave at any given time with ease. Unsubscribe or opt-out links should not be hidden in invisible print. They should be clearly visible and accessible in 1-2 clicks with no requirement to enter a password or fill out a form.
Users who simply want to unsubscribe will now also mark you as a spammer if you make it difficult for them to leave.
Besides an unsubscribe link, you could also leave a link for users to control what type of content they receive from you, when, and how often.
Bonus tip #1: Send an “unsubscribe confirmation” survey email to figure out why users chose to opt-out.
If you won’t do it to avoid the spam box or protect your brand reputation, at least do it to avoid paying 5-figure fines per email. That’s right, CAN-SPAM and GDPR regulations very clearly emphasize the importance of opt-in and opt-out to businesses, so keep that in mind.
Collect deliverability statistics
Regularly keep track of important deliverability metrics of your email campaigns – open, reply, and bounce rates, to be precise (BTW, Reply does this for you automatically). This practice allows marketers to see what works and what doesn’t, make necessary changes promptly, and A/B test email campaigns. Whatever causes certain emails to land in spam can be dealt with without any real damage to your sender reputation.
Keep an eye on your content
You know how we keep mentioning that email providers keep beefing up their security? Well, there are now many hundreds of words and phrases that will trigger spam filters, no matter your good intentions.
Include a couple of these spam trigger words – your emails go to the spam gulag without ever reaching your recipients in the first place.
While some sound needy and manipulative, some are completely harmless, but businesses still have to be very careful.
Here are some examples of such words/phrases:
- Act Immediately
- Buy now
- Hurry up
- Once in a lifetime
- 0% risk
- Cash bonus
Other noteworthy causes of spam triggers → too many attachments, too many links, excessive use of images, and poor grammar (always proofread before sending!).
It goes without saying, but since we’re on the topic of content – avoid “selling” in your cold outreach. Instead, aim to spark a conversation and provide value, this will go a long way in staying away from the spam swamp.
Polish your subject line
It’s no secret that subject lines often determine whether emails get opened or not. A misleading or suspicious-looking subject line, however, will most probably pave the way for your emails going straight to the spam folder with one glance.
With so many emails coming our way daily, it’s more than understandable that users won’t even open an email that causes the slightest feeling of skepticism.
Just like with the actual message, watch out for spam trigger words in your subject lines, and just like with opt-in/out, it’s completely illegal to mislead users into opening an email.
Steer clear of any “tactics” to trick your recipients into opening your emails (urgency, shocking fake news, prize-winning, etc.). Instead, use data-backed research to create optimal subject lines for genuine engagement.
Warm up your email
Another common mistake that rings spam alarm bells is jumping right into mass outreach, blasting out tens or hundreds of emails at a time. Without proper warm-up, ISPs will perceive this as suspicious, to say the least. To warm up an email account, gradually increase the volume of emails sent and ensure that they are engaged with (opened, replied to, marked as important).
There are 2 ways to go about this:
- Manual warm-up
You will need a handful of verified, active email accounts at your disposal, preferably with various email providers. Here’s a proven timetable for warming up your email without harming your sender reputation. Buckle up because it requires a substantial amount of time and patience.
- Automated warm-up
A much faster, easier, and more reliable warm-up method because all you need is a reliable warm-up tool. Simply sync your email address, kick back and relax while the software does the heavy lifting for you.
The top tools also provide insightful reports to track how the warm-up process is going.
There’s no one answer to how long it is necessary to fully warm up but expect at least 2-3 weeks if you want to do it by the book.
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Bonus tip #2: Once your account is warmed up and ready to roll, keep the tool running to maintain your positive sender reputation for the future.
Target the right audience
As we’ve established, it’s best to have a shorter but highly relevant and engaged email list than a long list of random, unengaged users (and God forbid that list was purchased).
Low engagement is one of the biggest red flags for ISPs, and that makes total sense. Emails coming from a domain with a low, unengaged sender reputation will automatically go straight to spam for the sake of their users.
And even if they manage to go through, emailing uninterested people with irrelevant content will simply cause them to send your emails straight to spam, hurting your sending reputation – resulting in more emails going to spam… and, once again – the dreaded snowball effect.
Bonus tip #3: When the time is right, consider segmenting your email list to ensure the most relevant content, channels, and CTAs when conducting your email campaigns.
Maintain email list hygiene
The last piece of advice would be to take great care of your email list. This will maintain and solidify your sender reputation in the long run, which will make the spam box a thing of the past.
Come back to your list from time to time to make sure it’s healthy:
- always verify new email addresses
- purge inactive, unengaged addresses
- purge hard bounce and repetitive soft bounce addresses
- never, ever add any purchased email addresses
Now, before cutting ties with subscribers, it would probably be a smart idea to send out that last re-engagement attempt.
Well, those are our top tips on how to avoid spam filters with email marketing. Got anything to add? Share with us in the comments! ✌️
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