Falling prey to a spam filter is a nightmare for every email marketer. Once a filter marks your emails as spam, life changes. Your open rates plummet, replies become non-existent. And if that wasn’t enough, a spam filter can destroy your online credibility for years.
Which isn’t optimal for your deliverability rates. To say the least. But here’s the thing. Spam filters were built to block spam.
They are not hunting down marketing emails. Which means that avoiding a spam filter comes down to following common sense.
It still can go wrong. According to a 2017 report by Return Path, only 80% of marketing emails never reach inboxes. Armed with tips from this article, you’ll never end up in the other 20%.
1. Build your email list right from the start
Which is another way of saying don’t buy email lists. Ever.
A list-purchasing company offers you hundreds of perfect email addresses? Yup, ignore them. And if you did buy an email list, burning it with fire is a good idea.
What’s left to say if emails offering to sell you an email list themselves are marked as spam?
Buying email lists means two things. First, you’re losing money. Email addresses on these lists are never good. Second, you’re destroying your credibility.
Purchasing email lists is against the law thanks to GDPR. But it’s not even that. Think about it. How many success stories began with ‘we purchased an email list’? None.
Even if you find a live email address on the list, there’s a great chance that the recipient flags your message as spam. Or the ESP is going to do that for them. Defunct email addresses are a mainstay of lists — and they are often used as spam traps.
Instead of buying email lists, invest into organic lead generation. Design beautiful landing pages. Promote your newsletter on social channels. Launch free tools that will make customers sign up.
2. It all begins with a subject line
A subject line is one of the most important reasons why the recipient reads (or deletes) your email. But many businesses still don’t pay enough attention to it.
For 69% of recipients, one glance at the subject line is enough to determine whether emails are spam. A subject line like this?
URGENT!Last Chance to Grow your business!
Straight into the bin, it goes.
A great subject line is both informative and intriguing. The recipient needs to understand what the email is about — and be curious enough to open it.
Make subject lines short, don’t write in caps and don’t sound too formal. If you’re up to it, a joking subject line can take you a long way. If the subject line is fun, I can be sure that the rest of the email is fun, too.
Even emojis can help. Product Hunt has perfected the art of them:
10 apps to make you healthy-ish 🦃
Yep, it’s an emoji turkey — enough of a reminder that it’s Thanksgiving season. And if it’s Thanksgiving, I’m going to eat too much. Which means that I’d better open up that email…
A low open rate is one of the factors for marking your emails as a spam. Great subject lines increase your open rate — thus they protect you from any spam filter.
3. Keep emails simple, clean and short
There’s nothing like receiving a 700-word email. Even better if it comes with random GIFs, background images and attachments. And if there are spelling mistakes, that’s tantalizing.
Why? It’s such a great feeling to flag that email as spam and never receive it again.
Keeping up a basic cold email writing hygiene is essential for being on good terms with spam filters.
Spelling mistakes are one of the most popular reasons for getting flagged. 4 in 5 recipients believe that grammar and spelling mistakes in an email are unacceptable.
Same goes for email length, an abundance of attachments, heavy graphics, etc. The majority of people prefer email fonts to be one size and single-colored (especially if you’re targeting younger demographic).
Check all your writing with tools like Grammarly and Hemingway. Keep emails short, no longer than 125 words in most cases. Send out test emails to see if everything is working the way you intended.
4. Rethink your email frequency
People in sales like to repeat that it takes up to 5-6 follow-ups before securing a response from a prospect. But it doesn’t mean blasting six consequent emails in one week — that’s a shortcut to getting marked as spam.
If you’re sending emails regularly, spread them out. For most cases, once a week is more than enough. Use email automation software to nail down the perfect time to send an email.
5. Nail the basics of spam defense
CAN-SPAM and GDPR both cover what you should and shouldn’t do to not get marked as spam.
Approach these rules like a checklist. Make sure that you cover all the basics:
● Your email should state your identity;
● Don’t imply something you don’t mean;
● Always provide an unsubscribe link;
● Make it work for 30 days min;
● Include your physical mailing address;
● Don’t send emails to people who haven’t subscribed;
If you fail to see it through on the basics, you’ll make yourself an instant target for spam filters.
By the way, it’s not a rule, but going for a double opt-in is a good idea. It minimizes the risks that you’re sending messages to people who didn’t actually sign up.
6. Unsubscribe people who don’t engage
You might think that a huge list of subscribers is something to be proud of. The numbers look so cool!
It is something to be proud of… But it also means that you need to do a ton of work.
The larger your subscriber base grows, the more people stop engaging with your emails. Many email addresses go defunct. Spam filters are on the lookout for mailing lists with a lot of defunct email addresses.
It’s better to have a smaller number of subscribers who read each of your new emails. If 90% of your huge subscriber base simply throw your email into the bin, it’s a liability.
Approach your mailing list like a garden. The more it grows, the more time you need to spend looking after it.
Track your email performance to learn who reads your emails and who doesn’t. Unsubscribe people who stopped engaging. It’s not something to do each week, but giving your list a trimming a couple of times a year is a good idea.
Making sure that your emails don’t get marked as spam by filters is easier than you might think. More often than not, it comes down to proper email marketing hygiene and common sense.
Don’t be too pushy, don’t try to con people and sound passionate about your work. Avoiding a spam filter isn’t your goal — your goal is making people more engaged.
After all, nobody wants to mark your email as spam. So, your job is making it clear that it isn’t.