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Are your marketing emails going to spam, but you don’t know why?
With 45% of all email traffic being classified as spam, it can be hard work trying to keep your emails from landing in the treacherous spam folder.
It doesn’t have to be!
Here are 11 simple yet effective ways to stop your emails from going to the spam folder.
But first, let’s learn why your emails end up as spam in the first place.
It might seem obvious, but the main reason your emails end up in the spam folder is because email service providers (ESPs) think you’re spam.
The question is — why are your legitimate emails being confused with spam?
To answer this question, we first need to understand how spam is identified.
There are 3 defenses used to identify and fight spam:
“Spam filters” is a phrase you’ll hear a lot — they’re the main programs deciding if your marketing emails are labeled as spam.
These filters are designed to detect unsolicited, unwanted, or virus-infected emails and block them from reaching your inbox.
As with everything, the program is slightly flawed, often classifying important or wanted emails as spam.
Spam filters can be particularly merciless when it comes to marketing emails, dooming many email campaigns to a forgotten existence in spam folders.
There are two more terms that’ll come up a lot, and these are crucial to understanding how spam filtering works:
Let’s first look at why your marketing emails are going to spam in the first place.
Here are 6 poor email sending practices that’ll send your emails directly to your recipient’s spam folder:
Report spam button on Gmail
One of the easiest ways for your emails to be marked as spam is for your recipients to actively go and mark your emails as spam.
After they do this, every email you send them will go straight to the spam folder, with no chance of it ever reaching their inbox again.
If this happens enough, spam filters start flagging your emails as spam for all your other recipients.
Recipients flag your emails either because they don’t want your emails anymore or they don’t even remember signing up in the first place.
One way around this is to make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe from your list.
This way they won’t receive your emails anymore and you won’t get flagged as spam — everybody wins!
To ensure you’re not fraud, ESPs use your own authentication protocols that you’ve published for your emails to prove your identity.
By not properly authenticating your emails, ESPs don’t know whether the email is actually from you or a fraudster.
This uncertainty really freaks ESPs out — if they can’t confirm that it’s actually you, they’d rather send you to the spam box than let an illegitimate email slip through to the inbox.
It also allows other people to pose as you and send fraudulent emails on your behalf, as ESPs have no way of double-checking it’s actually you sending the email.
This could have disastrous effects on your relationship with your subscribers — it only takes one fraudulent email scam with your name on it, and they’ll never open another email from you again!
The first lesson in email marketing 101 is to always get permission before sending people emails and messages.
Purchasing an email list that you didn’t build yourself means you send emails to people who didn’t ask for it and probably don’t want it — this is the literal definition of email spam.
You’ll also be violating anti-spam laws which can result in some pretty hefty fines and penalties.
Why risk all of this when you can build your own list of qualified leads that will not only receive your emails in their inbox but will also be a lot more likely to engage?
Besides having a bought email list, there are a couple of other ways your email list could affect your email deliverability:
Sending emails to the wrong people wastes not only your time and money but can also prevent emails from reaching the right people’s inboxes.
When it comes to the actual content of your emails, there are a couple of things that are particularly good at triggering spam filters:
Specific words are often associated with spam — words like “free”, “easy money”, “no-cost”, and “risk-free”.
Overusing exclamation marks, capital letters, and emojis are also considered spam triggers.
Spam filters are alarmed by links that go to unsafe websites, are associated with malware, or where the display URL doesn’t match the destination URL.
Attachments are one of the main ways malware is distributed, so they very quickly alert spam filters.
Plus, they’ll slow down the loading time of your emails which can annoy users, edging them towards the spam button.
To avoid getting flagged for spam trigger words, spammers started using images instead of text.
Because of this, spam filters are now very suspicious when one large, or many small, images are used with very little text.
Spammers often send spam with a deceptive subject line that doesn’t match the content to trick recipients into opening their emails.
For example, “Are you available for dinner on Tuesday?”, “RE: Work deadline”, or “Your Order is Being Processed”.
Most spam is riddled with spelling and grammar errors — spammers often use machine translations to translate their emails into English.
These errors can also make your emails look very unprofessional — neither spam filters nor your readers will be very impressed.
Lastly, the reason your emails are flagged as spam might be because your sender name doesn’t match your sender address.
This is another big no-no according to the CAN-SPAM Act.
For example, you may receive an email with the sender name “Outlook”, but if you look at the actual email address, it’s a random collection of letters and numbers — clearly spam.
Anti-spam laws also require you to include your valid physical address.
This can usually be found at the bottom of the email above the unsubscribe link.
systeme.io’s physical address in emails
Omitting your physical address, or even adding a false one, will immediately trigger spam filters.
Now that you know exactly what not to do, we can look at what you should do.
Here are 11 actionable tips that’ll help lead you directly to your recipients’ inboxes and avoid the spam folder’s evil clutches:
Using a top-quality, reputable email service provider has many advantages when it comes to avoiding spam:
Trusted ESPs tend to have multiple controls that prevent spammers from using their software.
If your email and IP addresses come from highly-trusted ESPs, spam filters are more likely to trust that you’re not a spammer and less likely to flag you as spam.
Most popular ESPs also come with built-in checks that let you know whether or not you’re triggering spam filters before you send your email.
Most of the top ESPs comply with the anti-spam laws and force you to as well.
That way, you don’t have to worry about unknowingly violating the CAN-SPAM Act or GDPR and risk earning a sizable fine.
Overall, using a trusted email service provider not only improves your email deliverability but also makes the process of avoiding spam triggers much simpler and faster.
As mentioned before, email authentication involves publishing a set of authentication protocols for ESPs to use when they receive your emails to make sure it’s actually you.
If you’re a Gmail user, you don’t have to worry about this because it happens automatically with your Gmail account.
But if you have your own custom email address, you’re going to want to pay attention.
There are 4 authentication methods:
To set up these authentication methods, all you need to do is add TXT records in your domain’s DNS management.
This can be done through your email provider.
Pottermore’s double opt-in system
A lack of email confirmation is one of the main reasons why people end up with messy email lists in the first place — and we all know what a list of inactive or disinterested email addresses can do to your deliverability.
When building your email list, you have two options for your opt-in forms:
The problem with single opt-in systems is that anyone can enter any email address, whether it has a typo or doesn’t even exist, and it’ll automatically be added to your email list.
This can drastically increase your bounce rate, sending you straight to the spam folders.
A double opt-in system ensures that every email address added to your list actually works.
It also gives people another chance to decide if they really want to join your list.
Having a double opt-in system from the start ensures that you build a list of active, interested subscribers, decreasing your chances of being marked as spam and helping your deliverability in the long run.
Even with a double opt-in system, your email list is bound to get a bit cluttered over time.
People either change their email addresses or change their interests, and a once-effective list of active and interested subscribers can turn into a list of stale leads.
To stop this from happening, it’s good practice in email marketing to regularly clean your email list and shed the dead weight of inactive subscribers.
To find these subscribers, look at bounces, open rates, low engagement, duplicate addresses, and spam complaints.
You might not want to give up on them just yet, and re-engagement email campaigns can be a good last attempt at breathing life back into the lead before pulling the plug.
But if that doesn’t work, it’s time to say goodbye and remove them from your list.
Doing so increases your engagement, promotes a high sender reputation, and improves your deliverability.
systeme.io’s unsubscribe button
While a deep clean of your email list is necessary every once in a while, there is a way to let your email list clean itself — through an unsubscribe button.
Here’s why you should include an unsubscribe button in your emails:
Additionally, you can also add a preference button:
Adding an unsubscribe and preference button will allow you to keep the subscribers that will help your sender reputation, not hinder it.
Email service providers assume that you want the emails from people on your contact list, therefore they’re not spam.
So if you manage to get yourself on your recipients’ contact lists, you’ll never have to worry about being marked as spam.
To do this, you can ask your recipients to whitelist you which entails adding your “From” address to their contact list or list of safe senders.
Here are steps you can take to do this:
1. When you gain a new subscriber, send them a welcome email.
2. In this email, add a section asking your new subscriber to whitelist you — this way all your future emails always reach their inbox and never become email spam.
3. Start the section with, “To ensure you never miss an email, please add [email address] to your contacts or whitelist”.
4. Next, you explain to your subscribers exactly how to do it.
Here’s an example — Morning Brew is a popular daily business newsletter that uses their welcome email to tell recipients exactly how to whitelist their email address:
Morning Brew’s welcome email
Spam trigger words
As we know, spam trigger words are words and phrases that are often found in spam to entice the reader to act.
Some top examples of spam trigger words include:
Unfortunately, there are hundreds more out there, even including a simple word like “get”.
It’s impossible to avoid them entirely, but you should at least keep them far away from your subject lines.
Using spam trigger words in your content should be fine, as long as you’re not doing anything else to trigger a spam filter.
Your email design and content can prevent emails from reaching the inbox by playing a large role in spam filtering.
So here are some actionable tips telling you exactly what to do to beat the filters:
Use this as a checklist, and make sure you cover everything before hitting send.
If you only email your subscribers once in a blue moon, you make it easy for your subscribers to forget about you.
Then, when you finally decide to reach out to them, they won’t even remember signing up in the first place, and they’ll send you on a one-way trip to spam town.
You also don’t want to send too many emails which end up annoying your subscribers into clicking the spam or unsubscribe button.
Finding the perfect schedule and frequency depends on your industry and each email marketing campaign.
Experiment with your schedule and frequency, and use key performance indicators (KPIs) to tell you what works for you and your email list.
Some important KPIs to watch for are:
It’s been emphasized enough how important following email marketing laws are for your deliverability, reputation, and business in general.
We’ve discussed the two main anti-spam laws, namely the CAN-SPAM Act and the GDPR.
Another important one to be aware of is the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL).
Here’s a crash course comparison chart comparing the 3 major anti-spam and data protection laws:
Comparison chart of anti-spam and data protection laws
If you’re still worried your email will go to spam, you can always turn to spam checkers to put your mind at ease.
A spam checking tool acts as a spam filter, assessing whether or not your email is considered spam, however, there’s no risk involved.
This gives you room to make mistakes and learn how to fix them without negatively affecting your reputation or deliverability.
Here’s a list of some of the top spam checkers:
As long as you follow these 11 best practices, you’ll see a major increase in your deliverability, sender reputation, and email marketing success!
It’s important to note that no matter what you do, you’ll still have some stray emails falling into spam’s trap.
If you’re looking for a top-quality email marketing platform to help you beat the spam filters, try systeme.io — an all-in-one digital marketing platform with everything you need to run your online business.
You can even start for free with our forever Free plan where you’ll get unlimited emails for up to 2,000 contacts!
Stop your emails from going to spam with this 11-step guide under your arm and systeme.io by your side!
Other posts about email marketing:
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