Email Marketing: 7 Tips to Help You Avoid the Dreaded Spam Filter

NOTE: Read this blog post in its entirety once for yourself, the “savvy email marketer.” Then, read it again through the eyes of your recipients.

Email marketing is a two-way street. If you are encountering obstacles as the sender, you can imagine that the contacts on your lists have their own special circumstances in place that could be prohibiting them from receiving your emails. In this post, we’ll share tips on how to overcome these obstacles to help ensure that your emails are getting through to your audience.

First things first: What is the definition of “spam?”

Spam is an email that is not wanted. An email that is sent to large numbers of people and that consists mostly of advertising. Unsolicited (usually commercial) emails sent to a large number of addresses at one time (Merriam-Webster, 2015).

Any emails that fit the above definition of spam, are likely to become caught in spam filters before they ever reach your list of contacts.

What is a spam filter?

A spam filter is a program that is used to detect unsolicited and unwanted email and prevent those messages from getting to a recipient’s inbox.

Now that that’s all cleared up…

I’m kidding. Let’s break it down:

  • Like any other filtering program in existence, spam filters look for a certain set of criteria on which it makes its judgment calls.
  • These judgment calls are made within an email service provider (ESP) such as Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc.
  • However, each ESP will have its own set of filtering rules that it uses to make these judgment calls. These rules can be similar OR drastically different from provider to provider.
  • AND from within the ESP, each user’s account could have another layer of filtering rules set up.

Is your head spinning yet? Wonderful! Let’s keep going.

  • All of the above could be going on AS WELL AS your company’s email server having yet ANOTHER layer of spam rules/filtering taking place before the email even makes it to your Gmail/Outlook/Yahoo inbox.
  • All the different criteria being ruled on within your ESP functions on a point system. This point system is called a ‘spam score.’ The spam score will determine if the email is making it to the recipient’s inbox or not.
  • And yet, all spam scores are NOT created equal, so what Gmail allows could be a huge no-no with Outlook (for example).

Good grief! Why even bother?! (am I right, Charlie Brown?) Well, before we just give up, let’s get down and dirty with spam filters. Find out what really makes them tick.

How do spam filters work?

Like we learned above, spam filters can be persnickety and possibly function differently based on the service provider, but there are still some basic characteristics of spam that we can trump! With enough knowledge, gusto, and determination, all email marketers can stand up to the dreaded spam.

Please keep in mind that when it comes to email marketing, nothing is certain except uncertainty, but if we play it smart, we can still find enormous value in this marketing medium. The following tips will help to minimize the amount of your campaigns that become caught in spam filters.

Tip 1: Ask yourself, “What are the rules and regulations of my third-party email marketing automation provider?”

Any reputable email marketing tool/platform will have established rules and regulations that they expect their user base to follow. The rules are in place to protect the users and also the recipients of email marketing. These service providers are hip to the email marketing game. They only exist to help make their users the best email marketers out there. Listen to what they are trying to teach you! You can expect to find an extensive knowledge base surrounding your email marketing tool. Find it, read it, live it, LOVE IT. It only wants to love you in return.

Tip 2: Never neglect your subject line.

Subject lines are a preview to the rest of your email. If the subject line is riddled with ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, a lot of !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, and trigger words like “FREE” or “FOR LIMITED TIME ONLY,” you can go ahead and safely assume that email went directly to spam. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Tip 3: No one likes a messy email.

Yes, you can even get caught in spam filters for having an unorganized email campaign. The content in an email marketing campaign should be clean, tight, and straight to the point. Long intros, blurbs, offerings to win something, too many images, and wacky colors can all trigger spam filters. Messy code, shortened links, and anything copy/pasted from Microsoft Office can all negatively affect your deliverability.

Tip 4: IP addresses – There is no escape.

No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to escape from an IP address. ESPs also use IP addresses to send their users’ email campaigns. Many times IP addresses are shared among the ESP community. This means that if one member of the community has been flagged for sending spam, any other user on that shared IP address could have their deliverability affected too.

This is why it is so important to adhere to the rules and regulations of the ESP that you use to send large email campaigns. Chances are that your behavior is affecting other users in that community even if you don’t realize it.

Tip 5: Personalize your email to each recipient.

And no, I don’t mean sending each contact on your list of 2,000 their own personal, special email. That’s just silly! However, many spam filters are checking to see how well you know your recipients.

Send the email to your contact’s name instead of just their email address. Most ESPs allow for custom contact fields or merge fields to assist with this.

It is also wise to avoid sending to role-based email addresses (info@, admin@, marketing@). Again, not very personal and spam filters will smell it coming a mile away!

Tip 6: Know your firewalls.

I’m going to let the experts at MailChimp explain this one:

“Before an email even gets to an email provider filter, it first has to pass through a gatekeeper or “firewall.” (Yep, spam is now such a problem that spam filters now need filters of their own.) Firewalls are used by ISPs, large corporations and small businesses alike, and they all communicate with each other to help identify spam and spammers.” (MailChimp 2015)

Tip 7: Whitelisting email domains

Whitelisting an email domain within your ESP (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc.) can greatly increase the chance of you receiving email marketing from trusted companies. This can also be done at the company email server level, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood IT personnel.

Whitelisting an email domain means you are setting up a rule to specifically allow emails from a certain source to be granted access to your email inbox.

Adding trusted email addresses to your whitelist will allow them to pass easily through your spam filter or junk folder. This is a good place to start if you feel like you are not receiving email marketing from expected companies. This is also a good tip to share with your contacts should they question why they are not receiving the email you promised was coming their way.

Check out this great resource to learn more about whitelisting email domains across multiple ESPs.

Originally posted on Channel Chatter, Submitted by Jennifer Mueller

Jennifer works with Zift123 platform users to assist with online marketing strategies, product support, and implementation.

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