10 Tips to Keep Email Out of the Spam Folder

Every industry has its Achilles tendon; spam is that for email marketing. Email marketing has grown over leaps and bounds over the past decade and with explosive growth comes its own set of problems. No other issue has haunted email marketers more than spam, not even deliverability.  Good email marketers have been able to tame this monster to a certain extent but there is not predicting when it comes out all guns blazing! Email Spam filters are there for a reason.

Spam mail accounts for over 55% of all email traffic. This is a serious number and hence spam traps have to be on their toes every time a mail comes in. Spam can cause serious harm to infrastructure, finances and many more. Millions of people get duped by emails that seem to originate from trusted sources but they aren’t.

What is spam?

Spam can be considered as any unsolicited, irrelevant mail that is sent in bulk. These can be of any type ranging from business plans, offers, and so on. You may have a great list of potential prospects that you want to target and get the ball rolling. The messages you send them may be considered spam if these contacts have not given you explicit permission to do the same. Spam is dangerous and hence the multiple security cover added to stop them.

The effect that spam has on organisations is massive. It has caused serious issues worldwide. About 101 spam messages are received per user per day worldwide. That is a staggering amount and this is the reason it is despised so much. Indulging in spam related activities today can cause serious backlash, not only in terms of being banned from using email services but it also attracts stiff penalties amounting to $16,000 per spam mail sent. This hasn’t detracted spammers. This is due to the ubiquitous nature of the internet. As emails are sent from IP addresses, getting a new address and starting over is not a difficult task. The rewards of spamming far outweigh the penalties. This is why it is still active and a huge menace.

The war against spam

Every genuine email marketer abides by the CAN-SPAM ACT 2003. This was set up to stop or curtail the spread of malicious emails across the internet. The CAN-SPAM ACT has helped to bring down the sheer volume of spam to a large extent. This act covers not just bulk mails but all types of business mails. Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is another such rule that is stricter than the CAN-SPAM ACT. Both of these have been instrumental in the war against spam.

Here are some points mentioned in the CAN-SPAM ACT that every email marketer needs to follow to ensure that you do not get into spam lists.

  1. Never use deceptive headers, from names, reply-to addresses, or subject lines.
  2. Always provide an easy to use unsubscribe link.
  3. The unsubscribe link must work for a minimum of 30 days after sending.
  4. You must always include your physical mailing address.

These are the basic criteria. Most reputed email service providers ensure that all their clients use these points while indulging in bulk email marketing. Over and above these, there are certain things as an email marketer, you need to consider and integrate into your email campaigns without fail. One thing that has to be understood is that once you get spam tagged, your reputation goes for a toss. It is not easy to undo this and it takes a lot of effort on your part to correct the issue. It may have been an inadvertent mistake but such mistakes can be extremely costly in the long run.

What do SPAM filters do?

Spam filters are the first line of defence against spam attacks. These filters are used globally to ensure that end users are not harmed by spam messages. Spam filters set a spam score for every mail it receives. This score is dependent on certain aspects of your mail, your sender reputation and content. There are no global standards for these scores and individual numbers are determined by individual receivers. Nonetheless, there are certain parameters which are globally accounted for.

How to Avoid Spam Filters

  1. Your IP address- The stability of your IP is taken into account when accessing your spam score. You will get a red flag if anyone else has sent spam from your IP too.
  2. Coding- Using erroneous codes, too many Meta tags, deceptive images that are masked, are all spam alarm generators.
  3. Meta data- Spam filters are paying attention if the receiver is interested in your emails. Sending through verified domains, using personalized Meta tags and so on help in increasing and improving Meta data.
  4. Content- Spam words and triggers are most commonly used for tagging spam messages. There is a list of spam words that you should stay away from. The templates should be neatly designed giving the reader information which is easy to understand and easy to engage with. Do not use objectionable language and images.

How you can stay away from spam filters

This is the most important aspect of this post. As an email marketer, it is not just enough to follow the above mentioned guidelines. These are minimum at best. Here are 10 ways in which you can counter the issue of spam and come out on top- every time.

1) Use your own list

Creating and using your own list is the best way to ensure that you do not have issues with deliverability, reputation and spam traps. Contacts you have earned are always better than the ones you purchase. There is a higher level of integrity to the whole data set, it is trust worthy and the subscribers have already given you permission to mail them. It doesn’t get better than this.

We do not say that purchased lists are bad; they aren’t, as long as you purchase it from a reputed seller who has the right credentials and gives you data that is reliable and safe. Creating your own list can take a tremendous amount of time if you are doing it for the first time. For the initial traction that is needed, purchased list should be your number one option. Building your list over time can be beneficial over the long run.

2) Use a reliable ESP

An email service provider can make it or break it for you. Finding a reputed ESP is not a tough task today. There are plenty of providers who run campaigns for reputed brands across the world. Doing your due diligence when it comes to research about the credentials of your ESP is totally up to you. Go for ESPs that ban spammers from their IPs.

3) Use the right content

What goes into your email is as important and where you send it from. Content has become extremely important today. Readers are quick to react to sub standard content. Getting ticked as spam by your readers is the ultimate blow to your campaigns. There is not much you can do after that. Hence, avoid spam words. It is easy to get a list of spam words today.  Make sure your content does not contain these, or at least has a very small percentage of them.

How to Avoid Spam Filters
How to Avoid Spam Filters

Subject lines are extremely important when dealing with spam traps. Dedicate ample amounts of time towards creating smart, relevant and easy to read subject lines.

The images you use also should be of high quality and related to the content you write. Using a beautiful bikini clad woman in a mailer for B2B IT security services is not going to get you any leads and will lead you directly to the spam box. Links that go out of your email should be only to reputed domains and verified sites. Keep the font stable with a maximum of 2 sizes. Keep the balance between text and image. Use credible hosting services for your images.

4) Black hat tricks will get you blocked

Do not try dirty tricks to beat spam traps. They do not work today. If you use any such tricks and get caught then you are basically doomed.

Do not do hasbusting, which is introducing random characters into your subject line. For eg. F.ree, tra!l and so on.

Deceptive subject lines are a strict no. Examples include starting your subject line with RE: and FWD: making it look like a continuation of a conversation. We all know it isn’t.

Concealing a text message as an image. It is not fooling anyone today.

5) Include a text version if you are sending HTML mails

This is a standard best practice. It ensures that the spam filters can view your email, no matter what version of software they are using, your readers can too. It’s a double win.

6) Permission granted

Use permission to send you emails. White listing enables you to improve your email sender reputation. Ask your recipients to include you in their address book. No one can say otherwise about such a practice, you are bullet proof.

7) Avoid spam traps

Spam traps are basically defunct email addresses that email servers use as they are basically not in use and hence they do not have the opt in feature. This can be easily negated by using the opt-in process and not buying a list from email brokers. If you do, get them spam trap checked.

 8) Use spam checkers on your content

There are many spam checker tools available in the market today. These will access your copy and give you a spam score. They will tell you if your spam score is high or low. They also give you ideas on how to improve the score.

9) Avoid large attachments and extensions

Do not send attachments that contain .exe, .zip, .swf, formats. These are usually used by spammers who send virus files. If you want to send attachments, they should be done only after the receiver gives you permission. You can always use Drop Box for such purposes.

10) Ensure that your DKIM, SPF, Sender-ID, and Domain Keys are set properly and are working

Firstly, sign up with an ESP that uses these features. Then, ensure that they are set up properly on your email. It increases your sender reputation.

Staying away from spam is not easy, nor is it a herculean task. If you comply with email marketing best practices, you automatically become spam proof. Readers will be delighted to receive mails from you and your leads will increase. Ensure you stay within parameters and you are good to go.

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