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February 17, 2016
Email Marketing  |  4 min read

How to Stop Your Emails From Being Marked as Spam

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Kevin Lynch

From January 2014 to September 2017 global spam volume (as percentage of total email traffic) ranged between 65.7 percent to 59.33 percent. Another way to think of this is, nearly seven out of every ten emails sent over a 32-month period, was spam.

Spam filters do a great job keeping out most of the junk. Few of us see the pleas from princes any more or are bothered by the purveyors of pills and potions promising to make us, thinner, smarter, sexier, and much more. Even the subtly spurious stuff that is often just a phishing scam seldom gets through. This is mostly because technology has improved enough that junk email is gradually being relegated to the rubbish bin of email marketing history. (Hopefully.)

These advances in spam detection have had the unforeseen side-effect of making it increasingly difficult for small businesses to reach their target audience with their offers and promotions. Without realizing it many small business marketers are spending a lot of time writing, then sending messages no one will ever see.

For your business to have a fighting chance, you’ve got to keep your emails from being marked as spam.

Here are six proven techniques that will help you keep your emails from landing in the spam folder.

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Be honest

Be honest about who you are. Don’t pretend to be someone else. Also, be sure your email service provider (ESP) helps you with authenticating your emails. Be sure you’re familiar with DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)—which amounts to attaching a digital signature to prove your email’s authenticity. Be sure to understand the Sender Policy Framework (SPF), an email-validation system that allows receiving mail exchangers to check that incoming mail comes from an authorized host. In short, be the kind of emailer your mother and father would be proud of.

Remove bad addresses

Another way to say this is, stay on top of your lists. If an email address no longer exists, stop sending that address emails. If you change your ESP, take steps to ensure you’re migrating clean lists. What happens if you don’t stay on top of your lists? When you send a high volume of emails to a high percentage of invalid addresses, you’re ESP will make the determination that you’re not a legitimate sender and will send your emails to the spam folder.

Clean your old data

If you’ve got a pile of email addresses on your system, and you’re not sure where they came from, don’t add them to your more up-to-date lists. While it’s tempting to think you can reach out to all those mysterious, old email addresses (you’ve got them, they must have been valuable at one time, right?) there’s a good chance many are spam traps. Sending to these addresses may increase your bounce-rate, and may produce complaints from people who have opted out of your emails long ago or are no longer interested in your product or service.

Segment your audience by engagement

Save yourself transmission rates by segmenting out recipients that never open your emails. This is done by updating fields for actions like last open, last click, first, and last sent. This makes it easy to create triggers within your emails that will protect the integrity of your lists.

Review your “opt-ins”

Many deliverability issues can be traced back to the origins of data collection. You only want customers on your email list that aren’t going to cause you problems. Which means, make sure you provide a way of opting out or unsubscribing.

Remove spam complaints

If you use a reputable ESP, this should happen automatically. The larger ESPs all provide feedback loops that essentially tell the ESP who has reported your email as spam and they will unsubscribe them for you.

Stay out of the spam folder

Bottom line, avoiding the spam folder is good for business. The numbers back this up:

  • Email can be up to 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined in helping businesses acquire new customers. (McKinsey)
  • 91 percent of adults like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with (MarketingSherpa)

Bottom line: By keeping your emails honest and your data clean, you’re building trust for your brand, business, service or product, while generating revenue.


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