Is there a chance that your cold email will land in a junk folder? Yes, because every fourth or fifth message does. Is it possible to prevent your email campaign from going to spam? Yes, by growing your email deliverability. And you should start this journey from spam testing.
What's the Process and Results of Spam Testing?
Spam testing is just sending test emails to various email providers. You can do it yourself, use a free tool, or employ paid email testing software. Let's take a quick look at these options.
Doing the Spam Test Manually
For running your own email deliverability test, you'll need to send 10-15 emails to valid and accessible email addresses. That's because you need to know if your message lands in every recipient's inbox. You can ask your friends with Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, and other personal inbox providers to tell you if your email is delivered to spam.
However, if you work for a B2B audience, you'll need to check paid services like Office 365 and Google Workspace. Though emails are delivered by the same email clients (Outlook and Office 365, Gmail and Google Workspace), their spam filters work differently.
To run your spam test for corporate addresses, you can ask, for example, your former colleagues or current partners to get involved. The main point is to check the mail servers you plan to send real email campaigns to. Otherwise, such a test won't be informative.
Doing the spam testing on your own will result in two numbers: emails that landed in spam and those delivered to inboxes. You probably know that the ratio of the second number to the quantity of all sent emails is called email deliverability.
And the success of your cold outreach directly depends on this parameter. But even when you know that percentage, how to understand if it is okay? And if not, how to increase this parameter, and what and are there other factors impacting your sender score? A free online testing tool will tell more.
Testing Your Sender Reputation with Email Testing Tools
Automatic spam tests, in general, do the same: they send your email to various mailboxes and return with a score showing the reputation of your email address. This usually will be a number from 1 to 10, so you'll get a general idea about your status. Some email spam testing instruments also check if your domain appears on any blacklist test if your DNS records are set correctly.
However, you’d better use the spam test service to learn what holds your email deliverability back. Such platforms usually warm up your email domain, do email validation before sending marketing campaigns, and grow your open rates. They have an extensive group of specialists representing your "email" target audience as they use the most popular email clients.
Professional email spam testing instruments embrace the whole bunch of activities aimed at skyrocketing your deliverability rate. With their paid plans, you won't have to deal on your own with messages going to spam. But even if you have the best email testing software, it's always helpful to learn how to improve your sender reputation and avoid possible mistakes with your next outreach.
What Are the Reasons for a Failed Spam Test?
The percentage of emails going to spam depends on the credibility of the domain name of your mailbox. And we're going to describe several factors that affect your email reputation in the eyes of spam filters.
1. When You Don't Warm-up Your Email Address
When you register a new email address, this mailbox isn't yet ready to send 300 cold emails a day. Your mailbox is neutral for spam-detection algorithms, and you need to build its reputation step by step. Email service providers need to ensure they can trust you before switching on the green light for your outreach. So, you need to start with 5-10 emails a day and gradually grow this number to the maximum possible.
However, if your daily target volume won't exceed 200 emails but your mail server allows 300, you obviously don't need to do the warm-up for another week. Warming one inbox can take around 2-3 months, and there's no way to speed up this process. If you hurry to send out your 200 with the current limit, say, of 180, inbox providers may treat the whole campaign as spam. To understand this, let's see how warm-up happens.
How does email warming work?
Behind a professional warm-up service stands a team of specialists. These people pretend to be your target audience for anti-spam programs. They have emails registered with nearly all email service providers, and once your email is marked as spam, they take it out and mark it important. As for other messages, they open, forward, send replies, and follow links.
Such interaction with your recipients proves to all popular spam filters that hackers don't attack your mailbox, and the content is relevant. So they will let you send more the next day. And any spam test will count such consistent work, showing how email deliverability grows with time. And in contrast, if your messages keep going to spam, remain unread, get deleted, or are marked as spam, your domain can be blacklisted.
Content of warm emails matters too
Simulating the behavior of your leads, potential customers, or clients, the email warming team will need to interact with your cold emails. So, they will send replies. Maybe that could sound surprising years ago, but now in 2022, email content is also checked for spam. We'll talk about it in the fourth section, but at this point, you need to see that it's critical to mind the email copy for passing an email spam test.
This means those messages should be relevant, so asking questions about product or pricing, setting appointments or demos –– such engagement will look natural. And such communication should go both ways regularly. And if there are no issues with outgoing messages, you won't get as many incoming emails. Well, until you, for example, subscribe to some industry leader or influencer.
Manual email warming? No way!
If crafting, sending, and engaging with 10-15 emails a day doesn't seem to be a challenging task, you’ll change your mind after a couple of weeks. Even if you register a single inbox to manage accounts of various providers, when the number of daily messages grows to 50, you'll need to take a small team on board for this task. But asking for professional assistance is more cost-effective, time-saving, faster, and more efficient. So, let experts do the thing while you monitor their work through email testing tools.
2. When You Don't Check Your Contact List for Invalid Emails
Do you regularly check your contact lists for bounce emails? Bounce email addresses are those returning you a bounce notification. You get a soft bounce if your recipient's mailbox is full and technically can't accept your email. A hard bounce arrives once you send an email to an address that doesn't exist. Both types, if received regularly, will take your sender reputation down, and any mail tester will prove that.
The sender score is a 0-100 number that inbox providers assign to IP addresses and domain names. And most spam tests show this rate. The critical level is 70, while 80+ is considered to be good. Once your score falls below 70, it becomes a flag for anti-spam programs to block such email addresses. So, to get onto a blacklist, you don't have to get your emails moved to the spam folder only. Wrong email addresses also can do that, especially if you neglect regular email validation.
How do invalid emails get into your contact base?
There are several ways for you to get wrong emails in your lead contact base:
- Typos in email addresses and fake sign-ups
When you generate leads for email marketing in exchange for lead magnets, it's essential to verify such emails. Because there can be unintentional mistakes in the addresses, you get in exchange for a free ebook, relevant brochure, trial subscription, etc. However, this is only true when you don't use the double opt-in to prevent yourself from adding non-existing emails to your contact base.
The same is true for spambots who search the internet for signup forms. These programs add invalid emails for various reasons. One of them is learning your valid email for sending spam or even more dangerous email spoofing. Spoofing is changing your legitimate email before it reaches recipients. Hackers do that to ask users to follow links or do other fraudulent actions. This way, attackers can access personal data and banking transactions, so unverified emails can harm a lot.
So, when you use emails from your subscriptions for email campaigns, ask your future subscribers to go to their mailboxes and click the link to complete the subscription and confirm that they aren't bots. Though some business owners prefer not to bother their audience with additional actions, double opt-in secures you from bounce messages. And add spam traps for sign-up forms: bots will tick those little boxes invisible to humans and reveal themselves.
If people are interested in your offer, they'll resubmit their address once they don't get a confirmation email due to mistyping their emails. Or, if users just want to get a freebie, additional action can irritate them. And prevent your future email from being deleted or moved to a junk folder.
Each email testing tool will help you identify non-existing addresses and help to keep your list healthy.
- Purchased contact bases
Though many business owners hear that ready contact bases are dangerous, buying thousands of already collected emails for a budget-friendly price is a desirable option, especially if you need contacts quickly. If you also think that someone did your homework of lead research and now is ready to share that contact data almost for free, let's see why you shouldn't.
– The list can contain non-verified emails. The chances are low that those who sell ready-to-use contact bases bother verifying at least some of their addresses. And you need to be sure of each because they directly impact your bounce rates (read more about them below).
– The list can include emails of users who never agreed to get your emails. What's the first thing you do when totally irrelevant emails reach your inbox (you usually judge it by the subject line)? Right –– you delete them without reading. And spam algorithms count for every interaction with your messages.
Your authority grows once your recipients open, reply, or follow links in your messages. But when users leave messages unopened, delete them before or after opening –– anti-spam software tracks such activity against your reputation. And deletion is not so harmful for your domain reputation as marking your cold emails as spam. And here we return to the idea that most probably the contacts in the list you buy don't want your emails.
If your product or service isn't interesting for them (and will never be), each email from your campaign will be annoying. They can delete it once or twice, but such spam keeps landing in their inboxes. So, they mark it accordingly, moving to the spam folder. One, two, three times more, and spam-detection algorithms can classify you as a spammer. And, unfortunately, there's little you can do about that except breaking the annoying sequence by letting recipients opt-out from your emails through unsubscribing –– we share some more information about this below.
– The list most probably consists of a non-relevant audience. This case is the "lighter'' version of the previous one. Instead of a hyper-segmented audience that you could collect on Linkedin with AI-powered lead researching tools, you get a list of people who hardly need your product or service or have already bought it from your competitors.
Unfortunately, one contact list can be sold to several companies. And rest assured that at least some of your competitors did the same. And while you keep bombarding the poor user with similar offers with other companies, they start to hate your brand.
And, don't neglect the fact that unhappy users can share their frustration on your social media page. So, hundreds of loyal customers and potential clients can be surprised with such an aggressive selling approach. You carefully craft each email, stressing the product value and personalizing each line in your message to one group of recipients. And turn to be disturbing and pushy to others. "What's wrong with these guys?" they think.
– The list can be outdated. Even if the purchased contact base was collected according to relevant criteria, this could have been done months ago. And there's only a little chance to keep your readers happy with emails about vacuum cleaners that they have already bought –– hoping that they will come to you for more one day.
You can send relevant and desirable offers only when you have thoroughly researched the audience and segmented potential buyers. And though this is a tough nut to crack, this lead generation technique is the only effective and beneficial for all parties.
Moreover, people delete their mailboxes and abandon them. So, if this address was valid and actively used a couple of months ago, today, you can get the non-delivery message because the inbox is full (get a soft bounce).
– The list includes mistakenly combined addresses. Suppose your sellers did their jobs and searched LinkedIn. This way, they generate a contact base with people who can be interested in your service or product.
They collected the first and last names of users who hid their emails and combined them. Yes, such techniques work, but they failed to do spam testing to verify each address. Bad news for your bounce rate, but you'll know about it later.
How to check the contact list for bounce rates?
Use your testing tool to check the bounce rate that your contact list can return. The tool assesses email addresses and usually classifies them into three groups. One of them will show invalid emails, and you should immediately eliminate all of those addresses. They are dangerous for your brand reputation, so don't regret such a "loss."
Another group of emails that your spam test will identify consists of correct and reliable addresses. So, with these, you can start your first outreach because you can be sure that their providers won't return bounce notifications. For, high bounce rates are harmful to new mailboxes, as they can make filters put your domain on a blacklist.
The last, third group of emails includes, let's say, the majority of correct emails. You'll probably get some recommendations from your testing tool, but try to keep the rule simple. To prevent your messages from going to spam, you need to keep your bounce rate not higher than 4-5%. And, with reliable contacts, you can grow it to nearly 100%. Now add 4-5 emails from the "uncertain" yellow list to keep the healthy balance.
Even if you get a non-delivery notification about each of those risky emails, you'll still keep your domain safe. And so, little by little, under a thorough control, you'll use every email from your list without compromising your sending authority.
Make the unsubscribe link visible and workable
When your recipients don't want to get your emails, give them a chance to tell you about this politely. Don't make people angry with email sequences that seem never-ending to them. They get tired of ignoring and deleting them, and one day may blow and mark you as spam.
However, many users can run their own email outreach or read about its features, so they know about the magic button "Unsubscribe." Once recipients use this, you don't have to worry about gaining a spammy reputation. Everything happens legitimately.
However, make sure that the link is clickable and that the service works correctly, so your "unsuscribers" don't get your messages again. And avoid making users follow tons of redirecting links to finally get what they want. Make it in one click or two if you want to offer unsubscription options.
3. When You Don't Set up DNS Records
Setting technical parameters is the easy-to-get but highly effective anti-spam protection. At first, you can get lost in all those settings, but start with the detailed reports on DNS settings your email testing tool delivers. And below are some more details about basic email security records.
The Sender Policy Framework Record sets the IP addresses authorized to send emails on your behalf. This setting is essential if you use a sending service, and don't forget to add new IPs if you use several email sending tools or change them. This record will also help avoid spoofing attacks and let you send legitimate emails from different subdomains.
It's good to separate the main domain from the one for email outreach. However, you won't need two landing pages. Once your recipients decide to go to get.domain.com, make sure they're redirected to the domain.com web page.
The DomainKeys Identified Mail Record is used for encrypting the header of your email. It's like the digital signature confirming that the message wasn't changed on the way from the sender to the recipient. DKIM isn't an obligatory setting for sending an email, but it's a good way to secure it from going to spam.
The Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance Record can't work separately from the previous two. That's because it instructs the recipient's email provider what to do with the messages that failed the SPF spam test or didn't meet the DKIM spam testing parameters.
Other DNS records
Setting other DNS records will help to grow your authority for anti-spam software and, consequently, grow your spam testing rate. The most well-known parameters are the A Record matching your domain name with IP address, CNAME Record redirecting users from subdomains to the main website, and MX Record identifying the receiving server for your incoming emails.
Custom tracking domain
Mail providers automatically set their tracking domain to monitor open and click-through rates and clicks on the unsubscription links. This is done by default, but you need to change that URL for your dedicated subdomain.
This way, you'll eliminate the influence of the email provider on your deliverability. In addition, you'll gain more trust with your recipients, setting up the branded tracking code.
4. When Your Email Content Includes Spam Triggers
The first spam association that comes to mind is spammy words and phrases. And the number of spam trigger words grows every year, and these lists are available online. So, when creating the email content, avoid such triggers.
It's not that obvious, but punctuation can also look suspicious for spam-detection programs. When professional marketers and copywriters work with email creation, they won't put multiple exclamation marks in a message’s body or subject line. Advanced email testing tools can do spam analysis of an email text, including its subject line.
Another risky option is sending attachments. Leave this option to true spammers, and don't make your tech-savvy potential buyers get rid of your value proposition without even giving it a chance. It might be a pity for your marketing strategy, but including links into cold outreach is also not good. As well as images and GIFs.
To tell the truth, all these elements aren't really helpful when you first meet with your lead. The only image and a link that will make your message look more reliable are your picture and the reference to the LinkedIn account.
Lack of personalization is also a spam trigger. That's because emails become similar –– just like those "Dear Customer" mass outreach sent out by spammers. So such basic features as the recipient's name and company name are a minimum to show your respect.
When you open a cold email from a personalized corporate email, see the picture of a sender, and get the proof on social media, you don't want to move it to junk, do you? Popular email testing tools boast the preview testing feature, so use it to see how your message will look in different mailboxes.
Final Thoughts on Email Testing
Suppose you want to prevent your email campaigns from going to spam. In that case, you need to warm up your mailbox, keep your contact list healthy, set up technical parameters, craft trigger-free email copy, and regularly do spam testing of your email addresses.
However, even if you follow all the recommendations, there's no guarantee that spam filtering algorithms won't stop your outreach. That's because they become more complex and are regularly updated.
But with the Folderly email testing tool, your email deliverability will be regularly tested and professionally maintained. And, once your messages get into a spam folder, our specialists will recover your sender score.