High email deliverability isn't something you reach once and then enjoy. Landing in your customers' inboxes results from non-stop efforts as email spam filters criteria continuously improve. And, unfortunately, getting to spam can happen to beginners and experienced digital marketers. You can face this even after the proper warm-up of your domain or when your mail list is healthy and subject lines shine – spam filters can once mark your brilliant message as a spam email. But how to prevent this?
- Choose the trustworthy domain extension and human-like sender name for the address.
- Set up the email authentication criteria.
- Personalize your emails and send them to the addresses of real people.
- Regularly check your mail list to keep it healthy.
- Polish the content of your email message.
- Add an unsubscribe link.
- Send up to 100 emails a day.
These are only top-level tips that will help your newsletters or outreach campaigns not get into your recipients' spam emails. And from this article, you'll learn why email goes to spam and how to avoid spam filters. Moreover, you'll see what mail servers categorize spam content and keep it in mind while composing your emails.
1. Technical Fundamentals to Increase Your Email Deliverability
What's the difference between email deliverability and delivery? Both rates relate to delivered emails, so even marketers sometimes confuse them. Well, they differ by the number of emails that land in a spam folder, so the deliverability rate will always be a smaller number. And here is an effective spam checking tool, and below are some technical tips that can prevent your messages from going to spam.
1.1 Fine-Tune Your Sender Address: Domain and Extension
Choose a domain name with a trusted extension. That's because spammers prefer the opposite, striving to get into as many subscribers' inboxes as possible. Since almost every email is blocked by a spam filter, he needs to acquire more domains to get through filters. For this, he'll purchase uncommon extensions and choose creative company names. This way, your sender reputation will be better if you use domain extensions like ".com," ".io," and web address abbreviations used for your country. Also, don't add numbers or special symbols to your domain name.
1.2 Choose the Proper Format of Your Email: First, Last, and Brand Names
The best approach to generating an email address is to add your first and last names to it. We have more trust in an email that looks this way "[email protected]" than the generalized "[email protected]" So, the more your email address looks like it belongs to a real person, the fewer chances it has to be marked as spam. Make it nominative instead of generic; avoid mentioning your company name and avoid any combinations of brand and personal names. Such a format of a sender address is more reliable because it's used in large corporations and organizations.
That's why emails sent from similar addresses have more chances not to get to the junk folder and avoid email spam filters.
1.3 Setup Authentication Parameters for Email Service Providers: SPF, DKIM, DMARC
The essential way to prove to your recipients' email service providers that you send legitimate emails is to use identification protocols. These three can help both parties: recipients stay protected from phishing emails and unsolicited messages, and senders don't get into the junk mail folder. But let's find out how each protocol works.
- SPF (Sender Policy Framework). When this standard is set up, your email has an SPF record. This record states all domains eligible to send emails on behalf of your company or brand. SPF authentication is equally helpful if you have only one domain (or sender's IP). For example, you send each email campaign from separate domains or use email automation tools. When service providers receive your email, they open the SPF record to check if it's sent from the authorized domain. If so, your message goes to the recipient's inbox; if not, it can be marked as spam or quarantined.
- DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail). This protocol uses public-key cryptography as a spam filter. With it, recipients' email service providers verify the sender's server reputation. DKIM can protect email campaigns from spoofing –– changing the initial legitimate emails by hackers. That's possible due to an encrypted signature added to an email header. The inbound service providers can read this signature with the attached public key and then compare it to the private DKIM key left at the sender's server: they should be the same. Still, it's necessary to understand that the DKIM protocol doesn't encrypt the message itself –– for this purpose, TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocols are used.
- DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance). This protocol states how email service providers should treat emails that don't pass your SPF and DKIM verifications. Such emails aren't simply unwanted emails; they are fraudulent and, thus, dangerous. That's why you need to instruct mailbox providers to move it to the spam folder and block the sender. This way, DMARC protocol helps senders and receivers collaborate to detect spammers and protect the sender reputation of email marketers.
Neither of these settings is obligatory, but they create additional security layers against attackers. And without the optional SPF, DKIM, and DMARC protocols, emails can still get to the recipient's inbox. However, no one guarantees that they won't get to a spam folder. But the danger is that hackers can attack and alter your messages before they reach your readers –– to spread malware and steal your subscribers’ personal information or payment details. That's why it's vital to make at least these basic settings before launching your email campaigns.
1.4 Specify Custom Tracking Domain: Tracking Code and URL
If you use a sending service for email marketing, this software inserts the default URL and tracking code in each message body. This is done to measure users' interaction with your email campaign as the tracking code monitors the number of openings and clicks. The more email subscribers read your messages and follow the links, the stronger is the reputation of such service providers, so your marketing emails will pass through spam filters. But the problem is that once such email service tools are used by spammers too, your domain reputation will be affected, and your emails can be categorized as spam too. So, to secure your reputation from the actions of other email marketers, set up your tracking domain.
2. What You Need to Know About Your Email List
Did you know that inactive email addresses can quickly drop your email deliverability and affect sender reputation? That's because of bounces –– notifications from email service providers that your recipient's inbox either doesn't exist (hard bounce) or is currently unable to receive messages, i.e., full (soft bounce). When you regularly get bounces, this is an alert for email filters that your marketing emails look suspicious, and your domain can get into a blacklist. That's one of the main reasons why purchasing contact lists is harmful to your business –– they can contain a non-existent or abandoned email account or include emails of uninterested users who'll move your messages to the junk folder. So, here are several principles that will help keep your email list healthy.
2.1 B2B Emails with High Open Rates: Basic Features
This section will refer to B2B companies because there are no recommendations for private mailbox addresses that most often have Hotline, Yahoo, and Gmail account registrations.
- Add corporate email addresses that include first and last names.
You've seen this advice above in section 1.2, and the same email rules need to be applied to your contacts. So, your target email addresses need to have trusted domains and extensions and comprise preferably full first and last names. No numbers, no special symbols, no generic addresses, or mentioning brands before the at character. But why not let your commercial email land in your recipient's inbox, even if that inbox looks like "[email protected]?" That's because it might be forwarded to the recipients who'll treat your offer as unwanted emails, and it'll end up in a spam folder. And this takes us to the next point – personalization.
- Add recipient and company names to your message.
The first reason to greet your recipient by name and refer to his or her company is apparent – we all appreciate not only valuable but also personalized emails, especially if they're cold email marketing messages. You shouldn't do this in the subject line, but mentioning both names in the opening line will be a great way to start your pitch and engage the reader. People trust personalized emails more, so your open and, hopefully, reply rate can grow only due to these simple tricks. The second reason is that personalized emails don’t look spammy.
- Send emails to the relevant audience.
Offering your products or services to as many people as possible doesn't work anymore. Pushy sales techniques are inappropriate and dangerous for email marketing campaigns because irrelevant emails with aggressive selling can rarely avoid going to spam. That's why your outreach campaigns should be targeted and delicate – to minimize the harm and maximize the effectiveness. If, for example, you promote an AI-based email automation tool, your target audience is digital marketers and sales reps. But once you offer it to someone from the accounting or HR departments, they'll probably delete this spammy email to never see it again in their email inbox.
2.2 Use LinkedIn to Get Relevant Contacts
LinkedIn users usually keep their profiles updated to represent their social status and interests. For an email marketing manager, this means that fresh and complete information about each potential client can be easily collected. There are plenty of tools that can accumulate emails, job titles, company names, industry, and professional interests of your audience. Moreover, this social network can help pick up the right moment to reach out to users with your offer. Tools that use Artificial Intelligence and the method of entity embeddings need minutes to analyze comments, posts, and reactions of a LinkedIn member and send an engaging and timely proposal. With this approach, you'll probably never send a spam email again!
3.3 Clean Your Email List
Even the most relevant email list from LinkedIn doesn't guarantee 100% deliverability. That's because, for users, you are an unknown sender, so minor irrelevance in your content can irritate them, and your offer will join their junk emails. So, you'll have to remove companies from non-relevant industries, your direct competitors, and even current customers from this email list. Check the job titles as often work positions may contain your keyword but not be the exact match (or be quite far from it) — for example, "CEO" and "personal assistant to CEO." By the way, often, people interchange their first and last names, which may affect your email marketing campaigns. Once you read "Hi, Simpson" instead of "Hi, John" in 2022, you'll probably become a spam filter yourself and ban such a sender. And if you collect emails from subscribers, make sure to set the double opt-in sign-up option and put spam traps to block bots and secure your list from fake addresses. Spambots can't fulfill the double opt-in as they don't reply to emails.
And, it's totally inexcusable to ignore checking the validity of your emails. Today you can choose your favorite spam checking tool to estimate bounce rates. When you have your list classified into successful, risky, and undeliverable addresses, delete the last group right away. And, whichever spam tester you prefer, keep the bounce rate of your outreach below 4%. To do this, you should start by sending emails to the addresses of the reliable group. After your domain matures with reliable addresses, start adding the "Risky" ones. But keep in mind that once sent altogether, they can result in 20% of bounce rates, and spam filters can block you, so don’t let them exceed 25% of all emails in your outreach.
3. Creating Email Content that Shines
Even if your subject line was catchy enough to motivate your readers to open the email, the spam folder is still one click away. Now it's time to prove that you bring value through your content. And here are several tips on avoiding junk email folders with the help of decent texts.
3.1 Make Your Offers Sound Personal and Send Up to 100 Emails per Day
Being personal is always good: your subscribers enjoy the value you bring while you land in subscribers' inboxes and benefit from the higher open and click-through rates. In addition, even minimal personalization prevents your messages from going to spam as your emails differ (which isn't the case for spam newsletters). So, once you start to demonstrate the behavior of a human, you should be consistent. This means that composing and sending several hundred emails looks suspicious to filters, and they can easily categorize such outreach as spam emails.
3.2 Avoid Spammy Elements
- Attachments. Sending attachments is typical for hackers who want to compromise personal data, and antispam algorithms know that. That's why you should never attach files, but if there's a document you need to share, use links to official and reliable sharing tools. However, including links needs to be done smartly – read on.
- Links. Unfortunately for digital marketers, links in emails are also associated with spam. And even one legitimate link can spam the entire email campaign. This means you need to be careful with links and send only HTTPS secure web addresses – these, for example, have a little lock sign in the Google Chrome browser.
- Images. It's always great to make your audience smile with a fun meme or generate more leads with attractive pictures of your products. But the general approach to images is the same as for the last two categories: the fewer, the better. This also includes your signature logo, so you'd better delete it. You also shouldn't use too much HTML formatting since humans don't do that.
- Spam trigger words and punctuation. Don't put several exclamation or question marks together, and don't write in capital letters as they alert spammy patterns. Also, keep your texts free of grammatical errors. And the most tricky recommendation is to avoid spam trigger words. The first idea associated with spam words is probably sensual content that falls under CAN-SPAM Act rules that we cover below. But unfortunately, the list of spam trigger words includes hundreds of words and symbols from various topics, and this list keeps growing.
- Mind the CAN-SPAM Act requirements. This abbreviation stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing. CAN-SPAM Act was the first US standard for commercial emails adopted in 2003 as a response to the rapidly growing number of junk e-marketing campaigns.
There are several requirements that your email should meet to stay in line with the CAN-SPAM Act, and they're pretty reasonable:
– Your header shouldn't be vague or misleading.
– The subject lines should describe the content of the message.
– You should mention that your message has commercial goals.
– Stating your physical address that includes your current street address and post office box is obligatory because a valid location will help customers and the postal service reach you. The postal service can deliver important official notifications, so your business address should be correct.
– Add an unsubscription option. It should be easily identifiable so that users can submit their opt-out requests.
– Make sure to unsubscribe users who have already set such email preferences and keep their addresses private and secured as per GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) requirements.
– Control all outreach run on behalf of your company. It's your responsibility to monitor all marketing activities to keep them compliant with all current laws and regulations.
3.3 How to Make Recipients Love Your Emails
One of the main reasons your emails go to the spam folder is that users mark them spam. And multiple factors can influence their decision. The reasons can start from not liking your name or the mistake you made in their name, the irrelevance of your offer, negative attitude to your brand or product to receiving too many emails, or just being in a bad mood. That's why, as we said earlier, you need to target your audience, personalize your offers, create content without grammatical errors, communicate it in a non-pushy manner, and find the right time to send it. And then don't be too persistent with follow-ups and leave the door to unsubscription open.
3.4 Add an Easily Identifiable Unsubscription Link
If your emails are inapplicable, people get annoyed and want to stop seeing them immediately. In this case, the only option that won't affect your deliverability is to let them unsubscribe. So, a visible and workable link is essential; otherwise, you'll end up in a junk folder, and email providers will block your domain.
4. Avoiding the Spam Folder in 2022: Choosing the Proper Email Volumes
The more human-like behavior you demonstrate from your domain, the more chances you have to avoid spam folders. That's why you need to send as few emails per day as possible. Ideally, you shouldn't exceed 100 messages, excluding warming ones. If you need to send more, purchase more domains, but create one email address per one domain. This is necessary to ensure that other addresses won't be affected if one domain gets to spam. You'll also need to delay sending every following email to emulate human touch. By the way, automation tools know and also do that. The last thing – do the warming not only before launching your campaigns, but during them too, and be consistent with your sending schedule.
This guide should help your emails stay away or get out of the spam folders in 2022, so good luck!