business-owning young woman working on email

So how do you avoid sending spam anyway? Can you keep your marketing emails out of spam folders or is it just inevitable that they’ll end up there?

If you want to sell your products and services, you need to be using email marketing. It’s just so effective compared to social media marketing. But I find lots of people are scared of being spammy or too salesy. 

Usually, I answer, “Well then, don’t send spam, and you’ll be okay.” And although that sounds a bit glib, it’s true. If you are genuine, provide value, and only sell things that you believe will be helpful to your subscribers, you won’t be spammy.

But sometimes, even when we are sending a sales email for something that will really transform the lives of our subscribers, something we truly believe in, we still can still get a bit carried away and drift into territory that alarms the webmail server spam filters.

In this article, I want to list out a bunch of reasons your emails could be getting marked as spam and ways to avoid them.

In a nutshell, the true answer is to send only emails that people would want to the people who agreed to receive email from you.

Note: this is generally for the US – other regions have instituted even stricter rules around email marketing.

Pin the image below to your Email Marketing board so you can come back to it easily!

Keep your emails out of spam folders.

8 Ways to Avoid Spam Filters

1| Be familiar the awesomely named CAN-SPAM Act of 2003

The key points are:

  • Don’t mislead your recipient. 
  • Don’t try to hide who your email is from to trick them into opening.
  • Don’t lie or over-promise in your subject line either.
  • Don’t pretend a marketing email is a reply to one of their emails or a forward from a friend.
  • If someone wants to unsubscribe, let them do so easily and immediately.

2| Ask recipients for permission to send them emails

Most marketers are going to use a form and call it an opt-in because you can’t just put someone on your list and give them the option to unsubscribe later. They need to proactively interact with you to get on your list. Either as a customer, or by explicitly signing up for your marketing emails.

To be 100% sure your subscribers want to be on your email list, most email providers will have an option to have people double opt-in to your list. This protects you  by giving your emails a little more credibility, but it does mean a little more trouble for your subscribers. 

To double opt in, site visitors will have to sign up and then click on a link within an email that tells your email software that the subscriber is sure they want to be on the list. I’m not currently using a double opt-in, but I will watch my statistics to see if open rates fall or any emails start to get marked as spam.

If you’re offering a lead magnet freebie, then be sure to let people know that they’re signing up for an email list as well. One way is to tell them what else you’ll be sending and how often. It’s also a good way to set expectations, which builds trust (as long as you do what you say you will!) 

3| Don’t buy email lists or scrape emails from websites

Email lists are full of email addresses that are old, expired, spam traps, and non-existent. Plus, the people attached to the addresses that are valid aren’t very likely to be in your target market. Even though it sounds great, It’s just a waste of money and effort all around.

The worst part is that if your marketing emails are caught in spam traps, your domain will be flagged as a sender of spam. Spam traps are monitored email addresses that are set up as bait either on lists or websites. Some are brand new, and some are older, expired addresses. Remember your first aol.com address??? If you send a marketing email to these email addresses, you will be flagged as a spammer.

4| Ask recipients to interact with your email

This is by far my favorite way to keep marketing emails out of spam folders. Interacting with your audience helps to build your relationship with them. You get to know each other and can better serve one another.

It also is what friends and legitimate email senders do. They email back and forth, they click on links each other sends. That engagement signals to email servers that the emails are expected and wanted. Here are some ways to interact through email:

  1. Ask subscribers to whitelist your email address, and provide instructions. I’m not sure that anyone actually whitelists email addresses, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If your address is on a whitelist, you’ll bypass the threat of the spam folder each time.
  2. Instruct your recipient to look in promotional or spam folders if they don’t get your email in a certain number of  minutes. If your email has landed in one of those folders and a user pulls them out and into the inbox, email servers will understand better that your email is wanted.
  3. Ask a question of your subscribers. By replying to your email, they’re acknowledging its value.
  4. Put calls to action in your emails. By interacting with your email, the recipient is indicating that the email isn’t spam. Some good ones are: forward this email, read the blog on the website, click here to download a worksheet.

5| Be careful of subject lines with FREE!

Many email software platforms like MailChimp will alert you if you have a subject line that makes your email look like spam. Avoid sounding like a slimy used car salesman and instead talk to your recipients like the individual people they are. 

This is hard sometimes for marketing professionals. We want to catch the attention of recipients, but there’s a line we need to avoid crossing. It’s better though to either be straight and to the point, or a little bit clever, rather than slick and yell-y.

6| Be careful if you have to send an executable file

Sending executable files via email is one way that hackers introduce viruses onto your computer. If you want to get an executable file to your subscribers, send them a download link or direct them to a page with the file download.

7| Send emails regularly

If adding calls to action to your emails is my favorite tactic, this is my second favorite. If you are sending valuable content on a regular basis, you can avoid the spam filters. You’ll have your subscribers trained to open your emails in anticipation of the great gems you’re sending. That engagement in turn will signal that your emails aren’t spam.

The regular part is as important as the value you send. Don’t give your subscribers a chance to forget you or the value you bring to their business. A great way to do this is through a newsletter.

8| List Clean Up

It’s sad, but even the greatest emailers have people who stop opening their emails. Sometimes it’s because their original problem has been solved, or they lose interest in your topic. They might still like you, but don’t need your info, so they stop opening your emails.

You have to either get those folks to open your email or remove them from your list. Their poor engagement rate brings down the average for your entire list. And if your engagement rate falls, email providers assume it’s because your emails’ value has dropped.

Now: Keep your emails out of spam folders!

Do you think you can avoid the spam filters now? Maybe you have a bit more confidence sending out emails. I hope so because I see too many clients who are afraid to send emails. And then they compound their problems because their subscribers start to forget about them and what they offer.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

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