If you’re a small business owner, you might already know the benefits of having a strong email marketing strategy (since 4 billion people use email every day—almost the same amount as social media).
But your campaign can only succeed if your customers open the emails you send them. Spam and junk folders should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, there are myriad ways your emails can end up flagged as spam. But that’s okay—I’m always happy to provide more email marketing tips!
So, you want to know how to avoid marketing emails going to spam folders?
How to avoid spam filters
There are almost too many ways for your emails to get filtered out of a recipient’s inbox. It’s a little daunting. And some ways you can avoid the spam folder might seem complicated. But fear not—most of these methods are actually fairly simple!
Here are some of the best tips for avoiding the spam folder:
Send from a private domain name
When you have a small business, it’s tempting to use the least expensive (or, ideally—free) options at your disposal. For your business email, that could mean using your private email address or setting up a brand email on a free email client such as Gmail or Outlook.
While this solution might seem quick and easy, it can lead to some unwanted outcomes. First, these free services often lack automation tools and have daily send limits—sometimes as few as 100 emails a day!
Second, many of these services are filtered more aggressively. They can also come with a plethora of issues that could increase the chances of your email becoming reported as spam.
Consider setting up a private domain main for your business. Not only does it help your brand look more professional, it can avoid common spam folder pitfalls.
Set up email authentication
Have you ever had to use an authentication code to log into one of your accounts? Whether through an app or text, the site sends a string of numbers for you to enter to make sure it’s actually you.
Well, you can do the same with your email.
There are three “pillars” to email authentication:
- DKIM (DomainKey Identified Mail)
- SPF (Sender Policy Framework)
- DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance)
These pillars act as a sort of ID badge that lets ISPs receiving your email know that it comes from a legitimate server and IP address. It also provides reports that show you where all emails using your domain originate from so you can combat forged emails affecting your email reputation.
Build your email reputation
Though we might want to go all-in on our first big email campaign, it’s better to build our way up to it.
When you send emails, the receiving ISPs will probably check your email reputation.
Each ISP has their own specific criteria, but they all use the same three metrics:
- Bounce rate (percentage of emails sent to undeliverable addresses)
- Complaint rate (percentage of emails recipients report as spam)
- Spam trap hits (number of emails sent to addresses set up to detect spam)
A negative email reputation could lead to ISPs flagging your emails as spam, blacklisting your IP address, or blocking it altogether. Taking the time to build a positive reputation before creating a large campaign can help decrease your chances of ending up in the spam folder—and increase your chances of success!
Check your stats
As you build your email reputation, keep an eye on your metrics! Whichever email marketing service you use likely offers data reports. Checking these stats can help you keep track of open rates, bounce rates, and other metrics you can use to determine whether your emails are reaching your customers’ inbox.
By regularly monitoring your metrics, you can take action if things ever shift in the wrong direction. If your open rates go down quickly, you might need new content—or you could be facing the spam folder!
Comply with the CAN-SPAM Act
Have you ever heard that subscription emails are required to have an easy way for recipients to opt-out of receiving future messages? That’s thanks to the CAN-SPAM Act—a set of laws regarding the ways businesses can provide commercial messages to recipients. Complying with these rules doesn’t just keep your emails legal, it can actually help you avoid getting your emails flagged as spam!
Before you begin an email campaign, I recommend checking out the Federal Trade Commission’s page on the act HERE to familiarize yourself with it. The rules are firm, fair, and easy to understand.
Build (don't buy) your email list!
I understand it’s difficult to build a business with a small email list. Building a list of email subscribers on your own can take a lot of time and effort. Once you discover some people sell entire lists containing thousands of email addresses, it might seem like the best option you’ve got—but it’s not!
First, it’s probably not allowed by your email marketing service provider. To remain reputable, these services usually have a firm anti-spam policy.
Second, it’s likely illegal and in violation of the CAN-SPAM act.
Third, the people on this list are most likely unfamiliar with you and your band. Any emails you send them are probably going to be ignored, deleted, or worse—flagged as spam.
Instead, focus on taking the time to build your email list on your own. Try using an opt-in, permission-based email method. This method usually means offering something (a discount code, free e-book, etc.) in exchange for a customer’s email address. By using this method, you can build your email list, email reputation, and brand awareness simultaneously (and organically).
Avoid Spam Triggers
One way spam filters look for spam is by searching emails for spam trigger words in the subject line. These are words and phrases commonly used in spam and phishing emails. Through an internet search, you can find multiple lists of popular spam triggers you should avoid when creating your email content.
Some popular examples of spam triggers include the words/phrases:
- Make money
- Lowest price
- Cards accepted
- No hidden costs
- Eliminate debt
- Visit our website
- One hundred percent guaranteed
Avoid Spam Traps
Spam traps are email addresses set up to detect spam. As mentioned above, sending emails to these addresses can negatively affect your email reputation. It can also result in some ISPs blacklisting or blocking emails from your IP address. And the reason for that is simple:
These email addresses don’t belong to anyone. If an email reaches one of these addresses, filters assume you’re using nefarious means to send your email out to as many addresses as possible.
Some simple ways to avoid spam traps include:
- Don’t buy email lists (it’s worth repeating!)
- Use a double opt-in method (send a “confirmation email” for users to join your list)
- Monitor your email list and keep it up to date
Perform spam tests
One of the best ways to tell if your email is getting filtered out as spam: test it yourself! There are several ways to do this, but one of the most popular is a seed test.
If you have an email marketing service that has an email deliverability tool, it might offer a seed test. It sends your email to a seed list—real email addresses that help provide a host of deliverability metrics. You can use this data to help determine if it flagged your email as spam and why.
You can amend your email content (or create new content) based on your findings and test again until your email passes the seed test.
Other tests exist, so I encourage you to try out a few until you find one you like best!
Create engaging emails
I’ve learned that in marketing, nothing goes without saying. So, I’ll say it: give your customers engaging content!
Increasing your open rate can help you avoid the spam folder. In order to do that, it’s most helpful to create content your customers want. By creating clean, engaging, and relevant content, you can provide value and incentive to recipients for opening your email.
Bonus tip: Personalize your "To:" field
As you create your email list, create personalized names for your recipients! Each email client might have different options on how to do this, but it’s usually a simple process.
And the reason to do so is also simple: emails only addressed to the email address of the recipient (and not a name) are more likely to be flagged as spam!