Digital marketers generally spend most of their time perfecting content, but spam filters can prevent readers from even seeing your messages. Many brands aren’t even aware of how many of their messages are being filtered out as spam.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to increase your delivery rate and make sure more emails reach their target inbox. This article will cover a few common reasons why spam filters flag particular emails along with the best strategies for optimizing deliverability.
Why Are My Emails Going to Spam?
Spam filters have been around for a long time, and they’ve gradually grown more complex as spam has become more of an issue. Contemporary filters use a wide range of factors to analyze every message, so your emails could be going to spam for a number of reasons. Understanding where you’re going wrong is the first step toward improvement.
1. No Permission to Contact Recipients
Spam emails are more prevalent than ever, and sending emails to people who haven’t opted in to your newsletter is a major red flag. In fact, you could be held responsible for as much as $40,000+ in penalties for sending messages without consent.
Paying for email lists full of spam traps is one of the most common reasons why businesses get flagged for emailing without permission. Acquiring such contact lists lead to significant consequences for your company.
2. Bad Sender Name
Boring sender names can make readers less interested in your content, while misleading subscribers with your sender name is illegal under the CAN-SPAM Act. Optimizing your sender name is a great way to improve performance and deliverability.
Of course, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t require businesses to use the same generic name for every email. You still have a lot of room to experiment with different names for a more personal touch.
For example, you can switch your sender name to your own name, the name of your business, the name of the newsletter, or anything else as long as it accurately represents who the email is coming from. Don’t forget to split-test different sender names to fine-tune your approach.
3. Inactive Subscribers
Spam filters are designed to remove content that users aren’t interested in, so it’s no surprise that subscriber activity is one of their main criteria. Businesses struggle with engagement for several reasons, and keeping your list active is an ongoing effort.
Although collecting emails takes long, don’t hesitate to delete inactive ones. They have no value, only spoil your sender’s reputation. There are some good practices on how to do it decently.
4. High Bounce and Complaint Rates
A high Bounce rate (more than 4%) usually means that the list is outdated, low quality, or purchased. Email clients (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo) treat such senders poorly and affect their senders’ reputation.
Most email clients give their users the ability to report emails as spam. Content may be filtered out if too many messages are reported. Ideally, your Complaint rate should be no more than 0.1%, or one in one thousand recipients. Most email marketing platforms automatically record and display this number.
5. Poor Image to Text Ratio
While images and other visual content can make emails more engaging, it’s also important to maintain a good balance between images and text. Image to text ratio is among the factors spam filters use to determine the relevance of incoming messages.
In general, you should try to avoid including more than roughly 40% of images to optimize deliverability. That said, images are a crucial element in virtually any email marketing campaign, so this doesn’t mean you should remove them entirely.
If you’re concerned about the effects of this balance on your performance, run a few A/B tests to compare different ratios. For example, you could evaluate the delivery rate at 20% and 50%. The comparison will help you develop a more reliable approach in the future and move away from strategies that negatively affect deliverability.
6. Spammy Text
Filters can’t always tell when an email is spam, so they use a variety of keywords to identify content that should be filtered out. It isn’t practical to remove every possible keyword from your messages, but you should avoid including too many and potentially blacklisting your own emails.
This list includes hundreds of words that could be picked up by spam filters. In general, language that’s overly sales-oriented or that misrepresent the email should be edited out. It’s more effective and sustainable to focus on truly relevant and valuable content than to use spam tactics to generate opens and clicks.
7. No Address or Unsubscribe Option
Physical addresses and unsubscribe buttons are two more areas in which spam regulations have gotten substantially stricter. Even if you avoid a fine, omitting either of these two will almost certainly hurt your delivery rate.
Not including an address is a particularly common mistake as small business owners may not be aware of the requirement. If you’re apprehensive about including your personal address in every email, you can always get a PO box and list that instead.
Similarly, your unsubscribe button needs to be conspicuous and easy to access. Underhanded tactics such as nearly invisible fonts, long unsubscribe forms, and empty space before the unsubscribe link will only backfire. Readers shouldn’t experience any hangups when attempting to unsubscribe.
8. Too frequent campaigns
During the last Black Friday, I received eight different emails from the same brand.
With no mercy, I reported it as spam. Even though I was interested in its communication, receiving so many messages in one day was simply too much even for such an email maniac as myself.
The moral here is simple: your subscribers shouldn’t be overwhelmed by receiving too many emails from you.
The ideal email frequency is 2-3 times per week. For daily senders: no more than once a day.
9. A sudden increase in the number of email messages sent
If a brand is typically sending to 10,000 subscribers and suddenly starts sending to 200,000, this spike will trigger spam folder (because email clients consider spikes as unexpected behavior and spam attack).
So, if you want to increase your contact list size, do that gradually.
10. Switching email service providers
Every switch of ESP makes an impact on your sender’s reputation. Every time after changing your email marketing tool you need to warm up your new sender’s reputation so email clients won’t identify you as a spammer.
11. Blacklisted IP Address
Fixing these problems is usually enough to avoid spam filters, but you may still have trouble reaching your target deliverability. In some cases, a sender’s IP address can negatively affect deliverability even after they’ve addressed all other issues.
Checking your IP’s status is surprisingly easy. MX Toolbox and similar services can check your IP against some of the most popular blacklists. While no search engine can cover every possible blacklist, this is a great place to start if you’re still not sure what’s responsible for your low deliverability.
Most reputable email marketing services have safeguards in place to avoid this problem, but there’s always a chance that your platform has been flagged by spam filters. Small email marketing companies are more likely to be unreliable as they don’t have as many resources to combat spam filters.
How to Prevent Email from Going to Spam
Now that you know some of the reasons why emails go to spam, you can start adjusting your own practices to maximize the deliverability. This section will cover some of the best places to start if you’re looking for ways to stop emails from going to spam.
1. Give Subscribers What They Want
Sending too much, too little, and too generic content are three of the top factors leading to unsubscribes and poor deliverability. Unfortunately, every subscriber has his or her unique preferences, so improving deliverability isn’t as simple as finding the “right” frequency.
Instead, you should consider giving readers more control over their own subscriptions. You can implement this by adding some options to your subscription form. So your new subscribers could choose what products they are most interested in.
Segmentation and sending the most relevant content also helps to avoid spam filters.
2. Implement Sender’s Warm-up Process
This practice is the most needed when you switching your email service provider. How to avoid spam filters and maintain your smooth transition, learn here.
3. Make sure your email is wanted
This means that the subscriber explicitly agreed to receive your promotional messages via email. That’s why lists must be opt-in and preferably GDPR-compliant.
The best way to achieve this is to put the sentence of consent in your signup form. See an example below:
4. Gradually increase sending volume
As already discussed, if you have hundreds of thousands of emails on your list, starting your email marketing by sending a campaign to all of them at once is a bad idea.
This is an example of gradual warm-up process.
5. Keep your contact list clean
30% of subscribers change email addresses once per year. So you should do contact list hygiene periodically.
If someone hasn’t clicked on your emails in the last 12 months, that subscriber should be treated as inactive and unsubscribed from your email marketing.
Such emails might later become spam traps and harm your reputation.
Pro tip: when you migrate from one ESP to another, at first migrate your best contacts who are actively engaging with your emails and start sending to them only.
That way you’ll gradually transfer your good reputation from one email service provider to another.
After a while, you can migrate the rest of the contact list.
Once again, migrate gradually. Start with a small list, then grow the number of email recipients.
Email deliverability is a complex issue with multiple components. Only following best email marketing practices and being patient can help you avoid the spam folder.
This article originally appeared in the Omnisend blog and has been published here with permission.