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Keeping Your Emails Out of the Spam Folder

Posted 02nd April, 2015 by Aliysa

Email marketing is an incredibly effective way of re-engaging with your customers and driving repeat conversions to your site. For that reason, it's absolutely vital that your messages get seen by your audience, and aren't just left sitting in their spam folder.

Email clients (like Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo) use many different indicators to filter spam, including your recipient's reaction to your messages. Your email campaign must steer well clear of any tactic which could be construed as spamming, else you'll find yourself being flagged. Here are some of the most common pitfalls of email marketing that you must avoid in order to land safely in users inboxes.

Client Bots

All emails are scanned by client bots before they can reach the recipient's inbox, these bots use several indicators to decide whether the email is genuine or spam. In order to negotiate the spam-filtering process, you mustn't fall foul of any of the following mistakes:

Dangerous Links within Your Emails:

During the spam-filtering process, all links included within your message are scanned and followed. If any of these links point to sites containing known malware, you're at a high risk of being flagged as spam.

A best practice for email marketing is to only link to sites which you have 100% control over, so your campaigns don't get unexpectedly ruined by third parties. If you absolutely must link to a third party website, only contain links to legitimate reputable companies.

Poorly Crafted Subjects:

By now you've probably noticed that genuine spam follows a consistent trend of phrasing and style. Spam filters have learnt from this, and now meticulously scan emails to identify similar messaging patterns.

Avoid using capitalised words in your subject (thankfully "I" doesn't count), and using keywords like "buy", "deals" or "increase sales". These trigger words increase the chances of being marked as spam.

Ignoring Your Domain Name Reputation:

Email clients monitor the reputation of the domain name which is associated with your email address. This means that if one address on your domain name is flagged for breaking the rules, then all your other addresses will be flagged as well.

You might not think this is a problem so long as you stick to the rules, but this does make your campaign susceptible to rogue spammers. The nature of email means it's entirely possible for spammers to change the 'send address' of their messages so that it appears to come from you. If you get hit by this malicious tactic and email clients fail to spot the impersonation, it could damage your domain reputation.

If your domain name is flagged for spam, any emails which include a link to your site will also be flagged, as mentioned in my first point. Luckily, you can protect your reputation against any attack by external spammers by simply following these steps.

User Actions:

The action that users take after receiving your email is used as an indicator by spam filters. So, if a spam filter notices that a high percentage of your subscribers report your emails as spam or phishing, all future campaigns could be heading straight to the spam folder.

You can't control how users will perceive your emails, but there are steps you can take to help your campaign be better received:

Over-Hyped Content:

Standing out from the crowd is super difficult, so it's tempting to use an over-zealous subjects to hook your readers in - this click-bait method is guaranteed to increase the rate at which your recipients hit "report spam" or "send to junk".

For tips on crafting a headline that captures your audience's interest without overstepping the mark, check out our previous post.

Overuse of Imagery:

Avoid placing any of your email text within an image, as most clients fail to display images when the recipient first opens an email. If your audience can't see your message, they're almost certain to discard it.

On top of this, image-heavy emails are occasionally flagged before they reach user's inboxes. This doesn't mean you shouldn't include imagery in your content (you absolutely should), just that you need to pad out your media with useful text content as well. That way, if your images don't render then you can rely on your text copy to hook your audience in, and encourage them view the "image-friendly" version of your text.

Missing Legal Aspects:

There are a lot of laws surrounding email marketing and by overstepping these legal guidelines you increase the risk of your emails being reported for spam. The exact list of do's and don'ts is pretty complex, and depends on the type of email you're sending. A good place to get up to speed with the legal requirements is the Information Commissioner's Office website; here you will find comprehensive explanations of the legal aspects you need to consider before sending your campaign.

Unprofessional Email Addresses:

Say you receive newsletters from these two addresses, which one do you open and which one do you mark as spam?

  • communications@tsohost.com
  • alex-luvs-chocolate-123@tsohost.com

Ok, that's a silly example, but my point is that it's important to use a professional send address for your campaigns. Set yourself up with a personalised email address solely for marketing communications and redirect all responses to a dedicated email box. Not only does a personalised send address help increase brand awareness, it also reassures subscribers that your content is genuine when it lands in their inbox. If email clients spot that your emails are being deleted before they're even opened, they'll be more inclined to mark you as spam.


Do you take any other steps to keep your campaigns away from the dreaded spam folder? If so, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Categories: Tips

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