How to Avoid Being Seen as a Spammer and Build Your Deliverability Reputation over Time

No Spam Barrier Blockade Barricade E-Mail FilterGetting an email into your subscribers’ inboxes shouldn’t be a challenge. After all, these are people who have asked to hear from you, so they want your email messages.

But thanks — or rather, no thanks — to spammers, email clients like Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL, and Outlook.com are on their guard nowadays, and are doing what they can to preserve the user experience, tightening and refining their spam filters to keep out the unwanted messages.

The good news is that there are things you can do to get on the email clients’ good side and ensure that your emails will be considered legitimate messages and not spam. Even better: They’re not hard to do.

Here are 9 tips.

1. Build a solid email list

Good email marketing starts with a great list of people who want to hear from you. That’s the most important thing you can do to ensure great email deliverability and avoid being flagged as a spammer. Only send to people who’ve opted in and given you their permission to email them. That means don’t purchase or rent lists; you don’t know how those names were acquired or who those people are, and those people will likely not appreciate receiving unwanted email from you.

2. Send good, relevant content

Your customers want and need certain information from you. They don’t want salesy and promotional copy. And neither do the email clients. Why? Among other reasons, because oftentimes, that’s the kind of copy that includes words that raise a red flag for the spam filters — words like “free” and “credit.” (Check out this list of the most popular words and phrases used in spam emails, compiled by InMotion, a web hosting company).

If you want your emails to be welcomed by both your subscribers and their email clients, continue to send content that’s relevant, helpful, entertaining, and interesting, and hold back on the sales copy. Focus on the kind of content your customers want to receive. (If you don’t know what kinds of content your customers want to receive, ask them!)

3. Pay attention to your subject line

“Good, revelant content” extends to your subject line. In addition to avoiding the aforementioned spam-trigger words when possible, it’s also a good idea to not use all capital letters and excessive punctuation. In addition, your subject line should accurately convey what’s inside your email, and should not be misleading or deceiving. An email client may not be able to recognize a deceptive subject line, but your recipient will, and that could lead to your email being considered spam.

4. Don’t send emails that are one large image

An email that’s just one large email is a frequent tactic used by spammers. That’s because if the entire content of your email is in an image, then the spam filters have nothing to read through and can’t figure out if your message is junk or not. As a result, sending an email that’s just one big image is a giant red flag for a spam filter.

5. Ask subscribers to white-list you

Your emails are almost guaranteed to arrive in your subscribers’ inboxes if they add you to their address books or contact lists. This is a practice known as “white listing” (as opposed to “black listing,” which you would not want to have done).

The most effective way to get subscribers to take this action is simply to ask them to do so in the welcome message you send when someone first signs up for your email list, but it wouldn’t hurt to include that kind of messaging in the header or footer of every subsequent email, just in case new subscribers haven’t determined your “inbox-worthiness” yet.

An example of what you can say is this: “Want to ensure you’ll always receive our email messages? Then take a quick moment to add our email address to your address book or contact list.”

6. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe

If people no longer want to receive your email, they are going to remove themselves from your email list one way or the other. That’s why it’s a good idea to put an unsubscribe link in a prominent place in your emails. After all, you’d rather have someone unsubscribe from your list than hit the Report Spam button, right?

7. Use social media strategically

It’s always a smart idea to integrate your email marketing and social media efforts, and this teaming can be an important way to ensure your email messages get to their intended recipients. For example, you can post to Facebook, Twitter, or whatever channels you use that your weekly/monthly/whatever email will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes later that day, or the next day, or whenever, and that people should be on the lookout for it. If you do that, and an email instead goes to the spam folder, then your subscriber will take action to move the message and mark it as not spam, and that will signal to the email client that it’s a wanted message from a legitimate sender.

8. Understand what spam filters are looking for

Much like the Google’s search algorithm, what the spam filters used by the email clients check for is a secret, and it changes often to keep up with new techniques that spammers use. But as a general rule, email clients ask all of the following questions when determining where to place an incoming message:

  • Is the sender on a black list? In other words, is it on a list of bad/forbidden senders?
  • Is the sender on a white list? Has the sender been officially welcomed in recipients’ inboxes?
  • What is the sender reputation? The sender reputation is a number or score assigned to the sending IP or the source of the email.
  • What is the domain reputation? This factor identifies the domain associated with the email sent, and assigns a spam score or penalty based on that domain’s email sending history.
  • Have there been any previous spam complaints? Have the sender’s emails been flagged previously as spam?
  • How active are the email list subscribers? If your messages regularly get small open rates or are deleted without being opened, that indicates to email clients that you’re sending low-quality email that is potentially unsolicited, and thus, spam.
  • What is the content of the email? How images are used, the words and context of the text (including the subject line) can both create spam problems.

9. Use an outsourced Email Service Provider

When it comes right down to it, the best thing you can do is use an email service provider (ESP) like ConnectedView. An ESP will look out for its customers, maintaining a high sender reputation, developing relationships with the email clients, applying for general white list acceptance, and providing best practices educational resources and support that will help you to keep your emails out of your customers’ spam folders.

The bottom line

If you don’t want to be considered a spammer and want to ensure high deliverability, stick to best practices: Only send to people who want to hear from you, and only send them the kind of email content they want to receive. The more you do that, and the more you become a reliable, non-intrusive presence in your customers’ inboxes, the less likely email clients will deem you a spammer.

What email deliverability questions do you have? Share them in the comments section below and we’ll answer them in a future blog post!

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