How to avoid the spam filter
Have you had that heart sinking moment when you’ve spent time crafting an attractive, engaging email to then discover it has fallen straight into the spam folder for many recipients?
The good news – you’re far from alone – about 20% of all emails land directly in the spam folder.
The bad news – you haven’t reached all of your target audience and your campaign will be limited to what it can achieve. What’s worse is that today’s spam filters are rigorous and really very intelligent, so we are likely to be faced with the spam folder more and more in the future.
It’s worth persevering
Despite the spam challenges, email as a channel is very successful. The number of global email users has been on a steady rise and that increase is set to continue.
Email clearly isn’t going anywhere so let’s have a look at everything you need to know about spam filters so you can help keep your emails out of the dark world of spam and junk folders.
10 reasons your email has been classified as spam
First let’s explore why your email may have landed in the spam folder. Then we can address what you need to do differently.
1. Bad IP reputation
Any IP (Internet Protocol) address that has been the source of spam, and subsequently gets a bad reputation, goes onto a blacklist. The blacklist is constantly being updated and all email providers have access to the list. If an IP address is on the list, all emails received from that IP address will automatically be deposited in the spam folder.
2. A lack of, or incorrect, SFP, DMARC and DKIM
First let me explain what these acronyms mean:
- SPF (Sender Policy Framework) tells the receiving email provider which servers are allowed to send emails from your domain. This is relevant if you use a third-party system to send your emails. For example, all NewZapp customers need to add our IP address to their SPF record.
- DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) is used as a security blanket. It tells the receiving email provider that the email was authorised to be sent from that domain.
- DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) – one that definitely needs an acronym – what a mouthful! The DMARC is a record that tells your server what to do with spam reports. Usually that is to do nothing but without this instruction, spam filters will be suspicious.
If you are using an email communication platform your supplier will help you with this. If you aren’t, you’ll need to ensure they are set up correctly before you embark on any kind of mass emailing.
3. Your target audience isn’t interested
It isn’t always technical wizardry that’s responsible for you being marked as spam. If you’re sending messages to people who don’t want to read it, they can mark your message as spam too. Send enough irrelevant emails to disinterested people and you’ll soon be filling up those spam folders.
Email providers will look at interactions and engagement with your past campaigns. If recipients have shown their disapproval and engagement has been poor, the spam filters will automatically put future campaigns into spam.
4. Spam trigger words
These will be picked up by content filters. Words that offer deals, promote explicit material and tap into human emotions are high on the list.
Listen back to our spam webinar for a complete list of these words.
5. A no reply address
If you can’t actually reply to an email (i.e. if the email from address says firstname.lastname@example.org) you’ll be considered spam straight away.
6. Broken links
A basic 101 of email campaigns, but surprising how many times it is missed. If the links in your emails don’t work, the email providers wont like it.
7. No unsubscribe option
If you make it difficult to unsubscribe, or fail to include an unsubscribe function, spam filters will question your integrity.
8. No company details
Legally you need to include key business information, such as registered address and company number. If that is absent, you’ll get a black mark from the spam filters.
9. Individually set rules
As email users we have a lot of control over our accounts. We can all set specific rules that apply to every email we receive. For example, I may set a filter that looks for the $ symbol in the body or subject of the email. If located, I’ll instruct my filter to push that email into the spam folder.
10. Intelligent email providers
This is the clever tech bit. Known as a Bayesian filter, an email system learns your preferences by examining what emails you mark as spam. It observes the content of those ‘spam’ emails, identifies trends and sets up filters that mirror those you are pushing to spam. Over time, the look-a-like emails will automatically be pushed into the spam folder.
11 ways to prevent your emails from becoming spam
Now that we have a good understanding of why your emails might be falling into the spam folder lets run through everything you can do to prevent them getting there.
1. Ensure you comply with UK law
As well as ensuring you are abiding by GDPR regulations there are a few other requirements by UK law. Every email you send must include:
- Your company name (registered name and company number if a limited company)
- Your address (or registered office address)
- Country of company registration (i.e. Scotland or England & Wales)
- An unsubscribe link
If you are using an email platform to send your emails, make sure they comply with UK law too. If their servers aren’t based in the UK, there’s a chance they won’t be compliant.
2. Make sure your SPF records, DKIM and DMARC signatures are set up
If using an email platform this should all be sorted for you. If you aren’t, check with your IT team that these are all set up as they should be.
3. Make your from address obvious and relevant
This needs to be clear and relevant to the recipient. We recommend the address is from a named person, but whatever you choose ensure you avoid random characters and the dreaded ‘donotreply’ prefix. Spam filters will be all over that!
4. Avoid spam words
These include “call now”, “order now”, “bonus”, “free quote”, “offer”, “extra” and “investment”. But there’s a list of over 120 words that are commonly perceived to be associated with spam emails.
5. Avoid spam tactics
Spam emails need to grab attention so they typically use capital letters, character symbols or lots of exclamation marks to do so. They may also use misleading subject lines to encourage open rates or include random attachments. You’ll also often see links without much background information as to what you are clicking on and why. Make sure you avoid all of these or you will be tarred with the same spammy brush.
6. Ensure your email layout is effective
Consider the layout of your email. Ensure you have a good ratio between images and text, keep the content simple and to the point, include clear calls-to-action and make sure it looks good on a mobile.
Our 10 tips to make your email communications more engaging will help you nail this point.
7. Proof read
An obvious one but worth pointing out. Typos, grammatical errors and broken links are all red flags for spam filters so spending time to double check each email is always advantageous.
8. Keep your distribution lists “clean”
While a tedious job, it’s important to maintain your email distribution lists. Any inactive email addresses will alert spam filters that you may be sending spam. And let’s face it, if a recipient hasn’t ever engaged with any of your emails, they are only bringing your engagement rates down anyway. You are much better focusing on a smaller pool who do want to hear from you.
9. Ask subscribers to whitelist your email
If you frequently send to the same people and you know you are falling into their spam folder, ask your recipients to add your email address to their Contacts. This will give their email provider a clear indication that they want to receive emails from you.
10. Use a spam checking tool
For every email our customers send, they can check their spam score using our spam check. Tools such as ours check everything from the content of the email to your SPF record and DKIM signature. It is a perfect way of ensuring your email has the best chance of delivery before you hit send.
11. Use a third party email platform
By sending your emails through an email platform they deal with the spam headache for you. As long as they are a reputable supplier, they will keep an eye on IP reputations, ensure your DKIM and SPF acronyms are set up as they should be and provide you with templates that will engage your target audience.