One of the greatest problems facing email marketers is making sure that your email goes to the user’s inbox instead of going to the Junk folder or not being delivered at all. When everything is driven by whether a user opens an email, that means that the user needs to actually SEE the email first. In truth, how many of us check our junk or spam folders regularly?
Here are ten tips to keep your emails getting into the inbox.
Hotmail, AOL, Comcast, and Yahoo! all keep lists of approved senders. Once you’re on that list, that means you’ll almost always go into the inbox. If you send a particularly spammy email, however, you can be removed from the list. The process can be frustrating and take a long time, but it’s well worth it. Make sure your ESP maintains a good relation with providers and monitors them regularly.
Spam filters that email providers use look to see how many messages you’re sending at a time. If you’re sending to a large list, even if you have a fast and efficient email sending service, it may be necessary to split your list into small batches for a “drip” effect. You don’t want more than a couple thousand to hit any one email provider per hour if you’re playing it safe.
There are many reasons to break large email lists down into smaller ones, but the best reason is that doing so will mean that the spam complaints that you receive when you send your email won’t be in one huge mass. It is inevitable that even loyal subscribers sometimes mark your email as spam. If you send your large list in smaller segments(batches), the email provider (Hotmail, MSN, Gmail, etc.) will see fewer spam complaints bundled together at one time limiting the chance that a significant portion of your other emails a specific provider will be rejected (Bounced).
Most, if not all, email providers’ will penalize your domain or IP with a higher spam score, increasing the likelihood your email will be placed in the Junk Folder, if they see that you are sending emails to bad email accounts. A bad or non-deliverable email account is an address that doesn’t exist, has been disabled, deactivated, or has a full inbox. These addresses should be cleaned (or “pruned”) from your email list regularly to avoid this. If you allow them to build upon your list, you will eventually be flagged as a spam provider. Admail.net automatically removes non-deliverable emails after one failure and suspected bad emails after four mailing attempts.
Nobody likes it when somebody unsubscribes from their email list. However, providing a clear way to unsubscribe (and quickly honoring the request) means that users are less likely to get frustrated and just mark you as spam. The number one criterion for ending up in the junk box is the number of spam complaints that you receive, so avoiding them at all costs is critical.
Once a user has added you to his or her contact list, friend list or address book, you will always end up in their inbox. Use every opportunity to encourage those on your email list to add you as a contact. Admail suggests doing it in the email sign up confirmation email, on the confirmation page and during most customer service transactions. A typical way to ask customers to do this is to say, “To ensure that you continue to receive this valuable information from us be sure to add us to your contact list.”
Before you send your entire email list the message you’ve worked so hard on, send a text message to each of the big email providers (Hotmail, Yahoo, MSN, Gmail, AOL and one generic office address that is viewed in an Outlook client). NOTE do not leave test emails in your Junk Folder, it only confirms the provider’s suspicion. Send the test email using the exact same server and information that you’ll use with your main list. If the test ends up with most of your emails going to a junk folder, then it means you’ll end up in the junk box on your main send also. The pre-send test means that you can try different subject lines and email content to try to figure out what sent you to spam.
Spam filters check for bad HTML code, particularly if it looks like the code was done in Microsoft Word and then thrown into an email. Use a professional coder someone who has done email templates before and knows the proper way to make them or use a template provided by your email sending partner.
Embedding images in email is not totally a bad idea, but sending an email that’s all one big image file definitely is, for many reasons. Foremost among reasons is that spam filters, (SpamAssassin specifically) look for those types of image-based emails. Big image files often carry hidden messages that would normally get caught in spam filters (words like “free” and “Viagra”), so, when a spam filter can’t read any real text in an email and only sees an image, it assumes the worst.
This one should be obvious! The more “spam-like” text and phrases your email uses, the less likely it is to end up in the inbox. There are a number of free software solutions to check the spam score of an email before you send it, but there are also basic rules:
If you’ve seen it used in a spam message that you received, don’t use it in your own email message!
Even if you do all of these things and do them perfectly, your emails may still end up in the junk folder. Email spam filter criteria change almost daily and can be impacted by things that you have no control over. However, if you maintain good email practices that your clients’ want, you’ll get into their inbox more often than not. Admail strongly suggests you follow the above guidelines because, once an email provider thinks that your email is spam, it is very hard to get back into the inbox!