Up Your Email Deliverability: 5 Ways to Prevent Email From Going to Spam

Welcome to our three-part series on email deliverability, this is the first article in the series because we believe that prevention is better than a cure, and by getting the basics right, you can give your campaign the best chance of hitting your customers’ inboxes. Our first article will focus on 5 ways to prevent emails from going to spam.

Email marketing is the most important factor in driving customer acquisition and retention and the return on investment is high at $38 for every dollar spent.

But a recent study by Return Path found that only 79% of commercial emails land in their client’s inboxes and the number of successfully delivered emails is on the decline (down 4% between 2014 and 2015).

These emails are from reputable businesses, being sent to customers that have opted into receiving their emails, which means that businesses need to improve their email marketing strategies to overcome email deliverability challenges.

5 Steps To Take To Improve Your Company’s Email Deliverability.

1. Actively Manage the Quality of your Email Lists

There are four important areas to consider when managing your email lists to prevent emails from going to spam.

Get Express Permission To Email Subscribers

This is the number one rule of email marketing. To do this, your website should include an opt-in form that discloses that visitors are being asked to subscribe to your email list.

There are a couple of dos and don’ts for collecting email addresses:

  • Do not buy lists of email addresses
  • Do not collect emails from public sources or other non-consent sources
  • Do make it clear what content you will be sending

Being compliant with CASL is very important and often those who aren’t, get a lot of abuse complaints that ultimately affects their reputation and gets them in the junk folder.

Keep Engagement Levels High – Starting on the right foot

This is a simple but effective way to improve email deliverability and one of the bigger signals to Email Service Providers (ESPs) of whether to send you to junk or straight into customer inboxes.

Welcome emails have very high open rates, usually somewhere between 50 and 60%. This is due to timing, they’ve just opted-in to your list, and so you’re obviously on their mind. It’s important to send that first welcome mail within a few minutes of them signing up to get the best open rate possible.

A good open rate for your email is a powerful signal to email service providers such as Gmail that customers are interested in receiving your emails and they should be delivered straight to your customer’s inbox, rather than their junk folder. This first welcome email with its potential for such high open rates in an important stepping stone in establishing your company’s reputation since it’s such an significant metric in Gmail’s algorithm for determining junk emails from legitimate ones.

When a client shares their email address with you (whether by signing up for a newsletter or buying a product and opting into marketing emails), also ask them to whitelist your email address. It will take them 2 seconds to do and will ensure that all your emails to them going forward will arrive in their inbox.

Keep Engagement Levels High – Send the right content to the right people

As mentioned earlier, one of the most significant factors determining email deliverability issues is low open rates, with the result that 26% of emails are incorrectly flagged as spam. Segmented campaigns are much more targeted since content is only sent to a specific audience it’s intended for. By effectively segmenting your list you can improve open rates significantly as a study by MailChimp showed. Segmentation help increase open rates by 14%, clicks by 65% and decrease unsubscribes by 9%.

As your segmented email campaigns are received and opened by engaged users, your IP will start to build trust, in a manner of speaking, with the ESP. Segmenting email lists and working with smaller groups gives you the opportunity to run A/B tests – try sending at various times of the day, subject lines, etc. Till you are able to best optimize your knowledge of your customer and what’s likely to get them to open that email.

Keep Email Lists Clean
Low mailbox usage affects 19% of emails that don’t arrive in the inbox. Low mailbox usage refers to email addresses that are inactive. Mailbox providers look at the ratio of active to inactive email accounts on your list for spam filtering.

If a large proportion of your emails are being sent to email addresses that appear to be abandoned, then your chances of being flagged as spam increase. Managing this process is simple: once a year send an email campaign to all subscribers that haven’t interacted with your emails for a while notifying them that they will be removed from your database unless they click to stay subscribed then, after a week or two, remove them from the database.

2. Include Must-Have Information In Every Email

These 3 pieces of information need to be included in every email to prevent emails from going to spam. This also lowers the chance of abuse complaints that cause a negative reputation with ESPs.

Physical Address
Emails need to include a current street address, a registered post box or a private mailbox. Failure to do so violates the laws governing commercial email set forth by CAN-SPAM and CASL.

Unsubscribe Link
Regardless of the value that your emails add to your subscribers, an unsubscribe link must be included in every mail that gets sent out. If a subscriber requests removal, it has to be done within 10 days (but there is no reason not to do it immediately.) If an unsubscribe link is not included, your company may be liable for a fine and they may receive spam complaints.

If your email does not include a working unsubscribe link a user that no longer wishes to receive your emails may flag them as spam so that they no longer appear in their inbox. Spam complaints affect email delivery and are at the root of at least 20% of email deliverability issues. This is not surprising as a spam complaint is a direct signal from customers to mailbox providers that the emails are not wanted.

Accurate ‘From’ Information
Best practice is to include a name in the ‘from’ field that subscribers are likely to remember and associate with your business. Popular examples include the name of an individual, a company name or a combination of the two (such as Joe from Joe’s Plumbing).

3. Ensure Technical Aspects Are Covered

Use A Reputable Email Service Provider
Setting up and maintaining your own email infrastructure is complex, and expensive. The best option for most businesses is to use a reputable email service provider. They are built specifically to handle large volumes of email, allow for easy list segmentation, email tracking and subscriber management as well as enforcing CASL and other email regulations.

Follow HTML Email Best Practices
Here are some simple best practices to follow for images and code.

  • Images
    Use a maximum of 600-pixel width for images and compress them with lossless compression tools before uploading. We recommend you keep images and GIFs under 100 KB. Also, don’t include too many images per email. The optimum ratio is 80% text and 20% images for optimal deliverability.
  • Code
    Use simple, clean code (such as an email template from a reputable provider), and ensure that it is mobile responsive. Poorly coded emails with a lot of extra code can also get filtered.

Authenticate Your Emails
Do you know what DKIM, DMARC or SPF mean? If you haven’t at least heard of these terms your emails might not be authenticated. Authentication helps let ESPs know that the person who is sending the emails are who they really say they are. Spammers do spoof other brands sending domains so not having authentication in place is a red flag. Make sure authentication is set up to prevent emails from going to spam.

4. How Content Affects Email Deliverability

Low Open Rates
Low open rates (or read rates) are the top reason that emails are being incorrectly flagged as spam, affecting 26% of emails. The top 3 ways to improve open rates is by sending your emails at the right time (both the time of day and day of the week matter), using great subject lines and segmenting your list so that subscribers only receive emails with offers and content that is relevant to them.

Subject Lines
This ties into low open rates. There are two things to consider, firstly, subject lines should be optimized to encourage subscribers to read your email (35% of users open an email based on the subject line alone) and secondly, subject lines should not be misleading in any way. If you are struggling with low open rates it may be tempting to use a subject line such as ‘Congratulations, you’ve successfully…’ without any follow up in the mail about what you have won, or what discount you are entitled to. Subject lines like this may raise your open rate but are likely to result in spam complaints that will affect your reputation. For tips on writing better subject lines check our our article here.

Being Memorable is Important
Spam complaints are the second most prevalent reason for email deliverability issues affecting 21% of emails. One of the most common reasons for spam complaints is that the subscriber doesn’t remember you.

Remember to stay in regular contact with your subscribers, and to use consistent branding in each email that matches the branding on your website.

Don’t Use Spam Trigger Words
There are certain words that can trigger spam filters, these include words such as ‘dear friend’, ‘great offer’, ‘promise you’; and some that are less obvious like ‘order now’, ‘congratulations’ and ‘click here’. There are over 400 terms that you should avoid to prevent emails from going to spam.

5. Use Email Checking Tools

Litmus offers a spam checker that checks that your email passes major spam filters, reviews your reputation, verifies your email authentication, and gives you a spam score with recommended actions to take to improve your score.

Before you send an email to your subscribers, you can send your email to IsNotSpam via their website and have a look at the report that they generate. It’s a free tool that will give your email a deliverability score and let you know whether you are likely to trigger a spam filter.

Email On Acid
Email on Acid is another tool we use here at Wired Messenger. It not only lets you test the look of your emails across different email clients and devices but also has a spam testing feature built in.

We’ve had a look at the top 5 most important areas to focus on to prevent your emails going to spam. If you’re not sure whether customers are receiving your emails reach out to our email experts and don’t forget to read the next article in our series on email deliverability: How To Find Out If Your Emails Are Going to Junk.