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12-Step Guide On How To Prevent Emails From Going To Spam​

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Updated January 29th, 2024.

With 45% of emails ending up in spam and Google’s recent crackdown on these types of messages, email marketers have an even more pressing issue to solve before brainstorming how to stand out in the inbox. 

The good news is, email marketers can easily stay out of spam folders if they implement the right practices. In this 12-step guide, you’ll discover all of the tips and tricks you need to avoid spam filters and deliver your branded messages to where they belong: customers’ inboxes. 

Table of Contents

Get Permission to Send Emails

It should go without saying that brands must ask customers before sending them communications. Without permission, your emails will usually get flagged as spam and possibly blocklisted forever. But even if your message somehow gets past the spam filter, keep in mind that average click-through-rates are as low as 1.4%. Email marketers should expect even lower returns if the recipient isn’t subscribed, and their messages might even be deleted.

In short, it’s the best ethical and financial choice to always get clear permission before sending your emails.

Ask Subscribers to Allowlist

Virtually every email program will immediately route messages from the contacts list to the inbox. To ensure that your emails receive this immediate pass, use your welcome series to ask your subscribers to allowlist your messages by adding them to your contacts. If your subscribers don’t have the technical know-how, include screenshots or illustrations showing them how to do this. 

As an added win, pre-empt welcome emails with strategic form-fills for gathering zero-party data. This will give you a leg up in understanding what customers want to see in their branded messages, ultimately helping you lower unsubscribe rates.

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Lastly, cleaning your email list with every address collection will ensure that your subscriber database is never out-of-date. Adding this to your email processes is a no-brainer, as there are several tools that will automatically validate and update your list with every new entry.

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Follow Email Marketing Governance

In the same vein as ethics, it’s crucial that your digital marketing communications submit to CCPA and GDPR laws—protocols that are designed to protect customers’ inboxes. Landmark policies such as the CAN-SPAM Act, for example, define what a spam email is and give critical outlines that brands must follow when deploying communications. Here is a quick summary of what the law considers a spam email to be—what you should avoid in your own emails at all costs: 

  • Sent without the recipient’s permission.

  • Sent without including a mailing address.

  • Sent with a subject line that has misleading information.

  • Sent without including a way for recipients to opt-out.

Use a Reputable Email Marketing Program

Whenever a new email comes in, spam filters will intake the sender’s IP address and analyze if messages from this provider have often been marked as spam previously. If several of these “spam complaints” have accrued, accounts under this provider risk being flagged—even if their emails are in fact legitimate.

To ensure that this doesn’t happen to your branded communications, always use a reputable, tried-and-true email provider. Top providers are constantly preventing spammers from using their platforms, ensuring that hackers don’t damage the deliverability of your emails. 

Couple deliverability with enticing openability by combining your industry-standard email provider with cutting-edge AI-powered personalization. By ensuring that your emails are data-driven and relevant, customers will be quick to click in.

QA Every Email

If your emails are full of typos or sound like poorly directed ChatGPT outputs, that can be a major red flag for spam filters. While the occasional mistake won’t damage your deliverability, emails that are consistently riddled with grammatical errors and robotic-sounding language will alert spam filters. 

Take a look at this email missing the first name call-out, for example: 

Email missing first name personalization

Needless to say, this message left a poor first impression and would have benefited from an Email on Acid check. 

The solution to this issue is not to discard machines, of course—however, marketers need to be sure to combine their AI tools with human direction for personalized, accurate messaging.

Don’t Write Spammy Subject Lines

“Spam trigger words,” are a thing of the past as today’s spam filters are far more sophisticated. Instead of avoiding specific words in your marketing emails, focus on a more holistic approach: customer-centric language that’s within your brand’s guidelines. Too much focus on deals and discounts rather than customer needs, for example, might get your message flagged as spam. 

AI-powered subject lines are a strategic option for copy that sounds human and enticing. With Movable Ink’s Generation Model, marketers can create and scale subject lines that align with their brand voice, existing content, and are personalized to appeal to individual customers. 

Clean Up Dormant Email Addresses

Messages that are received by a large number of dormant email addresses is another red flag that spam filters watch out for. To ensure that only active addresses are receiving your content, it’s key to monitor your deliverability rates and regularly prune your email list with automated tools. While it may seem counterintuitive to delete subscribers from your email list, this is necessary maintenance for inbox-ready messaging.

However, be careful not to confuse dormant addresses with simply low click-through-rates across the board. If the latter is the case, your emails may be in need of a little TLC; simple gamification tactics or loyalty drivers might just be the ticket. 

Use a Spam-Checking Tool

While manual checks are necessary, marketers can always benefit from the help of automation. Applications and programs like Emailable are great tools to test whether or not your email is likely to hit spam. That way, marketers can easily add quick-fixes to messages before deployment.

Have a Clear Sender Address

The sender address in the “From” field is one of the first elements that subscribers notice. If the sender address has odd characters or looks totally unfamiliar, you run the risk of getting your email marked as spam. A good rule of thumb is to stick to your brand name or the name of a leader in your company. 

From there, ensure that the sender name matches the context of your subject line and email content. For example, transactional emails—receipts or delivery statuses, for example—and marketing messages often need different addresses for logistics and clarity. Ensure that the titles of these addresses are clear and concise so that customers can navigate their inboxes with ease.

Email Subscribers Regularly

If no message follows after the initial welcome email, you risk subscribers forgetting who you are or why they subscribed in the first place. This can lead to an unsubscribe—or worse, being marked as spam—when recipients finally do hear from you.

To prevent this, a regular cadence of sends to nurture the brand-subscriber relationship is crucial. Better yet, discard the campaign calendar for AI-driven timing. This way, instead of trying to search for a day and time that suits all of your subscribers, you can automate personalized send times for optimal engagement rates.

Make it Easy to Unsubscribe

While it may seem at odds with your email marketing goals, making it easy for recipients to unsubscribe is a critical step to avoiding the spam folder. Not only is it a compliance issue, but it treats subscribers with the respect they deserve. How you do that—whether you decide to put it in your email footer or take the bold approach and add an unsubscribe button—is up to you.

Does that mean goodbye to these subscribers forever? Not necessarily—winback campaigns can be very effective for revitalizing the relationship, but only if they’re tailored to that particular customer. A generic “We Miss You” email probably won’t change any minds, but a personalized message that shows how the brand has changed and what pain points have been solved can go a long way. 

If someone unsubscribes, be sure to respect that decision. There is nothing more annoying for email recipients than unsubscribing and continuing to see messages trickle in long after the fact.

Be Clear with Email Content

While click-bait titles boost engagement, email marketers must ensure that their content follows through. There’s nothing wrong with catchy subject lines that entice people to click in; there is a problem, however, if the email within has nothing to do with that tidbit of information. 

Additionally, don’t exhaust recipients with this type of attention-grabbing copy. Sometimes clear, straightforward language is the way to go.

See you in the Inbox

With this 12-step guide, you’re ready to stay out of the spam folder and secure a place in the inbox. From there, you’re ready to engage subscribers and inspire their loyalty.

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