Despite huge improvements over recent years in the quality and reliability of email filters, spam remains a significant problem for companies reliant on email marketing. An estimated 100 billion emails are flagged every day as spam, accounting for the majority of emails sent in 2017. Most damningly, only 28% of messages sent every day reach their intended recipients. That means billions of genuine messages are being classed as junk, and ensnared in spam filters.
After two decades of honing their skills, spammers are becoming increasingly adept at dodging inbox filters. Consequently, getting your company’s message in front of prospective clients has never been more challenging. Consumers are understandably tired of spam slipping through, which means they tend to overreact and label any unsolicited mail as unwanted. A spam rate of just 0.25% can be enough to damage your credibility.
Fortunately, there are various techniques for increasing delivery rates across email marketing campaigns. We’ve summarised some of the most significant ones below…
#1. Remove words known to trigger spam filters.
This is probably the most important (and obvious) change you can make to any email marketing campaign. Updated lists of trigger words are easily found online, and classic examples include “win”, “free money” and “limited time”. Using any of these will arouse suspicion among ISPs.
#2. Don’t use attachments unless it’s absolutely essential.
Other than a dubious link, it’s difficult to convey a virus or malware in a text-only email. Attachments pose far greater risks, particularly executable files or documents capable of running macros.
#3. Only send email to people who’ve opted in.
We’re all familiar with the “click here if you want to receive marketing information” boxes on web forms. If someone has clicked this box, they’re unlikely to reject future emails, particularly messages that are infrequent and informative. A double opt-in is ideal, where people click an email or web page link to confirm the subscription they’ve already agreed to in a web form or telephone call. Finally, ask recipients to add your email address to their whitelist; boilerplate instructions for email providers like Yahoo and Hotmail are easy to find.
#4. Never use third-party mailing lists.
Bought-in email marketing campaign databases will contain loads of dormant or dead addresses, while the remainder may have received a hundred unsolicited emails before yours. Only purchase external email databases from thoroughly reputable firms like Experian. Even then, be prepared for some hostile responses from people who didn’t specifically ask you to contact them.
#5. Check your sender reputation.
Similar to a credit rating, sender scores indicate how ISPs view your IP address. A number between 0 and 100 is calculated across a rolling 30-day period, based on metrics including industry blacklists and the proportion of email recipients who unsubscribe. Every time someone clicks “report spam” in their inbox, a report is generated that will eventually impact on the sender’s reputation.
#6. Look yourself up on blacklists.
Companies like Spamhaus publish lists of IP addresses and domains associated with spam. Removing yourself from one of these DNS lists is difficult, but it can be done. If you are included on a blacklist, some ISPs will disregard almost anything you send – irrespective of its value or legitimacy.
#7. Don’t use low-quality email providers.
Email marketing campaign providers come in all shapes and sizes, and less scrupulous ones may have a reputation for low quality output. If they’re pumping out junk messages on behalf of unscrupulous companies, your messages will share their IP address and be marked down accordingly. Instead, consider premium email campaign vehicles like MailChimp and AWeber.
#8. Send messages in small batches for a while.
Bulk mailing is a red rag to spam filters. If you’re sending emails out directly, do so in small batches over a long period of time. Every opened message not flagged as spam will establish greater trust in your IP address, enabling you to distribute larger volumes later on with minimal issues.
#9. Send messages at regular schedules.
Spammers fire out messages randomly, often at strange hours. This creates a record of erratic behaviour, which might be attributable to a bot program. Instead, send messages at specific times of the day and week. It takes trial and error to identify the hot spots, with the best click-through/response rate.
#10. Regularly cleanse marketing databases.
Sending emails to non-existent users causes bounced mail, reflecting poorly on your reputation. Remove inactive users and monitor your inbox for undeliverable notifications. Consider an email validation service, capable of weeding out everything from typos to duplicate addresses.
#11. Create an SPF record.
This is a fairly technical process which isn’t recommended for people who don’t know their HTTP from their HTML. An SPF record (or Sender Policy Framework) is basically a TXT record of a domain. It confirms a received email has come from a legitimate source with distribution approval, rather than a forged or spoofed account. That reduces the risk of being blacklisted by spam filters.
#12. Make it personal.
Sending out a thousand emails at once with “Dear [ ]” in the subject line is liable to see some of those messages snared in spam filters. Sending one email at a time containing the recipient’s first name suggests a degree of familiarity. You may also want to personalise your own information by displaying both your name and your company’s name in the From field.