Email promised all sorts of merits compared to physical mail. In theory, it would remove all the possibility for error that arises with physical mail such as costs of delivery, letters getting damaged, wet, lost, delivered to the wrong address, stolen, etc. But in actuality, email just introduces a bunch of problems of its own. For example, it’s entirely possible that someone misses your messages entirely, it could get blocked by their mail server, removed by an administrator, marked mistakenly as spam, accidentally deleted, or a host of other possibilities.
To give your email a fighting chance, you need to pay attention to what most email providers call the “spam score”. This imaginary number is a score that is given to each email based upon a variety of factors (which we will touch on below). For each item that it takes issue with, the email scanner will add a point to the email’s overall spam score. Once the score reaches a certain threshold, the email is marked as insecure, marked as spam, or even deleted immediately in some cases dependent on the user’s email provider and their own email security settings.
In addition to that score, you have to deal with user input, if your messages are too frequent or otherwise “spammy”, your readers may mark your messages as spam (whether in good faith or maliciously). Your goal with any email or newsletter is to make sure you are keeping this score as low as possible and delivering interesting engaging content. How do you do that? Read on to find out.
The Subject of your Inquiry
The subject line is the main cause for emails bouncing or being sent to the spam folder. You can liken the subject line of an email to the H1 tag on a website; it’s the major determining factor used to determine what the email is about.
Keep it free from symbols, in fact, try to avoid punctuation whenever possible. One tip is to try not to use contractions, as that will force you to use an apostrophe which may not show up in all email clients. In some cases, common symbols are converted to their HTML entity equivalent so you’ll end up with strange text like “<” in the middle of your message.
Avoid capitals. We’ve all heard that MESSAGES WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS ARE CONSIDERED SHOUTING. Spam filters will add points for messages or subject lines written in all caps.
Don’t mislead people. Don’t create a subject line that says someone won a free prize (if it isn’t true) or that they have got to open the email for some dire reason.
What’s in a From Name?
One criteria that mail servers check for is a true “From Name” associated with an email address. Spammers (generally) don’t physically exist, they’re just spam sending robot computers, so they often come up with phony names to fill in. Having only a first name is a cause for concern too, so make sure your full name is entered.
Content is King
If you’ve read any of our blogs before, you’ve heard this message before and it stands true for email as well. The content of your email, even if it passes everything else, is used to grade your emails too.
- Overly “sales-ey” text can be flagged by email providers. But it’s also a turn-off to most readers. So save your sales talk for face-to-face presentations and create value-focused text for your emails.
- “Risky phrases” can trigger spam filters such as “free, buy, urgent, guarantee,” etc. Talking about breakthroughs or miracles are all common spam messages.
- Avoid the rainbow. Using a ton of colors, all caps, or excessive punctuation can all be flags for spam filters just as it is for search engines on your website, plus, it makes your newsletter hard to read.
- Balance images and content – Balance the ratio of images and content in the message. Having just an image in the email is a red flag for spam filters, but having the entire message be all text is bad as well. You can’t win! Well, you just need to be sure to balance out the number of text and images in the email.
Give readers a clear and easy way to unsubscribe from you. If you don’t provide a way to stop the emails, readers will look to stop the emails the only way they can: blocking the emails or reporting them as spam. Mail servers look for unsubscribe links as well, and look at messages which don’t have one as illegitimate.
Don’t email people unexpectedly
Make sure people have selected to receive your emails, a process known as “opt-in”. This doesn’t matter to spam filters, but it will to readers who may mark unknown and unwanted messages as spam. Don’t purchase lists of emails or assume that everyone who gives you a business card is interested in or asking to receive promotional emails.
Don’t email too frequently
Too many emails may cause spam filters to suspect there is some sort of incoming attack or may cause users to become annoyed and report messages as spam. Keep your sending frequency to once a week or less.
So there’s some items to consider before hitting send on that next mass newsletter. Always consider the end-user with regard to your emails, your website, and other business decisions as well and you’re guaranteed to do OK.