How to Create Credible Mailing Lists That Won’t End Up in Spam

Email as a means of communication and as a marketing channel are still relevant today. Legitimate email marketers contact subscribers and prospects via email to convert them into buyers on a daily basis. But it is not unusual for some email campaigns to get spam filtered thus ruining your database marketing efforts. Running into spam filters can adversely affect your business because intended recipients won’t be able to read your emails, your bounce rates will go up, and your email open rate and click-through-rate (CTR) will decrease. All of this can even result in your email service provider suspending your account.   To avoid this it is important to understand how spam filters work and the technical specifications that may be hurting your email deliverability.

The Email Journey

An email message embarks on a long journey to the recipient’s Inbox.  There is a lot that happens after the “send” button is clicked or after an automatic script starts sending bulk mail.
The message is routed to your mail server, which can block the email from ever leaving your server if there is a lengthy attachment (often no more than 25 MB per message) or if your business has reached the daily limit of sending emails (generally about 100 emails sent per day).

The recipient’s mail server can also bounce the email, if your IP or domain is blacklisted, if it detects any viruses, or identifies what it perceives to be spammy content. We will talk a little more about how you can avoid this in the “Content” section below.

The last pit stop is your target market’s email client, which has built-in spam filters to block any email because of viruses and spam-like content.

What is Spam?

We know that the email journey can be very short if the sender or recipient’s email server identifies what it believes to be spam.  But what is spam?  Spam is unsolicited, irrelevant bulk email, sent to a list of people without their consent. Sending targeted marketing emails to a purchased list of email addresses will add up to nothing if your email lands in the Spam folder. Your email marketing campaign runs the risk of being marked as spam and spoiling your company reputation with your ISP or email service provider, if you do not regularly verify your email list for valid email addresses and also get explicit permission to contact prospects.
Legitimate marketers can beat spam filters and still get their emails into the recipient’s inbox by setting up the technical specifics correctly, keeping an eye on the email’s content, avoiding spammy copy, and ensuring engagement (opens and clicks). A good email list should be about sending permission-based messages to customers and subscribers, with information about relevant products or services they may be interested in. Following some of these principles can help turn your ‘bad’ list around.

Technical Specifics

Spam filters run checks for appropriate email authentication and your sending IP’s reputation before delivering your emails or choosing to discard them as spam. Your email server should support these protocols (DKIM, SPF, Sender-ID, and Domain Keys) and ensure they are properly implemented.

ISPs and spam filter providers check for the two most common authentication standards (SPF and DKIM) to help verify whether the email comes from a trusted source.  Your freebie email address may be putting your email delivery rates at risk because of the lack of email authentication.  

Spam filters look at your sending IP reputation before deciding on the fate of your emails. To prevent being blacklisted, it is essential to maintain a good IP reputation by implementing Permission-Based Marketing techniques, warming up your IP address and ensuring proper list management.

If your email server is on a blacklist, you will definitely have deliverability issues. Monitor blacklists and set up alerts. If you haven’t abused the rules, request removal by emailing the ISP abuse address. 

Spam-less Content

A few missteps with your email content can trigger spam filters.  Avoid these common mistakes that can really hurt your deliverability.

  1. Never use spam trigger words and phrases in the subject or body of your emails, especially ones that make your email sound like advertisements and promotions.  Some of those trigger word are Free, Act Now, One Time, Sample, As Seen On, and many more.  Bulk emails can get you blocked by using too many keywords that trigger spam filters, bots or individuals.
  2. Avoid including ‘interactive content’ in your emails or email codes like JavaScript, forms and RSS feeds, as they could be marked as spam
  3. Check your email source code for sloppy email HTML particularly when copy-pasting from Microsoft Word.  Include a text version of your email when sending HTML emails as it helps avoid spam filters and is helpful for recipients who cannot view HTML emails.
  4. Skip dodgy text formatting like using all CAPS, punctuation in the subject line, using too many font colors and large font sizes. They annoy recipients and also trigger spam filters.
  5. The use of too many images as compared to text in an HTML email can be considered spam. Email clients block images by default, so it is best not to include images at all. But if you must, then include two lines of text for every graphic included, optimize your images and include alt tags.
  6. Limit the number of domains linked in an email and do not use URL shortners in your emails. 

Marketing emails most definitely should contain your physical address and an unsubscribe link to opt out of messages.  

List Management

List management is vital in re-engaging inactive prospects and deleting invalid IDs so that you look good to mail servers and email providers.

Have a sunset policy for unengaged prospects. Try to re-engage inactive users with compelling email messages or ask for feedback. If you can’t reengage them or if the email address has become invalid remove them immediately from your list.  Setup an opt-in form on the site or landing page for people to subscribe easily and lure them in with an offer for free download, e-book, PDF white papers, access to podcasts, etc. Ask to be placed on their white list.

Segment email addresses to create fresh email lists. Verify your email list for bad domains and invalid email addresses to reduce bounce rates. Monitor and remove hard bounce emails from your contact list and database. 

Any time you ask your audience to submit their email address, whether it is for a newsletter, a step in the registration process or any other reason, add a step in the process where they have to verify their email address at the time they enter it into the form.  This simple step helps to reduce bounce backs as a result of invalid email addresses and helps keep your list clean. 

Get Your Message Through

Email marketing may not be glamorous, but it is still one of the best ways to reach out to clients and prospects alike. Demographic and psychographic segmentation makes it possible to further tailor email campaigns to your list.  The more personalized to your target segments, the greater the response rate. As a business, it is likely that you are sending large amounts of email.  For successful email marketing campaigns avoid red flags mentioned above to make sure your email messages reach their destination.