The world is drowning in spam, and it’s hard for legitimate marketing messaging to stand out. There are two ways that your newsletters can fall into spam filters: they are automatically seen as spam by email providers and are filtered out, or they are flagged as spam by users and go straight to their trash. Here are tips to avoid both situations.
How to Avoid Automatic Spam Filters
1. Avoid spam words and phrases. Spam filters work by running through a list of weighted criteria, and assigning a spam likelihood score based on how many criteria an email meets. The most common criteria is word choice. Common words that are used as spam criteria are:
- your bills
- 50% off
You get the idea. Anything that seems to be promising something too good to be true can get flagged as spam. Anything that talks about prices in generalities, instead of specifics, can also get flagged. You can see a comprehensive list of one spam filter’s criteria at the Spam Assassin test page.
2. Check your emails before you send. You can check your emails using a free downloadable tool, Mailing Check. This tool uses spam filter criteria to determine whether an email is likely to get caught in a filter.
3. Avoid actual malware. Run different malware checks on your computers and servers. Some malware can impact your image editors and word processors, causing your emails to be flagged as spam.
4. Have a lot of text for each image. The general rule here is to include at least two sentences for each image.
5. Make sure your servers and routing processes are above-board. If your server is on a blacklist, or your routing processes aren’t transparent, then you will likely get flagged as spam. Sendgrid’s blog has a good description of how to fix these problems.
6. Have users opt-in to your mailing list, rather than buying lists of emails. The reason that this is necessary is that ISPs flag mail going to deactivated email accounts as spam. As long as everyone on your list opted in, all their accounts will be active when they receive the first email from you.
How to Avoid Being Flagged as Spam
1. Sell the email, not the product, in the subject line. It is much easier for a recipient to delete your newsletter than to read it, so you really have to sell the content of your letter, not just your actual products and services. This has been demonstrated and backed up by studies by MailChimp.
2. Clearly describe an email’s contents. Don’t try to trick your recipients. Your subject line should describe exactly what your newsletter is about.
3. Use different subject lines. Repetitive titles, like May Newsletter, June Newsletter, etc., will result in quick deletions and eventual spam filtering.
4. Avoid the suspicion of malware. Everyone knows that a large portion of email attachments carry malware. No-one wants to risk opening a strange attachment. Don’t use attachments unless you absolutely have to. If you need a graphic component, use a jpeg so it shows up in the email body instead of a pdf that has to be opened.