Email Marketing Best Practices

July 19


Email Marketing Best Practices: Avoiding Spam Filters and Increasing Open Rates

By Hanson Cheng

July 19, 2023

  • minute read
  • Last Updated on July 19, 2023 by Hanson Cheng

    In the world of digital marketing, the importance of email marketing cannot be overstated. This article will delve into the significance of email marketing, the challenges it poses, and why averting spam filters and improving open rates should be a top priority for businesses.

    Our comprehensive guide will detail how spam filters operate, common reasons emails end up considered as spam, and the repercussions of such classification. We will also explore various best practices and tactics for both avoiding spam filters and enhancing your email open rates.

    Introduction to Email Marketing

    Email Marketing involves sending commercial messages, typically to a group of people, using email. It aims to enhance a business’s relationship with its current or previous customers, encourage customer loyalty and repeat business, acquire new customers, and share third-party ads.

    The Importance of Email Marketing

    In today’s digital era, where communication is primarily internet-based, Email Marketing has emerged as a powerfully effective tool for businesses. With over 4 billion worldwide email users, it provides a platform for reaching an immense audience. It is an inexpensive yet potent method to reach customers wherever they are without any time constraints. Emails allow businesses to target specific key markets or a wider audience.

    Email marketing is responsible for generating a significant portion of the revenue for many businesses. It encourages customer relationships and enhances sales through a constant communication flow. Email not only helps to gain new clients but also plays a pivotal role in retaining the existing ones. It provides a direct line of communication to your audience, helps you establish authority in your niche, increases traffic to your website, and is excellent for nurturing leads.

    The Challenges in Email Marketing

    Despite its numerous benefits, email marketing also comes with its fair share of challenges. For instance, rising numbers of email spam have led to stricter rules and regulations regarding email marketing, such as the GDPR laws in Europe.

    High competition in email inboxes makes it difficult for businesses to get noticed. Additionally, with evolving technology, more people are checking emails on mobile devices, meaning that email marketing strategies must factor in mobile-friendly designs.

    Why Businesses Should Prioritize Avoiding Spam Filters and Increasing Open Rates

    Avoiding spam filters is crucial for successful Email Marketing. Spam filters are designed to keep out undesirable messages, which often results in non-spam messages being mislabelled. A message landing in a recipient’s spam folder makes it less likely for the recipient to see and open it. This affects the email’s open rate, and ultimately, its success rate.

    On the other hand, the open rate of an email campaign gauges its effectiveness. An increased open rate signifies that your emails are significant to your audience. But, with the sea of emails that bombard an individual’s inbox daily, it is challenging for a business’s email to stand out and garner opens and clicks. Emails opened means more opportunities for consumers to connect with your business, which ultimately leads to higher conversion rates.

    Understanding Spam Filters

    Every email marketer should comprehend the operation of spam filters to ensure successful email campaigns.

    How Spam Filtering Works

    Spam filtering is a mechanism that is embedded in all emailing platforms, and it weeds out unwanted or potentially harmful messages. Its fundamental role involves safeguarding users’ inboxes from unsolicited, irrelevant, or harmful emails, which are typically referred to as spam.

    The function of a spam filter involves the application of various rules and algorithms that help it determine which emails are spam and which aren’t. These rules entail scrutinizing the sender’s information, the email’s content alongside the subject, amongst other elements. An ineffective spam filter will either classify valid emails as spam or fail to detect actual spam emails, thus necessitating a keen understanding of its operation.

    It is important for email marketers to appreciate that different email clients use different filters. Some platforms, like Gmail, utilize machine learning algorithms that adapt to users’ email habits to increase efficiency in spam detection.

    Common Reasons Emails End Up in Spam

    Understanding common reasons behind emails getting flagged as spam is crucial in refining email marketing strategies. Firstly, spam filters will flag messages from unrecognized or unverified email addresses as spam. Therefore, always send your marketing emails from verified domains.

    Also, spam filters may categorize your emails as spam if you send bulk emails to individuals who have not subscribed or given consent to be part of your mailing list. Spam filters examine the email’s structure and design too. Poorly formatted emails, especially those that contain errors in HTML, will likely wind up in spam folders.

    The Consequences of Your Emails Being Marked as Spam

    If your emails are consistently marked as spam, it can adversely affect your email marketing efforts. Firstly, your email deliverability rates will drop drastically, hindering your ability to reach your intended audience. This may result in reduced engagement, fewer conversions, and ultimately lower return on investment (ROI) from email marketing campaigns.

    Moreover, being flagged as spam can damage your sender reputation. Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) assign a sender score to an IP address which determines the ‘trustworthiness’ of that sender. A poor sender score can lead to email service providers blocking your emails, further sinking your deliverability rates.

    In severe cases, frequent flagging can lead to legal consequences. Laws such as the CAN-SPAM Act regulate marketing emails and violations can result in hefty fines.

    Best Practices to Avoid Spam Filters

    In the quest to make email marketing more impactful, avoiding spam filters is a crucial aspect marketers need to address effectively. When emails repeatedly land in the spam folder, open rates decrease and the effectiveness of your campaigns suffers. Here are best practices that can ensure your emails bypass the spam filters and reach your audience’s inboxes:

    Ensure Your Email List is Clean

    A clean email list is your first defense against spam filters. This includes not only obtaining emails legitimately via opt-ins but also periodically checking if the addresses in your list are still active and relevant.

    To ensure email list cleanliness, first, always get your audience’s explicit consent before adding them to your email list. This can be through sign-ups, form submissions, or opt-in checkboxes on your website or at offline events. Non-consensual email is spam, and recipients are more likely to report it as such, hurting your sender reputation and deliverability rates.

    Next, regularly prune your email list. Remove addresses that bounce back, do not interact with your emails, or have been inactive for a long time. Send re-engagement campaigns to inactive subscribers, giving them the option to continue receiving emails or unsubscribe. This helps maintain a high-quality email list and demonstrates to spam filters that your audience finds your content valuable and relevant.

    Besides, also make use of double opt-in methods to further verify the subscriber’s intent, ensuring they want to receive your emails and reducing the chances of your emails being categorized as spam.

    Personalize Your Emails

    Email personalization goes beyond just addressing the recipient by their name – it’s about sending content that is tailored to their interests and behavior.

    Personalized emails can significantly improve your open and click-through rates while also acting as a deterrent to spam filters. Spam filters are designed to trap generic, mass-produced, and irrelevant messages that users are unlikely to find relevant. By personalizing your emails, you indicate that the message is intended specifically for the recipient, which mitigates the risk of being flagged as spam.

    You can achieve personalization through segmenting your subscribers based on their behavior, preferences, or demographics and sending relevant content to each group. Personalization can also be in terms of sending triggered emails based on the recipient’s actions (like abandoned carts, website visits, etc.) or events (like birthdays, anniversaries, renewal reminders, etc.).

    Be Mindful of Your Email’s Content and Format

    The way you devise your email’s content and format also plays an integral role in avoiding spam filters. From subject lines and preheaders to the text and imagery in the email body – everything matters.

    Avoid using spam-trigger words in your subject lines and email content. Words like ‘free’, ‘buy now’, ‘limited time offer’, and excessive use of caps, exclamation marks, and special symbols can often trigger spam filters.

    Moreover, keep your email layout clean and professional, balancing both text and visuals. Sending image-heavy or large-sized emails can mark your emails as spam. Also, ensure your emails are mobile-friendly since a significant amount of emails are opened on mobile devices.

    Additionally, remember to include a valid physical address and an easy-to-find unsubscribe link in your emails. These are, in fact, legal requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act and failing to include these can lead to your emails being flagged as spam.

    Sending Emails at the Right Time

    Timing your emails correctly can significantly influence their visibility and open rates, and indirectly, spam filtering. If your emails consistently remain unopened, it’s a sign to ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and ESPs (Email Service Providers) that recipients aren’t interested in your emails, leading to future emails being directed to spam.

    Determine your audience’s active periods, considering factors like their time zone, profession, and typical online behavior. Some general best times to send emails are weekdays, especially Tuesdays and Thursdays, between 10 AM-11 AM or 1 PM-3 PM. However, these may vary based on your specific audience demographics and industry.

    Also, maintain a steady and reasonable sending frequency. Don’t flood your subscribers’ inboxes, but don’t let them forget you either – find a balance that keeps you at the top of your audience’s mind without overwhelming or annoying them.

    Techniques for Increasing Email Open Rates

    In today’s digital world, having a high email open rate is a significant metric in evaluating the success of your email marketing campaigns. This section will delve into various techniques to help boost your email open rates, ranging from crafting compelling subject lines to the effective use of preheader text, segmenting your email list, and practicing consistency and regular follow-ups.

    Crafting Compelling Subject Lines

    One can never overemphasize the power of compelling subject lines when it comes to increasing email open rates. Your subject line serves as the first impression to your recipient, and like the saying goes, “first impressions count.” When crafting your email subject line, here are few tips you need to consider:

    1. Clear and concise: Keep your subject line brief yet descriptive. For instance, a company like Amazon might use a subject line such as “Exclusive Deals for You.”
    2. Personalization: People are more likely to open emails that seem tailored to their needs or preferences. Try using the recipient’s name or location in the subject line.
    3. Urgency and exclusivity: Create a sense of urgency or exclusivity to encourage prompt action. For example, “Limited Offer: Get 50% Off Now”
    4. Test your subject lines: Always A/B test your subject lines to determine what works best for your audience.

    Taking the time to craft compelling subject lines can significantly improve your email open rates. Remember, your subject line often determines whether your email will be opened or disregarded.

    Using Preheader Text Effectively

    Preheader text is the small snippet of text that follows the subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox. Well-thought-out preheaders can serve as a secondary subject line and further entice the reader to open your email. Here are a few guidelines when crafting an effective preheader text:

    1. Keep it short: Aim for about 40-50 characters so it won’t be truncated in most email clients.
    2. Summarize your email: Use the preheader text to provide a brief summary of the email content.
    3. Don’t repeat the subject line: Use this space to give your readers new information instead of echoing the subject line’s information.

    Segmenting Your Email List

    Segmentation refers to the process of dividing your email list into smaller, more targeted sub-groups based on certain criteria. Segmenting your email list lets you send highly personalized emails, which can result in an increased open rate because of their relevance to the reader. Constant Contact, a popular email marketing software, effectively segments its email list based on the past purchase behavior of its users to deliver targeted campaigns.

    There are many ways to segment your email list. It can be based on the subscriber’s geographical location, how they interacted with your past emails, their interest and preferences, etc.

    Practice Consistency and Regular Follow-Ups

    Consistency is key in any marketing strategy, and email marketing is no different. Sending regular and consistent emails helps train your subscribers to anticipate and engage with your emails. However, don’t mistake consistency for frequency. You don’t want to bombard your subscribers with too many emails, as this can lead to high unsubscribe rates.

    Take a cue from brands like Airbnb, which sends regular weekly emails, showcasing the various destinations and home listings to spark the curiosity of their subscribers.

    Similarly, good follow-up is instrumental to increase your email open rates. Let’s say you run a SaaS company and released a new product feature. After initial email communication, you want to send regular follow-ups to extend offers, provide usage tips, or highlight case studies to make sure your subscribers are fully benefiting from your product.

    Leveraging Email Marketing Tools to Your Advantage

    In the modern business landscape, email marketing has proven to be an indispensable tool for businesses communicating with both potential and existing customers. It can be a real game-changer in the realm of digital marketing when applied effectively. However, it isn’t just about sending emails; the focus is on using the right tools to deliver your marketing message while avoiding the dreaded spam filters. In this section, we will delve into some of the top email marketing tools businesses can utilise, and how to use them effectively to increase open rates and avoid being labeled as spam.

    Best Email Marketing Tools for Businesses

    Different businesses have unique needs, and thus require different tools. Here are some of the most effective and widely used email marketing tools currently available:

    1. MailChimp: This tool is extremely popular due to its user-friendliness and variety of features. It provides options for A/B testing and analytics reporting, enabling businesses to monitor and improve their email marketing strategies.
    2. SendinBlue: This platform offers a powerful marketing automation tool that allows businesses to send out emails based on users’ interests and behavior, increasing its chances of generating higher open rates.
    3. GetResponse: A versatile tool with features like landing page creator, A/B testing, and an array of templates to choose from.
    4. Constant Contact: Known for its unprecedented customer service and multitude of integrations, making it a good fit for businesses that want an all-in-one solution.
    5. Drip: An optimal tool for ecommerce businesses, featuring an intelligent marketing automation platform that understands customer intent and purchasing behavior.

    The best marketing tool for your business will depend on your specific needs and the nature of your target audience.

    How to Utilize These Tools for Better Open Rates and Spam Avoidance

    Now that we’ve identified the top email marketing tools, here are some ways you can use them to your advantage:

    Email Verification: Use these tools to verify the emails on your list, ensuring you’re sending messages to active addresses. This reduces bounce rates and the possibility of being marked as spam.

    Segmentation: Tools like MailChimp allow you to segment your email list. This means you can group recipients based on various factors like age, location, or purchasing behavior, and send targeted emails, thereby enhancing open rates.

    A/B Testing: These tools allow you to test different parts of the email, such as the subject line or content, to see what yields better results.

    Email Automation: Platforms like SendinBlue offer marketing automation, where emails are automatically sent based on user behavior or predefined criteria, ensuring relevant emails are sent at the right time.

    Analytics: Use the analytics function to analyze open rates, click through rates (CTR), and conversions, allowing you to update and improve your strategies based on the findings.

    Leveraging these tools not only ensures the emails you send to your customers land in their inboxes and not the junk folder, it also makes sure that they are opened and read, thereby increasing engagement and potential conversions.

    Evaluating Your Email Marketing Efforts

    It is important to continuously monitor and evaluate your email marketing performance. Doing so can provide key insights into what’s working and what’s not, allowing you to optimize your strategy and improve results over time. Effective evaluation of your email marketing efforts involves measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) and making strategic adjustments based on your findings.

    Key Metrics to Track Your Email Marketing Performance

    There are several metrics you can track to measure the outcomes of your email marketing campaigns. It’s crucial to identify which ones are most relevant to your goals, as these will provide the most valuable and actionable insights.

    1. Open Rate: This measures how many recipients opened your email. It’s a good initial indicator of your campaign’s success, showing if your subject line is compelling enough to motivate opens.
    2. Click-Through Rate (CTR): This is the percentage of email receivers who clicked on a link within your email. High CTR indicates that your email content is engaging and relevant to your audience.
    3. Conversion Rate: This tracks what percentage of email recipients clicked on a link within your email and then completed a desired action such as making a purchase. High conversion rates suggest that your email effectively persuaded customers to take action.
    4. Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of your sent emails that couldn’t be delivered to the recipient’s inbox.
    5. Unsubscribe Rate: This measures the percentage of recipients who opt-out of your email list after receiving an email. A high unsubscribe rate can indicate that your content isn’t meeting your audience’s expectations or needs.

    These metrics will help you get a clearer picture of the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns, and where improvements can be made.

    Making Adjustments Based on Insights

    After evaluating these KPIs, the next step is to utilize these insights to make necessary modifications and improvements to your email marketing strategy.

    If your open rates are low, it may be an indicator that your subject lines are not enticing enough or that your emails are landing in the spam folder. In such a case, testing different subject lines or adjusting your email content to avoid being marked as spam may increase your opens.

    If your CTR is low, it could mean that your content isn’t resonating with your audience, or your call-to-action (CTA) isn’t compelling enough. Try varying your email content or making your CTA more prominent or enticing and see if the CTR improves.

    In the case of a high bounce rate, it could mean your email list is outdated or full of incorrect email addresses. Regularly cleaning up and updating your email list can professionalize your email campaigns and enhance deliverability.


    Recap of Email Marketing Best Practices

    As we reflect on the discussion about email marketing, we see that several key practices contribute to successful email marketing campaigns. Firstly, it is crucial to comprehend the intricacies of spam filters. Understanding how these filters operate presents a significant step to avoiding the infamous spam box. Pursuably, it is vital to be familiar with the primary reasons emails may end up in spam, recognizing the potential consequences if your emails are flagged as spam.

    Additionally, it is of utmost importance to ensure your email list is clean, focusing on responsive, engaged subscribers rather than stacking up a high quantity of recipients. Similarly, personalizing your emails, being mindful of your emails’ content, and their format can significantly help in navigating spam filters. The timing of sending your emails also plays an essential role, and hence, analytics should be leveraged to determine the optimal send time.

    Further on, we explored diverse techniques to increase email open rates. Crafting compelling subject lines can immensely appeal to recipients and urge them to open your emails. Preheader text is another potent tool to provide another layer of context and invite recipients to open the emails. Additionally, segmenting your email list tailors the content to the specific recipient, which increases the likelihood of emails being opened. Consistency in sending emails and regular follow-ups can build customer trust and therefore increase open rates.

    We also discovered various email marketing tools that can provide businesses. These tools offer features like analytics and automation, which, when effectively used, can enhance open rates and avoid spam triggers. Lastly, the key to becoming proficient in any skill, including email marketing, is to evaluate and adjust. Tracking the performance of your marketing efforts via key metrics can provide insightful data, prompting necessary adjustments.

    Final Thoughts on Boosting Your Email Open Rates and Avoiding Spam Filters

    Summarily, there are no shortcuts or fool-proof methods to ensure high open rates and complete evasion of spam filters. Nevertheless, applying the best practices and leveraging available email marketing tools can significantly improve your performance in email marketing.

    Boosting open rates and avoiding spam filters is an ongoing process, requiring constant testing, data tracking, adjustments, and learning. It is crucial to remember aspects like customer preferences, engagement strategies, and global laws and regulations can change often. Hence, maintaining up-to-date knowledge will keep you agile in your email marketing efforts.

    It’s also vital for businesses to always strive for genuine connection and valuable content. You can have the best subject line, the optimal send time, or the most sophisticated marketing tool, but if your emails fail to value the recipients sincerely, all efforts could be in vain. The ultimate aim is to make your recipients feel acknowledged and valued, driving them to engage positively with your email communication.

    Email Marketing Best Practices: FAQs

    1. What Identifies an Email as Spam in Most Email Systems?

    Email systems perceive an email as spam based on a combination of elements. Some of these include trigger keywords in the subject line, a high number of images relative to text, an unusually high frequency of sending emails, and lack of personalization in the email.

    2. How Can Marketers Improve Their Email’s Open Rates?

    Marketers can increase their email’s open rates through several methods. Personalize the email content and subject line, segment the audience, A/B test different aspects of the email, and send the email at an optimal time to engage subscribers.

    3. What Role Does Email Frequency Play in Avoiding Spam Filters?

    Email frequency plays a crucial role in avoiding spam filters. If a company sends emails too often, recipients may mark emails as spam, leading to lower sender reputation. On the other hand, prolonged intervals between emails can result in inactivity and higher chances of being marked as spam.

    4. How Can Using a Reputable Email Service Provider (ESP) Help Avoid Spam Filters?

    A well-regarded Email Service Provider helps to avoid spam filters by maintaining a clean server that is not blacklisted. ESPs also ensure that your emails comply with international laws like the CAN-SPAM Act.

    5. Is Personalization Essential in Email Marketing to Increase Open Rates?

    Yes, personalization significantly contributes to higher open rates. The use of personalized subject lines or content grabs the attention of the reader, which in turn, leads to higher open rates.

    6. What Is the Impact of Sender Reputation on Email Deliverability and Spam Designation?

    A good sender reputation enhances deliverability as the email service provider trusts the sender. Conversely, a poor reputation can result in future emails being classified as spam. Maintain a good sender reputation by following best practices in email marketing.

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    Hanson Cheng

    About the author

    Living in Portugal with my wife and puppies.
    Scaling online businesses and sharing lessons learned on this website and in our email newsletter.

    Always happy to hear from you, so find me on Instagram if you want to say hi!

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