In this article, you will learn the real reasons why your marketing emails go to spam and find out how to fix it.
But first, what is spam? Spam email is irrelevant, unsolicited electronic messages, sent in bulk to a list of email addresses.
For example, let’s assume you purchased an email list from an obscure online business. You want to market your business, and that list of emails seems to provide the right business prospects. You intend to send them an email with an offer they can’t refuse. You feel like you’re providing value but the truth is that this is 100% spam. Since those people never gave you explicit consent to mail them, sending an email blast to that list is considered spam.
According to most recent data, spam messages accounted for an impressive 59.56% of the total email traffic around the globe.
In 2016, the US accounted for the majority of unsolicited emails with 12.08% of worldwide spam. The most common types of spam emails were in the healthcare and dating niches.
But sometimes you might spam people accidentally. Emails are going to the spam folder without you even knowing about it. You may see a constant or sudden drop in deliverability rates and wonder why this is happening to your business.
In this post, we will discuss the top reasons why your marketing email might be classified as spam and show you how you can fix it. So, let’s dive in.
1. Check if your domain name is blacklisted
If you see a sudden drop in open rates you need to check if your domain is blacklisted.
Blacklist is a list of domains that are suspected of sending spam. Email servers use blacklists to help decide if they should accept or reject an email. If your domain is blacklisted, then your email will never reach the recipient’s inbox because their email server will block every message you send.
Blacklists identify spammers by the domain name or the IP address that they use to send email blasts.
Having a blacklisted domain can cause different problems for a site owner, from low email deliverability to lost Google index rank. It’s a fast process, though, to tell whether or not your domain name has been blacklisted.
If you’re on a blacklist, some or most of your email will not be delivered. Use a reputable service like MXToolBox to see whether your domain name is listed in one or more of the widely-used blacklists. You should also check your email service provider’s range of IPs to ensure they’re not listed either.
In case you get a positive, you need to remove your domain name from that blacklist. Blacklist removal has to be done manually. Visit the website that has blacklisted you. Fill out a “remove from blacklist” form or contact the website by email and ask to be removed.
2. Don’t include affiliate links in your emails
Affiliate marketing is typically banned by email marketing services. Not all email marketing efforts and links are spam, however major email marketing platforms, like MailChimp, and other smaller, like MailerLite, don’t like affiliates. This makes sense because affiliates can sporadically promote spam URLs which harm MailChimp servers and affect deliverability for all users.
With that in mind, you can still do affiliate marketing in a slightly different way, so that you explicitly disclose affiliate links as required by law.
The safest way to promote affiliate links is to post content on your site. This piece of content can be a review or a use case of the affiliate offer you want to promote. In your marketing email, link back to your website instead of placing the actual affiliate link in your email copy.
Let us explain why this tactic works better. Sometimes, your affiliate links might contain URLs that have been blacklisted. However, if you link back to your own website, as is the case with cloaked affiliate links, you rule out the possibility that a blacklisted domain will harm your open rates. And you don’t want to risk including blacklisted domains in your email body, not even once. If you do, your email marketing provider will notice and they might close your account.
3. Avoid using link shorteners
URL shorteners are handy tools that help you convert a long URL into a short link. Such a service is bitly.com. A link shortener is typically used to convert ugly URLs into nice, little ones that fit into a social media post or look nice in an email.
The downside is that, with a URL shortener, you also mask the destination of the link. This way the user doesn’t know exactly where they’re headed. The masking feature has been abused by a lot of spammers. This, in turn, has resulted in mail servers blocking some URL shorteners as a whole.
We strongly suggest that you stop using link shorteners as part of your email campaigns if you want to stay off the spam folder.
Alternatively, you can set up your own URL shortener. You can do that by registering a different domain name that is a shortened, witty version of your brand, and then connect that domain to bitly.com or rebrandly.com.
You can likewise use programming tools, like Yourls and Phurl to create your own spam-free URL shortener.
4. Don’t spam people—duh
As an online business owner or marketer, you need to accept the fact that spam hurts. It hurts your own inbox, it hurts other people’s inboxes, and it hurts your business. This is why there are strict spam laws in place which you need to obey.
First, you need to read the requirements for commercial messages. Also, keep in mind that different countries and regions (such as Canada and Europe) have different laws. If your email list includes people from other coustries, you’ll need to abide by those different laws.
Don’t buy lists—period. Buying a mailing list seems to be a huge time saver. Well, it isn’t.
It’s a waste of money to buy an email list for a handful of reasons.
First, you cannot trust the source of the emails on the list. Second, the same list has probably been sold to spammers who have bombarded these emails with spam. Third, your email service provider will most likely ban you. Fourth, you might be expecting a 5% response rate or that hundreds of people will click on your links, but in reality, these numbers will be close to zero. Five, if lots of subscribers complain, your business may face a costly battle with the anti-spam law.
You need to understand that spray-and-pray marketing actions won’t help your business. Spamming can never benefit your business. It can only do harm.
5. Set up SPF/DKIM
These less-known settings are crucial to increasing email open rates and avoiding being marked as a spammer.
Most email service providers have guides on how to set up SPF and DKIM. What you essentially need to do is take the proper SPF and DKIM values from your email marketing platform (e.g. MailChimp) and place them in new DNS settings in your domain name registrar (e.g. GoDaddy).
So, in MailChimp the setting will look like this:
If you need to get a better grasp of what these acronyms are and why you need to have them configured correctly, read this.
SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is an email validation system designed to prevent spam by verifying the sender’s IP address. An SPF record allows web administrators to designate which web hosts are authorized to send messages from a given domain.
Simply put, SPF says you are the owner of the domain and are allowed to contact people using this domain name.
DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) indicates ownership of the email message by a particular organization. While the message is still in transit to the recipient, the organization’s signature is added to the email headers.
Most email clients will check for a valid DKIM signature on incoming email to identify who sent it, which means DKIM is a working way to increase email deliverability and your sender reputation.
With DKIM properly set, the receiving mail server can identify the origin of the email marketing campaign.
6. Don’t use words that trigger spam filters
As we explained, if you’re on a blacklist the spam filters will stop your email from reaching its destination. Additionally, spammy words can trigger spam traps. How does this work?
Spam traps will consider a list of different factors before they decide that your email looks spammy.
f the spam score passes a certain level, the message will be marked as spam and go directly to the junk folder. One of the factors that weigh into your spam score is the choice of words in the subject line and the body of the email.
There’s no magic formula to the perfect email score—and spam filters don’t disclose their algorithm—but there are certain words you need to avoid.
You can always find the most engaging subject lines in this collection of the most-opened subject lines.
Here’s an extensive list of common spam words that you need to avoid.
Email copy and images need to clearly refer to your brand and be balanced. Don’t use all capitals and misleading prefixes in your subject lines, such as RE: or FW:. Avoid the use of words such as free, money, profit, sex, PayPal, loans, winner and other spammy-looking words.
Scriptly provides the ultimate autoresponder engine for professionally written emails that will automate your email marketing and increase email open rates.
Keep your emails out of the spam folder
Your email service provider will most probably have a step in which you test your email against spam filters. If not, use a free service like IsNotSpam.com, if you don’t have the budget for EmailReach or Litmus.
It’s a good practice to check your email before sending, so you get a clear picture of your spam score. Often you will see the real reasons why your email is marked as spam, like errors in SPF and DKIM. If not, you can always send the IsNotSpam report to the support desk of your email marketing service or to an email marketing expert, and ask them for more information.
That’s it! We hope this post gave you insight into the reasons why your emails go to spam, and, hopefully, gave you ideas on how to avoid the spam folder.
If you’d like a more comprehensive look at why you’re marketing email isn’t getting to where it should be, make sure to schedule an Action Plan call with us!