10 Best Bets for Avoiding the Spam Filter

The days of batch-and-blast email marketing may be numbered. Like good marketers, email service providers (ESPs) like Google and Yahoo are improving their customer experience by loading up on technology to help decide which emails should stay and which should go. We sought the advice of several email marketing experts to provide readers with proven practices to keep them out of the spam box. The following 10 tips come courtesy of Bronto Software‘s Chris Kolbenschlag, ExactTarget‘s Katrina Conn, Responsys‘s Kevin Senne, StrongView‘s Justin Williams, and eDataSource‘s G.B. Heidarsson.

Get permission. This is an absolutely vital first step to the inbox. Permission email creates engagement (opens, clicks, replies), which is a key determinant for where your emails land. Permissioned emails also draw fewer spam complaints and bounces.

Beware purchased lists. List sellers will claim that their data is clean and obtained via opt-in, but it’s best to grow your lists with other options like marketing campaigns, contests, news opt-ins, and more. One of our experts made it plain: “Never, ever buy lists to send to.”

The subject is the object. Open rates are a key metric for deliverability. Marketers can avoid automatic blocking and user complaints by creating persuasive subject lines. To stand out from the mass of content in customers’ inboxes, use clear, concise, compelling subject lines to invite opens and deter spamming. But be careful; don’t fall back on tactics like using all caps, inappropriate punctuation (!!!!!!!), or trigger words or phrases (Free!).

Relevancy is officially relevant. Use subscribers’ preference and behavioral data to send people relevant messages. It takes some extra money and effort, but it packs the added wallop of increasing engagement. Some subscribers confuse irrelevant emails as unwanted ones and mark them as spam. Avoid sending content that a customer didn’t sign up for.

Check your frequency. Send customers emails at the frequency they signed up for. If customers don’t establish boundaries, clearly set expectations with regard to the frequency, content, and branding of your emails. Make sure customers aren’t surprised. You can give subscribers options to sign up for more targeted content through a preference center, but try not to increase it more than 30% over your normal volume.

Be engaging, for crying out loud. ESPs pay attention to which marketers have the least amount of interaction with subscribers. Decrease email frequency with unengaged subscribers or offer a re-opt-in option.

Don’t send to inactives. Test reengagement campaigns with inactive subscribers to try and win back their attention, but otherwise steer clear. Sending to inactive users is a quick way to lose inbox placement. Start reactivation efforts at four to six months and don’t send to anyone who hasn’t interacted with you in 12 months. Resist the urge to pull out your inactive list and mail it during the holiday season.

Stay vigilant. Scan email content for HTML errors and websites links. Avoid typos by using double opt-in email address validation. Be sure to suppress addresses that bounce. Monitor opens and clicks.

Avoid image-only creative. Maintain a balance of images to text. Image-only emails are instant spam. Also, make sure your code is clean of unnecessary attributes and HTML tags. Don’t create emails in Microsoft Word. Word adds a lot of unnecessary junk to the code and spam filters look for that.

Play by the rules. The size or stature of your brand doesn’t guarantee you placement in the inbox. Low spam complaint rates, low bounce rates, and high rates of engagement are what will keep you out of the spam folder.

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