The Best Ways to Avoid the Spam Folder

It’s time to face the facts: email deliverability is not guaranteed. According to Return Path’s Email Deliverability Report, 21% of opted-in emails never make it to the inbox. You can do everything right and still have to deal with the horror of landing in your customers’ spam folders.

But it’s not all bad news: there are steps you can take to ensure your deliverability is the best it can be. This post details best practices you can follow to land in your customers’ inboxes.

1. Opt-in

There are many ways to collect lists of emails, but the only one you should be using is directly asking subscribers if they want to join to your list. Any method that involves some level of deception is a great way to increase your spam complaint rate (you want to aim for about 0.8%). Imagine receiving an unsolicited email in your inbox: what are you likely to do? In most cases, you’ll immediately unsubscribe, report the email as spam, or both.

Classic No-nos ❌

Buying Email Lists

Not only is buying lists likely illegal (according to laws like CAN-SPAM and CASL), a list of unsuspecting subscribers is unlikely to engage with any of your content. Purchasing a list is a detriment to your email marketing all around.

Sharing Email Lists

None of your subscribers want their personal information shared and there’s no good way to tell them that they’ll suddenly start getting emails from one of your partners. Your best bet is to promote any partner's email list in your marketing emails so they can gain new subscribers who are interested in their content.

Scraping Emails

A common practice with spammers, scraping emails with bots is a surefire way to get on email blacklists.

To Dos ✅

Confirmed Opt-in

Confirmed opt-in is where you send your subscribers a welcome email when they’ve signed up for your list, confirming that they’ll continue to receive marketing emails from you. This is an easy way to increase email engagement and make sure the email address the subscriber signed up with is valid.

Double Opt-in

Double opt-in also includes a welcome email - the only difference is the call-to-action. To confirm their opt-in, subscribers are asked to click a link in the welcome email. By getting subscribers to complete this action, you’re ensuring they understand that they’ll be receiving marketing emails from you in the future.

2. Clean up your list

It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers, but the reality is that a small, highly engaged list is way more valuable to your email marketing efforts than a large list that never opens your email campaigns. Would you rather have 100,000 contacts who never open your emails, or 5,000 who regularly open, click, and purchase from email campaigns you send them?

Many email service providers will make sure you’re not sending to invalid or previously bounced email addresses. If your email provider doesn’t offer this service, you can use a product like NeverBounce to clean your list for you.

3. Make unsubscribing easy

It might be counterintuitive, but we promise that giving your subscribers a clear way to unsubscribe won’t lead to more people opting out of your list. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to unsubscribe from an email list and not being able to figure out how - it’s usually what gets people to report an email as spam.

Luckily, most email providers will cover unsubscribing for you - just avoid any hacks where you’re covering up that default link.

4. Send relevant content

Using an email marketing CRM will help you learn more about your subscribers so you can make sure you’re sending content that they care about - based on gender, location, interests inferred from social actions, past purchase behaviour, and more.

Unsurprisingly, understanding your customers and sending relevant content they care about is a great way to increase email engagement and reduce spam complaints.

5. Optimize content for ISPs

Common email service providers like Gmail and Outlook have rules for what they don’t consider inbox worthy, including:

  • Using free link shorteners (i.e. Shortened links are commonly used by spammers, which is why ISPs will flag them right away. Switch to a more advanced ESP if your current one doesn’t natively track links, or offer its own link shortener.
  • Bad image to text ratio. It’s unlikely that an email comprised entirely of images is going to make it to the inbox - adding a few sentences per image gives more context to ISPs and ultimately, your recipients.
  • Including images that aren’t optimized. If your email is going to display a 200 x 200 px image, there’s no need to import the original 3000 x 3000 px. Use a image compressor like TinyPNG for max optimization. Also, ISPs can’t read images without alt text, so make sure you include it.

6. Check in on your metrics

Too many brands send email and never check the results. You want to be checking in on your email reporting regularly so you can monitor changes and track progress.

Key metrics you should monitor:

  • Spam complaints
  • Open rates
  • Clickthrough rates
  • Delivery rates

If, for example, you notice a drop in open rates, don’t panic! Calmly diagnose the issue by looking at your latest email campaigns in terms of recipients, content and results. The earlier you act on the problem, the better.

7. Plan for the worst

We’ve come full circle: even if you take all the tips in this post to heart, email deliverability is not guaranteed. It’s hard to have a perfect marketing strategy in any respect, including your email marketing strategy.

Luckily, being aware of the places where your email marketing can go awry makes you better prepared than most. As long as you’re being vigilant and have some type of plan in place to get your metrics and engagement back to where they should be, you’ll be set up for success.

As email marketing continues to be one of the best ways to keep in touch with your customers, it’s worth taking the extra time to make sure you’re getting it right. Stick with the tips in the post to improve your email deliverability, decrease spam complaints, and effectively engage your customers.