A common problem among email marketers is that their legitimate emails are landing in their subscribers' spam folders. We see this all the time, even with top brands if the ESP simply doesn't recognize the new sender and isn't sure what to do with the message.
The most important things to remember are to always use email marketing best practices, adhere to CAN-SPAM rules, and be consistent with your sends. Doing so will help build a positive sender reputation that email service providers like Gmail will notice and reward you for by way of good inbox rates.
This article lists our top 11 tips for upholding a sparkling sender reputation and thereby avoiding the spam folder.
For more specific information on why your emails may be being marked as spam, check out this blog post.
1. Make sure your leads are from a good source and are active.
Asking your potential customers to opt-in through a form is the only way to ensure that they are quality leads and that they have given you express consent to email them.
This is important because, one, it goes against CAN-SPAM legislation to email leads that didn't agree to receive emails from you, and two, because bad leads (bought or rented lists, scraped leads, etc.) usually lead to high bounce rates and spam complaints which hurt your sender reputation. Bad sender reputation = bad inbox rates.
2. Try to remember that when people deliberately sign up to your emails, it's not the end of the world if the first couple of sends do happen to go to spam.
If your readers are interested in what you have to say, trust me, they will go out of their way to read your emails anyways.
When subscribers read your email even though it's in their spam folder, it sends a cue to their email provider that your message DOES belong in the inbox, and helps ensure that your future emails will land there instead of spam. Obviously, marking your emails as “Not Spam” also helps.
You can even ask your subscribers to please add your email address to their address book when they sign up. This way their ESP will be expecting messages from you and you'll be perceived as "friendly" rather than as a "stranger".
This "friendly" perception may boost your sender reputation and help with future sends to new leads as well.
3. Be consistent with your outreach.
If you stop emailing your subscribers for a few months and then all of a sudden send out a major email blast, not only will ESP's not be expecting an email from you, your subscribers may forget who you are and mark your email as spam or unsubscribe - both of which can make you look shady to spam filters.
Not sending enough email is not the only faux pas to keep in mind - make sure you aren't sending TOO much mail either. Over-stuffing your subscribers' inboxes can annoy them and also lead to a high unsubscribe or spam complaint rate.
There is no perfect, magical answer for how often you should be emailing your leads - every reader is different, and the sweet spots tend to vary among different industries. I suggest doing a little research into what the benchmark is for your particular industry, and also listening to your audience:
If you notice that upping your sends leads to more unsubscribes, tone it down a little. If you decrease your sending and notice that reader interaction decreases as well, you should probably send a little more frequently. Experiment until you find what works best for your particular audience.
You may even want to offer your readers a preference page where they can choose how often they receive correspondence from you, or to only receive updates on specific topics or sale alerts for certain products.
4. Inspiring quality and consistent engagement (opens, reading your emails, clicks) is key.
If Gmail notices that no one ever reads your emails it will start to think that your mailing is not targeted enough and/or your list is not active. This will negatively affect your mailing reputation if it creates an obvious pattern.
So, pay attention to your open and click-through rates. If you notice that certain types of subject lines or CTA's produce more opens and clicks, incorporate those into more of your emails to up your engagement. You can also conduct A/B split tests to figure out which variables of your email sends are the most effective.
When optimizing your subject lines and CTA's, keep in mind that spam filters will catch on if you start using deceptive subject lines to garner more opens. An example would be promising "3 Tips For Losing Belly Fat" in the subject line, but actually offering a diet pill and no actual tips in the body of your email.
Another example is using "Re:" in the subject line to try to trick the spam filter into thinking your subscriber initiated the email thread.
Not only will this deception trigger the spam filters, it will also upset your customers who may retaliate by marking your email as spam, junk, or unsubscribing.
5. Clean and remove inactive subscribers from your lists.
Like we mentioned above, subscribers that are not engaging with your emails are not doing much to help your sender reputation. In fact, they may be harming it.
Low open rates count negatively towards your sender reputation. It might be hard to let go of those leads, especially if it makes your list dwindle, but remember that quality always trumps quantity.
If someone hasn't opened an email from you in 6 months or more, chances are that they never will and you may be better off just deleting them. Sometimes old email addresses get used for spam traps, and that is something you definitely don't want to fall into!
First though, you can try sending a last effort re-engagement campaign. Maybe offer something extra special, like a 50% discount, to catch their attention. Or be candid and simply say "Hey, we noticed you haven't opened our emails in a while. Do you want to continue receiving messages from us?". And if they don't respond, take the hint.
6. DO NOT BUY LEADS.
We touched on this above and it may seem obvious, but many marketers still do it. If you buy your leads you are VERY likely to see high bounce rates, which Gmail or any other ESP will notice and your mailing IP’s reputation will be negatively affected.
You'll probably get some spam complaints as well which also greatly affect your reputation, so make it a habit to only email opted-in leads.
7. Use common sense.
I'm sure you get spam in your own inbox so you know what it looks like - lots of spelling mistakes, big red font, ALL CAPS and $$ signs. Avoid those like that plague.
You may know that you should steer clear of trigger phrases and words like "Congratulations, you won!" and "Free!" in your emails, but don't forget that seemingly innocent phrases like "Feel free to reach me at any time" sometimes include those spammy words you thought were so blatantly obvious. Some spam filters may realize the difference... but some may not.
8. Use a verified, private domain for your sender address rather than a free provider like Gmail.
Spam filters will take you more seriously. As a bonus, it will make you look more professional. Imagine if a business owner used something like firstname.lastname@example.org to email his clients. Joseph.Edgars@safefence.com looks much more legitimate.
Here's how you can whitelist your domain with TEARcloud so you can use any address "@yourdomain.com" to email your subscribers.
9. Provide a clear and obvious Unsubscribe link in all of your emails.
If someone no longer wishes to receive emails from you, they are going to look for an unsubscribe link. If they can't find one quickly and easily, they are more likely to report you as spam in order to get the emails to stop.
10. Watch your IP reputation.
If you are using a shared IP, the actions of other users on that IP will affect your reputation and deliverability. TEARcloud offers both Shared and Dedicated IP plans, both of which have their pros and cons. You can find more info about the differences between the two options and insight into which one is right for you, right here.
11. If you are just starting out on a fresh dedicated IP, make sure you warm it up before emailing all of your leads.
ESP's will notice if you all of a sudden use a brand new IP to send thousands of emails at once.
Instead of making your first send a large blast, start small and gradually increase your volume. This will give ESP's time to observe your sending habits and gauge your sender reputation because, obviously, a new IP will not have one at all.
Overall, the best advice I can give you is to use quality leads who explicitly asked to receive your emails, send relative content and offer an easy way for your leads to unsubscribe so they can simply opt-out rather than report your email as spam.