10 Basics to Avoid Being Categorized as Spam
- Be Compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act
If you are sending "any eletronic mail message, the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service," then you must comply with the following 7 main requirements (or face penalties up to $16,000):
- Don't use false or misleading header information
- Don't use deceptive subject lines
- Identify the message as an advertisement
- Tell recipients where you're located
- Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future email from you
- Honor opt-out requests promptly
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf
- Manage your list and remove disengaged subscribers
Volume has been a staple of email marketing for years, but it's important to remove old and disengaged users from your list. Senders who practice list management report higher deliverability, higher open rates, and are less likely to see their messages sorted as spam.
List management is covered in more detail here.
- Avoid Spam Trigger Words and Phishing Phrases
Any email containing a spam trigger word is more likely to end up in your spam folder. Unfortunately, there is no definitive list of trigger words to avoid when constructing your emails.
Phishing emails are designed to steal your identity by getting you to click on a fraudulent link. The most common phishing method is to disguise an email as one from a legitimate service that you trust, such as your bank or a website you visit. By avoiding grammar mistakes and misspellings and never asking for personal information you have a better chance of staying out of the spam folder.
- Include a Text Version of Your Email if You Are Sending HTML Emails
Most email programs these days support HTML formatted emails, but that doesn’t mean you can just ignore the plain text version. Sending HTML only emails is a common cause for ending up in the spam filter.
Making sure to include a text version of your email also covers you in case a recipient cannot view HTML emails. Considering the number of emails now being opened on mobile devices, including a text only version is sure to remain a best practice for a long time.
Instructions for plain text can be found here.
- Use Permission Marketing Techniques
Permission marketing, a term coined by Seth Godin, defines permission as the privilege to deliver anticipated, personal, and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. Permission marketing maintains that treating people with respect is the best way to gain attention, and that you know you have real permission when people miss your emails when they stop arriving.
The most difficult part of permission marketing is making a promise and sticking to it. Tell people what they can expect from your emails and how often to expect them. Once they opt-in, don’t change the rules. Permission marketing requires patience and humility, but it will pay off in the long run.
- Use Spam Checkers before Sending Your Emails
Before sending emails out to your entire list, it’s worth the time to utilize a spam checking service. MailingCheck.com offers a free downloadable tool for Windows that uses SpamAssassin to check. If you prefer to avoid downloading any software, you can send email to the IsNotSpam.com service and they will also check a few other items important to email deliverability. Alternatively, ProgrammersHeaven.com uses a form-based solution to test your emails.
- Get off All Blacklists
A blacklist is a list of addresses and domains that have been identified as spammers and are blocked from sending to mail providers. If your email server ends up on a blacklist, it becomes extremely difficult to reliably deliver email, especially to new people on your list.
To check to see if your email server is on a blacklist, use a free service like Return Path’s SenderScore or blacklistmonitoring.com. If you find that you are on a blacklist, you will need to follow up with the site that has added you their blacklist. It can be tedious and time-consuming, but removing yourself from blacklists is crucial to ensuring your emails are received by the users who expect them.
- Maintain a Good Text to Image Ratio
It is usually best to not include images at all; however, if you must include images, here are some tips:- Don't send image-only emails
- We suggest for every graphic, include at least two lines of text
- Optimize your images the best you can
- Use well formatted HTML for email
- Avoid Spam Traps
Spam Traps are email addresses that are flagged by ISPs as being no longer used by a human. Since no one is using these addresses, the ISPs know that there was no opt-in for any email those addresses receive.
- Avoid Large Attachments and Executable Attachment Types
In general, .jpg, .gif, .png and .pdf attachments are safe to send, provided you include some content in the email as well. However, executable attachments such as .exe, .zip, .swf, etc. should be avoided entirely. Generally, you should not send attachments to people on your list that are not expecting them.
If you need to email a large attachment or an attachment type that usually can be flagged as spam or trigger virus scanners, we recommend a service such as DropBox.com. If the attachment contains sensitive data, you may consider using your company’s secure FTP server.
- Make Sure Your DKIM, SPF, Sender-ID and Domain Keys Are Setup Properly
You will want to make sure your email server supports these protocols (DKIM, SPF, Sender-ID and Domain Keys) and that they are properly implemented.