How to Stop an Email From Going Into the Spam List
As a company or as an individual, it's frustrating to discover that the messages you send out to subscribers or friends aren't reaching their destination because they're going to a spam list. A message can enter the spam list for one of two reasons. The first is if your message is caught by automated spam filters that look for signals within the email that the message is spam. The second is if one of your readers reports your message as spam. If you're an individual sending out messages to friends or colleagues, you only need to worry about triggering spam filters, but if you're a company sending out newsletters in bulk to your customers, you need to worry about both spam filters and being reported as spam, since frequent spam reports can get your business shut down.
Avoiding Spam Filters
Avoid sending out emails that discuss large sums of money, refer to breakthroughs, or generally read like a pitch for a product or service. Be specific rather than bombastic in your rhetoric. For example, instead of referring to a product as "an incredible new breakthrough," describe it as "discovered last year by scientists." By being specific, you're less likely to use phrases commonly associated with spam.
Omit or replace words and phrases such as "urgent," "free," "money-back guarantee," "amazing opportunity" or "click here." Spammers often use these kinds of phrases in their emails and spam filters have learned to filter out messages containing them. Find other ways to express the same concept, such as replacing "free" with "complimentary" and "click here" with "follow this link."
Use conventional punctuation and proper spelling and grammar. Don't use more than one exclamation point at the end of a sentence and don't write your message in all caps. Avoid expressing whole words using capital letters, such as writing the word "now" as "NOW," especially in the subject line of your message.
Use conventional coloring for your font. Avoid green or red font. Use normally sized fonts. Spammers often use a brightly colored font or large text to attempt to attract a reader's attention.
Avoid sending e-mails that consist of nothing but an image. Spammers often use these kinds of messages to avoid text-based spam filters, but spam filters have adapted and now filter these messages.
Don't create HTML-based email messages by composing an email in a word processing program and then converting your file to HTML and sending it. Word processing programs are generally poor at converting files to HTML and the sloppy HTML they produce often triggers spam filters.
Never attach files with an exe, vbe, vbs or reg extension to your email. These document types are often used by spammers to install malware on readers' computers. If you have to send a file of one of these types via email, place the file in a zip archive (see Resources for instructions on how to do so) and send the zip archive as an e-mail attachment.
Avoiding User Spam Reports
Use a double opt-in process to collect subscribers to your mailing list. Double opt-in refers to asking subscribers to confirm via email their subscription to your mailing list before you send them any messages beyond the initial request for confirmation. Double opt-in makes it impossible for one person to subscribe another person to your email list, either maliciously or by accidentally mistyping an email address, and therefore decreases the chance that people uninterested in your mailing list receive messages from you and mark those messages as spam.
Include a prominent unsubscribe link in all messages. Place this link at the top of your message. Including an unsubscribe link is required by law in some countries and greatly increases reader confidence in your message's authenticity, decreasing the chances that a subscriber will mark your message as spam.
Remind subscribers of how you got their e-mail address in every e-mail you send out. Subscribers often forget why they are receiving messages from you and may mark your message as spam if they don't recall signing up for your mailing list. At the beginning or end of each message you send out, remind subscribers how you obtained their e-mail address by including a note such as "you're receiving this message because you signed up for my newsletter on mywebsite.com."
Don't wait too long between sending out consecutive emails. Send out messages at least once a month to your subscribers, or they may forget that they signed up for your newsletter and mark your message as spam.
Make your messages look good. If you're sending out HTML messages, find a professional designer to create these messages or use a professionally crafted template. Professional-looking messages are less likely to be marked as spam.
References & Resources
- University of Pennsylvania: How Can I Avoid Having My Mail Blocked by Spam Filters?
- University of Pennsylvania: Sending "Prohibited" Attachments
- Interspire; Avoiding the Spam Filters and Other Email Marketing Tips; Mitchell Harper; December 2005
- MailChimp: How to Avoid Spam Filters
- IBM; Spam Filtering Techniques; David Mertz; September 2002
- AWeber Communications: What's Double Opt-In? Is it the Same as Confirmed Opt-In?
- Rutgers University: How to Create a Zip File