About 25% of email marketers count deliverability as their main barrier to effective marketing.
Internet Service Providers are fighting an ever-increasing battle against spammers that, while justified, can punish all marketers, not just the spammers.
If your marketing plan includes email — and why wouldn’t it — you are probably feeling the constant pressure of having to navigate the threats of spam traps, spam trigger words, and anti-spam laws.
If your emails aren’t being delivered to your targets’ inboxes, you might be looking for ways to improve deliverability. And, even if you don’t have problems getting to inboxes, it’s still important to avoid making the mistakes that could hurt your deliverability in the future.
There’s no point spending time crafting great content if your messages are never even seen. And while there’s no way to guarantee your campaigns won’t be marked as spam, the following best practices can help lessen that risk.
Let’s start with subject lines as they are the first hurdle to overcome for email opens.
- Avoid spam trigger words and phrases
Having a bad sender reputation contributes to email deliverability issues and low search engine rankings. To avoid this, keep spammy words and phrases out of your subject lines.
It might help to think of spammy words as signals of annoying behaviors. So, I’ve listed some spam trigger words based on which of three annoying behavior groups they match: Needy, Sleazy, or Cheap and Easy.
- Keep it short and sweet
Ideally, your subject lines should be between 35 and 50 characters in length and in the 6 to10 word range. Remember, the longer your subject line, the more likely it will be labeled spam.
Use your subject line to generate interest, convey urgency, or utilize any one of the many proven, open-rate boosting strategies out there.
- Optimize for mobile
With about 80% of people routinely using a smartphone to check email, it’s vital that your subject lines are optimized for mobile viewing.
You can be sure that your subject line translates well on mobile devices by previewing your email across all channels before distributing.
- No shouting, please
Not only does using ALL CAPS in your subject line translate as shouting, it often triggers spam filters.
- Steer clear of special characters
Unrecognizable text or shapes in the subject line can spell disaster for your email. There is evidence that special characters in a subject line can result in your email being consigned to spam. Symbols like $, #, @, &, etc. should be kept to the body of your email, if used at all.
If contacts don’t engage with your emails, spam filters may decide to block all your emails moving forward. Focus on communicating with those contacts who are engaging with your email, so you’ll continue to reach the inboxes that matter.
- Build your own list
It’s really never a good idea to borrow, copy, or buy third-party contact lists. The chances these kinds of lists will bring spam traps and poor-quality email addresses are high. Why does that matter? Well, sending several emails to any inactive address will, over time, be recorded by the ISP as a spam trap hit.
A better approach would be to build a quality contact list by collecting email addresses through an opt-in. In fact, a double opt-in process is recommended to eliminate mistyped or fake email addresses.
- …And keep it clean
Regularly update and clean your contact lists. Start by monitoring your analytics to identify and remove older non-engaging or blocked email addresses.
ISPs keep track of hard bounces to determine your sender reputation. You should, too.
Because a bad reputation will damage your deliverability, it makes sense to pay attention to bounce notifications so that you can remove any problematic addresses from your list.
- Get permission
Probably the most effective way to make it into your target’s inbox is to send content that they’ve signed up for and are expecting. With an automated lead nurturing program, you can have an ongoing conversation with a prospect on their timeline, not yours.
Irrelevant or unsolicited content can get you flagged as a spammer. Conversely, someone who signs up to receive your messages wants to have a relationship with you. In other words, they’re more likely to engage with your content and are less likely to report your emails as spam. That’s huge.
As with subject lines, ISPs have rules about which text in the body copy will trigger spam filters. Constructing emails that don’t trigger spam traps by avoiding the use of trigger words is important for the success of any lead generation campaign.
Additionally, keep the following best-practice recommendations in mind:
- Again, stay away from ALL CAPS
Simple enough. Don’t use in either your subject line or the body of your email.
- Text to image ratio
There is some debate among marketers as to the ideal ratio of text to image in an email.
Opinions swing between an 80/20 to a more even 60/40, but ultimately it is down to keeping a good balance between the two, based on your audience, and doing so consistently.
- Alt text
Speaking of text and images, are you including alt text? Not doing so can be disastrous for your campaigns.
Did you know that email clients scan for alt text as a way to “read” images? That way when an image is blocked by an email client, the alt text can tell the subscriber what that picture was supposed to show.
The alt text also performs another useful function — it helps get your messages past spam filters.
The first job of an email service provider is to make sure it transfers only valid messages. Further, email clients are supposed to protect us from communications sent by fishy senders. To do that, they make judgements based on domain reputation.
The reputation of your IP address has a direct impact on your deliverability rates. If your IP address has a bad reputation, your emails are more likely to land in spam.
- Make sure you’re not a blacklisted sender
- Get a third-party certificate
There is also a possibility of getting a sender accreditation by a third party, acting as a guarantee to the ISPs that you are not a spammer.
Companies like Return Path evaluate your performance to certify you as a reliable sender. This certification will help your emails reach most of the inboxes you target since it signals to ISPs to let your messages sidestep spam filters.
Send long and prosper
Using the information above can help you create your next campaign with the confidence that comes from knowing you’ve taken precautions to keep your messages out of spam folders.
Have you used any of the practices above? What’s worked for you?
Gayle Crawford is an impassioned connector who loves collaborating with forward-focused marketers. As a DemandGen Campaign Manager, she helps support client goals by quantifying objectives and developing supporting strategies for success.