If you have ever seen your emails going into your recipient's spam then you know how distressing not knowing what to do is. Especially if you have spent time (and money) creating the perfect email campaign.
I make a habit of checking my junk folder once a week in search of any emails that I may have missed. And to my surprise, I discovered that more and more legitimate emails from non-spam worthy companies ending up there.
The majority of the content contained within these emails did not promote big pharma or invite me to get involved in some last minute sale.
So, why did these emails fall into junk? After glancing over them I found that they did (or failed to do) one or more of the things below.
1. Avoid Using 'Triggering' Keywords
I'm not talking about keywords that trigger negative emotions people, but rather trigger your email to get flagged as spam. As discussed in The B2B Email Marketing Cheat Sheet email spam filters still look at the content of your emails when deciding what to allow through and what to send to junk.
There is a long list of keywords to avoid using which you can find here.
I know realistically you can't avoid all of those keywords without making it almost impossible to write emails so use your best judgment, and realize that context plays a big part in what is viewed as spam, and what isn't.
Note: Apart from avoiding keywords, it's good practice to not use too many symbols or punctuation marks (i.e $$$, !!). And keep your emails formatted consistently through.
2. Using a Trusted Email Server / IP Address
What is said is just as important as who says it, right? Well, the content of your email is one thing, but where that email originates from is arguably more important.
Ever notice how emails from large organizations almost never end up in your junk folder? Even if some of them are irrelevant.
That's because their server reputation is so high. One of the reasons why companies use Google Apps, for instance, is because sending through Google's server almost always ensures that their emails will reach the inbox.
That's why at GuessBox when sending cold emails to leads we use SendGrid. They provide regular server reputation information and allow us to setup sending through dedicated IPs (I'll talk about why that is important later).
Consequently, on cold emails, we typically receive deliverability rates of 98%+, open rates of 80%+ and responses between 15% - 30%.
3. Setting Up Email Authentication to Verify Your Domains
Almost every email that ended up in my spam folder failed to do this. Setting up email authentication is a must for any business that wants to send out emails to their customers, let alone do cold outreach.
I cover setting it up in great detail in the post above, so please click that link to learn more.
If you use Gmail you may have received an email from somebody whose picture just looks an exclamation point. When opened this email Google generally provides a warning. A lot of the time that is because the sender is unverified.
So what is email authentication?
In short, authenticating your emails means providing an identity to your emails for mail servers to register. Once your domain is authenticated using DKIM (DomainKeys) and SPF (Sender Policy Framework) at the minimum, that tells the server that you are who you say you are and stops forged emails getting through.
As a result, this increases your email deliverability and in turn, your open, click and response rates. Read more above.
Email authentication is typically done by adding information to your DNS records.
4. Being Flagged Sucks So Check Blacklists
If everything seems alright but your emails are still ending up in junk then you might be blacklisted.
Being blacklisted is more than an annoyance, in extreme cases, it could result in your hosting provider shutting down your account. So it's smart to keep an eye on popular blacklists, you can do this by visiting MxToolBox's Blacklist Checker and typing in your domain or IP.
MxToolBox also has a plethora of great features for anybody who wants to stay on top of their email.
Note: There are a lot of different blacklists from different countries so being on 1 or 2 doesn't mean it's the end of the road for you. Being placed on any of the lists below however should give you room for concern as they are the most popular lists and have the most pull with hosting/email providers.
4.5 Dealing With Being Blacklisted
Getting removed from a blacklist can be as simple as waiting it out (i.e Spamhaus makes you wait 6 months and not send out any emails they deem to be Spam) or as time-consuming as manually contacting each blacklist and requesting removal.
If you don't want to do that but still ensure your emails get delivered you can change the IP you are sending from (this typically requires purchasing a dedicated IP from your host or email sending provider).
Doubling down on the above sometimes filters may blacklist the domain you are sending from in which case it would be wise to use a different domain.
And finally, if all else fails (arguably, one step before that) you can also switch your web host/email host.
This will give you an opportunity to start fresh and build your IP reputation on a different domain, hosted by a different company. Just be careful, because if you have to repeat this process, then it's probably something you're doing wrong.
We denounce all forms of spam, and email that does not comply with the CAN SPAM Act 2003.
There are loopholes and workarounds but outright spam is reprehensible. I will leave the technicalities of what is and isn't spam for another post.
5. Avoid Selling in Your First Touch Email
The thing that a lot of people get wrong is trying to sell their product or service too much, particularly in the first email they send someone.
Your first email should just be an introduction of who you are, why you're sending this email, a very brief description of your company, and call to action (ideally in the form of a meeting), and ideally under 5 sentences in length.
Not doing this or trying to get your email lead to buy your product through the use of discounts, payment links or other incentives is a surefire way of getting them clicking the 'this email is spam' button and getting any future emails moved directly into junk.
6. Using a Dedicated IP and Email Server
Dedicated IP addresses are simply IPs that are not used by anyone else and belong to you. By default most mail servers on your hosting plan will be using shared IPs which means that everybody on that subnet is using them to send emails too. This can lower your IP reputation and decrease the chance that they will land in your prospect's inbox.
Note: This is under the assumption that you are sending email through your own server (the same one where your website is hosted) rather than via a trusted email service provider (ESP) like SendGrid, Google Apps, Mailgun, Amazon, Yahoo etc.
Even though those trusted providers have high quality shared IPs which should be fine for most people wanting to run email campaigns, send transactional emails to their users or do outreach if you want to go a step further you can always request a dedicated IP.
7. Avoid Bounces and Honor Unsubscribes
Apart from getting your emails marked as spam, not honoring unsubscribes is an easy way to reduce your server reputation.
So if you have a global do not send list, or a list of unsubscriptions make sure you do not send to them. After all, they are called unsubscribes for a reason.
Finally, sending to a lot of email addresses that fail to arrive because they are invalid or just bounce can so harm your IP reputation.
The best way to deal with that is to add bounces to global do not send lists so that your email app doesn't accidentally try to continue sending mail.
Additionally, you can use email verification apps to test out your list before sending, so that you can remove the emails that are going to bounce before they do.