The most difficult part of being involved in email marketing is actually getting your emails delivered into your customers’ inboxes. All ISPs – Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, among many others – each have their own rules and filters for what email they allow through to the users. Since this element that is completely out of your control, it can be both confusing and frustrating trying to get your emails through.
The good news is that there are a handful of tips that really can help emails bypass the spam filters on most ISPs. While there is no special sauce to guaranteeing your emails make it to the inbox, these tips are simple and are some things to keep in mind when creating messages for your email list.
1. Text to Image Ratio – Basically, you want your emails to contain a high ratio of text compared to the number of images. Back in the day, spam filters started scanning email content to determine whether the email should be passed on to the user. Spammers noticed this and tried used to hide their messages within images since the spam filters couldn’t ‘read’ them. Based on this practice, many ISPs starting looking at email content to have both text and images to determine whether your email was considered spam.
The difficult part of including text in your emails is when it comes to styling and image branding. There are only about five fonts that will render perfectly in email, and they are very basic. So if you must use a stylized font, try incorporating text by using an email-safe font for sub-headers, captions, buttons, text links or teaser copy.
2. Spam Words – Some ISPs still actually sift through your email content – subject line included – to see if you include words that are commonly used by spammers. Depending on their own internal thresholds, if they find one or more, they are likely to move your emails to the spam box. This is usually done on a case-by-case – or email-by-email – basis, but there’s always the possibility that your move to the junk folder can be permanent.
So to get your emails into the inbox, be sure to avoid including spam words in your text content. There are any number of words that can qualify as spam, but some common ones are: ‘click,’ ‘free’ and ‘here.’ For reference, this website compiles a great list of spam words you should avoid using. In addition to the actual words being used, some spam filters take the formatting of text into account. Using all capital letters, or yelling, is not encouraged and can be deemed as spam. Using $ and % symbols can also trigger some spam filters, so use with caution.
3. Relevant Content and Subject Lines – Sending a creative to your email list that does not match with their expectations is the quickest way to land your emails in the spam folder. In most ISPs, once a person marks your email as junk or spam, they no longer let any future emails through to the inbox. One quick way to remedy this is to make sure that the content you send to your email list matches what they expect to get. Bombarding subscribers with third party offers or sending emails full of ads will make it easy for users to complain about your email. If this is something your marketing strategy dictates that you must do, be sure to place a visible unsubscribe link in the header of your email. This location is closest to the complaint button and gives them the option to unsubscribe instead.
4. User Engagement – Gmail is notorious for using user engagement as a factor to determining whether your email should go into the spam folder or inbox. Other ISPs are jumping onboard, but now is the time to make sure your email list is actively opening and clicking your emails. An email list hygiene is most likely going to be necessary so that you can remove those email addresses that are no longer or have ever engaged with your brand. To determine your list hygiene strategy, you will probably want to consider both those customers that have recently opened or clicked on your email or that have recently been added to your email list. It’s recommended to give subscribers a tight window to engage with you – so starting with a three to six month engagement window should give favorable results. Removing those that are labeled inactive will be looked at favorably by the ISPs, and you are likely to experience better inbox delivery.
These four tips should come at no surprise to anyone who has been working in email marketing. The issue is that most people become so involved in advanced features and metrics that they tend to lose sight of the fundamentals. Email ISPs are only filtering emails in their customers’ best interests, and any viable email marketer should want to comply with their standards or else remove the user from their list.