How to Avoid Spam Filters (Like a Pro)

Illustration of a tennis player volleying an envelope across the net, a symbolic illustration of how to avoid spam filters.Understanding how to avoid spam filters is a must if you want to get a good return on your efforts as an email marketer. This is because deliverability is the one multiplier on everything in email marketing. 

The worse your deliverability gets, the more you end up spinning your wheels. You eventually end up in a cycle of ever increasing marketing effort to get an ever dwindling amount of conversions and results.

Conversely, improving your deliverability represents the highest form of leverage in email marketing. When you dodge the spam folder like a pro, you get more of all the good stuff. That includes conversions, customer loyalty and bottom line profits.

Fortunately, understanding the spam filters and how to avoid them isn’t too difficult, especially if you know what to focus on. And that’s what this guide is all about.

The dual strategy to preventing your emails going to spam

I’m about to share with you one of the best ways I’ve seen to approach deliverability and understanding the spam filters. You want to think of it as a battle on two fronts. It’s a concerted effort where you try to appease the machines on the one side, and win over the human factor on the other side.

What does that even mean? Well, when it comes to deliverability, there are certain technical actions you can take to show trustworthiness to the email servers out there. This includes things like setting up SPF and DKIM records.

Unfortunately, getting the technical side set up is far from enough. This is because the inbox providers also track how much the humans trust you. That is, they look at user behavior to judge whether your email receivers think well of you.

Understanding how the spam filters work

The spam filters (algorithms) used by inbox providers are quite sophisticated and take many factors into account. This can even include how many emails you’ve sent to users on their service today, this week, this month. It might include what IP addresses you’re sending your emails from usually, and if the IPs change or if you share them with others. 

It can also include whether their users typically open your emails and read them at all. Inbox providers can even detect unsubscriptions and track your unsubscription rates as well. So this should probably tell you something. 

The algorithms are designed to “care” about how happy your email recipients are. The unhappier they are, the more likely the provider is to place your email in the spam folder.

This might be a surprise to many marketers who think that “spam” is an unrequested email sent without consent. However, in the real world, people use the “spam” button to mean “this email is annoying”, or “I don’t want to see these emails any more”. Even if they explicitly signed up for your list.

The spam filters (algorithms) are designed in a similar fashion. They’re closer to what the humans want to see in a spam folder. Not necessarily whether the email was sent without permission.

Avoiding Spam Filters: The Technical Side

1) Leverage a platform that cares about you and your deliverability

Fun fact: not all platforms care about your emails actually getting delivered. This is because most beginners are impressed with “cool sounding features”. So this is where most platforms invest their efforts.

On the other side are the experienced email veterans. I’m talking about big list owners who deal in the millions.

All of them prioritize deliverability over anything else. If their platform can help them deliver more emails, that can mean a massive amount of money. This is why so many of them are moving to Emercury.

Now, you don’t have to wait until you have huge lists to then start caring about deliverability. In fact if you start off the right way, you will grow a lot faster.

2) Use double opt-ins or email verification

You will see a lot of guides insist that you must use a double opt-in. And while this is ideal when it fits, sometimes it doesn’t fit your marketing or business model.

For example, you might be in an industry that requires sending emails to cold leads. This is something that we support at Emercury and in fact we make it really easy to organize and clean your lists.

Just bear in mind that if you’re not using double opt-ins, you will want to verify all email addresses before sending. The more of your emails that bounce, the lower your reputation will sink. 

Eventually with enough bounces the spam filters will simply decide that you are a “spammer. The risk is just not worth it, so always try to verify your emails.

3) Keep on top of your metrics

Keeping an eye on your email metrics is essential for maintaining good deliverability. By tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) like open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates, and unsubscribe rates, you can see how well your campaigns are performing and how engaged your subscribers are.

If you notice any sudden changes in your metrics, it could be a sign of a problem. For example, a spike in bounce rates could mean that your list is full of spam traps or inactive subscribers. Low open rates could mean that your subject lines aren’t interesting enough or your content isn’t relevant to your subscribers.

By staying on top of your metrics, you can quickly identify and fix any problems that could be affecting your deliverability. You can also use your metrics to improve your campaigns and make sure that you’re delivering the right content to the right people.

When you consistently deliver relevant, valuable content to engaged subscribers, you build trust and credibility with both email providers and recipients. This, in turn, leads to better deliverability.

4) Utilize warm-up campaigns

If you’re new to email marketing or you’re just starting to ramp up your sending volume, it’s important to warm up your campaigns. This means gradually increasing your email sending volume over a period of time, so that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and email filters can get used to your activity and establish your reputation as a legitimate sender.

When you send a sudden spike in emails, it can look suspicious to ISPs, and they may flag your messages as spam. This can hurt your deliverability rates and make it harder for your emails to reach the inbox.

Warming up your campaigns helps to avoid this by gradually increasing your sending volume over time. This gives ISPs a chance to see that your emails are legitimate and that you’re not sending spam.

5) Set up your SPF, DKIM and DMARC Records

To establish your sender authenticity and thwart spam filters, set up SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) records. These protocols validate your emails and demonstrate your commitment to secure communication.

Fortunately, all of this is really easy if you’re an Emercury user, in fact it’s part of our onboarding process. Our team will be happy to help you set everything up just right.

6) Check your “spam score” before clicking send

Before you send out an email campaign, it’s important to evaluate your content to make sure it doesn’t contain any spam triggers. Spam triggers are words or phrases that can cause your emails to be flagged as spam by email filters.

There are a few different ways to evaluate your email content for spam triggers. You can use a spam checking tool or service, like Emercury’s built-in content scoring feature. These tools will analyze your content and highlight any potential spam triggers.

Once you’ve identified any spam triggers in your content, you can address them before sending your email. This may involve removing the spam triggers from your content, or changing the way you word your content.

At Emercury we make this one really easy and simple. You can see your score right on the sending panel. Just click the content scoring button. Aside from just showing a score, we break it down by individual issues. This helps you know what to fix before clicking send.

7) Personalize your bulk email

One of the defining characteristics of spam is that it is a type of “bulk mail”, where the same message gets sent to a ton of different recipients. In essence spammers are playing the “numbers game”, where if one in 10,000 recipients takes an action, they make a buck.

This has wrongly led some people to think that bulk email in general is wrong. Some people even think that all bulk email is automatically spam. But this isn’t the case. For example, when a large brand has a massive sale, they send the same email to tens or hundreds of thousands of recipients.

The difference is that these messages are targeted and not random. You don’t just get a random email from a company you’ve never heard about. It is a brand whose emails you often engage with, and someone you asked to hear from. So when they send the same email to you and 100,000 other recipients, it is not an issue.

However, we can, and we should go a step further than just basic targeting. With a platform like Emercury it is very easy to personalize your bulk email campaigns. First, you have our super popular Smart Personalization feature. That alone can help make sure no two people get the exact same email, even if the campaign is sending to a massive list of subscribers. 

Secondly, you can break up the campaign to target multiple segments separately. With features like the Advanced Segment Builder and Smart Segments, we make using segments an absolute joy, and something marketers do for fun.

Winning over your subscribers: The human side of email marketing

1) Avoid clickbait, stay safe

As an email marketer, you’re very likely to start working on increasing your open rates. And you should, as it is an important part of email marketing. However, I find that this often carries danger as a lot of people can overdo it.

When you learn that using things such as surprise, intrigue and curiosity can boost your open rates, it’s very easy to overdo it and go into clickbait territory. And the worst part is that when you first overdo your lines, it will work, at least in the short term.

You will get more people to open your emails. However, if the content inside fails to match the outrageous promise, you’ve just shot yourself in the foot. The subscriber is likely to either mark the email as spam or decide that you’re not trustworthy. Even if they don’t click the spam button right then, they are less likely to engage in the future.

And remember, the inbox providers are tracking user engagement to decide if your emails are valuable or spammy in nature. And clickbait makes your emails “spammy”, even if you’re doing everything else by the book. Remember again, these days the spam filters don’t just catch literal spam, but any email which is “spammy” in nature and seen as having negative value.

Now, this isn’t to say that you have to be boring on purpose. Just be mindful that you want to gradually develop the skill of writing catchier lines. It’s ok to err on the safe side. You can utilize straightforward subject lines that inform the user what value they will get from opening the email. To learn more about this and other ways to boost open rates, check out our guide on how to boost email open rates.

2) Use clear and consistent sender names

Your sender name is one of the first things recipients see when they receive your email. It’s important to use a sender name that is consistent with your brand or company identity so that recipients can easily identify you and trust that your emails are legitimate.

Avoid using generic sender names or constantly changing them, as this can confuse recipients and make them more likely to mark your emails as spam. For example, if you send an email from “John Doe” one day and “The Marketing Team” the next, recipients might not know who to trust and might be more likely to delete your emails without even opening them.

Instead, use a sender name that is consistent with your brand, such as “[Your Company Name] Marketing” or “[Your Name] from [Your Company Name].” This will help recipients to quickly identify you and associate your emails with your content.

3) Focus on formatting and grammar

When you’re sending out email campaigns, it’s important to make sure that your emails are well-formatted and grammatically correct. This will help to improve your deliverability and engagement rates.

Well-formatted emails are easy to read and understand. They use headings, bullet points, and concise paragraphs to break up the text and make it easier for recipients to scan and digest the content. This is especially important on mobile devices, where people are more likely to be reading emails on the go.

Grammar errors and poor spelling can make your emails look unprofessional and spammy. They can also erode your credibility and make recipients less likely to trust you. Spam filters are also designed to analyze linguistic accuracy, and emails with multiple errors may be flagged as spam.

So before you send out an email campaign, take the time to proofread it carefully. Use a grammar and spell-check tool if you need to. And make sure that your writing style is consistent and grammatically correct.

4) Master the call-to-action

Working on improving your calls-to-action is probably one of the highest-leverage things you can do as an email marketer. And here’s the fun part. It’s not just that it will increase your conversion directly, which it will, but also that it will make the spam filters like you more.

Remember, the algorithms track everything, and things like people engaging with your emails by clicking on your links is a really strong positive signal. So it is very important to understand the concept of getting people accustomed to taking action off of your emails.

If you have ever seen big marketers just provide a lot of high-value when you sign up, this is why they do it. They will tease you about a super-valuable gift, and just ask you to click a link to see the video, PDF or whatever valuable thing you are getting. They are training you to engage with their emails, and get into the habit of clicking on their links.

This is also telling the algorithms that this sender engages in providing regular and frequent value. And consequently, the algorithms will make sure to keep their emails out of the spam folder.

5) Make unsubscribing easy and obvious

We’ve already mentioned a few times that these days people use the “spam” button to mean anything from “this email is annoying” to “I no longer get value from these emails”. Even if they fully consented to getting your emails, and actually requested to be on your list.

Why don’t people just use that unsubscribe option? Isn’t it unfair that they mark you as a spammer to save like 3 seconds? Well, fair or not, it is the reality of the modern internet user. Many have no issue with making a false report just because it’s easier and more convenient than an unsubscribe process.

So the solution is quite simple. Make unsubscribing as easy, effortless and obvious as possible. A lot of people are afraid of making the unsubscription link obvious for fear of losing subscribers. But trust me, if people are getting value out of your emails, they won’t unsubscribe just because the unsubscription option is obvious and prominent. By making it less obvious you’re just asking for people to make false reports.

6) Learn what your subscribers want, and how often

This is another way of saying “Personalize your email marketing”. In fact when people talk about personalization, the fancy terminology just obfuscates a very simple idea. 

You want to learn what people are interested in, and how often they want to get it. Then adjust your email marketing to get as close to those preferences as possible. That’s good personalization in a nutshell.

Now, the best part about personalization is that it achieves so many things all at once. It builds a sense of trust, loyalty and promotes relationship-building. But at the same time, it also induces the kinds of positive signals that the algorithms are looking for. In turn, they will make sure to keep you out of that spam folder.

To learn more about this, check out our easy guide to personalization, and our guide on getting your email frequency right.

Get A Strategic Partner On Your Side

There’s no need to go at this alone. While we do put out a lot of free content to help you, nothing beats a one-on-one conversation. In these articles we try to help clarify things as best as possible. However, every business is different, so we have to generalize.

If you want to understand better how to implement email marketing in your specific business, let’s have a chat. At the moment I am still able to do some free demos, so be sure to book one while I can still do these.

I would love to hear about your specific needs, challenges and any confusion you might have about email marketing strategies. And then, help you see how you can use Emercury to improve your bottom-line.

Alternatively, or in addition to booking a free demo, you can also grab a username for our forever-free-plan while we still have it. It’s probably the most generous email marketing automation plan on the planet. We include almost every feature in this plan, with very few restrictions.

Remember, you get to keep this plan for life, for free… Provided that you grab a username while registrations are still open. Note that we might decide to pull this way-too-generous offering at any point. So click that link to check if we still allow registrations.

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