Avoiding spam filters and other email marketing tips

Email marketing as many of us know, can be a powerful and inexpensive method of reaching our most active potential and/or existing customers. It can boost not only our direct sales, but also our credibility and referrals. 

One of the major benefits of email marketing is that email is cheap, but obviously this is the same reason that spam has become so popular and so frustrating. With spam comes spam filters and with spam filters comes the blocking of legitimate email. 

In this article I'll describe the basic steps you can take to help reduce the number of emails you send out that get blocked by spam filters -- hopefully resulting in a more rewarding marketing effort. 

The right selection of words
Many spam filters work by analyzing the email based on its content and the words used. Many words -- such as free, sex and so forth -- are very heavy spam trigger keywords. Your priority should be to avoid such words while keeping your newsletter as professional as possible. 

Later in this article I will show you a technique that I use to help me detect words that could trigger spam filters that I may have missed. 

Pay attention to your formatting 
When formatting your email, keep it simple and professional. Excessive use of different colors, fonts, sizes, images and so forth will result in a higher spam filtering rate. Keep your email as clean as possible, and try to stick to a maximum of 2 or 3 different font types and sizes. Overly large sized fonts will surely add to an email being flagged as spam, as will too many images (or not enough text). 

Consistency is king 
Use a template if you plan on sending newsletters consistently. This will make sure that all your newsletters look and feel the same. It will also add a touch of professionalism and branding to your newsletters. 

Whilst not directly affecting spam filters, this will enable your readers to distinguish your newsletter instantly, thus not reporting it as spam accidentally. Some spam filters work by querying a spam server, whereas others report individual emails as spam. If your email gets reported as spam, then more than likely multiple spam filters will flag your email. 

Being consistent with your timing of the newsletter also helps. For example, if you send a newsletter once per month, then aim to send it out at the same time, on the same day each month. 

Once again, your potential readers will learn to expect your email, adding professionalism and often improving open rates, also reducing accidental spam flagging as well. 

Don't send too often or too infrequently
Sending too often may annoy some people causing them to unsubscribe. It's important to respect your subscribers, we all have busy lives.

Conversely sending too infrequently may result in subscribers forgetting they had joined your mailing list and flagging your email as spam.

Depending on how much you have to say, we recommend sending monthly or quarterly. If you are planning to send more frequently than monthly make sure you have something genuinely important or urgent to say.

Always use double opt-in 
Always make your contact lists uses double opt-in. This means that when a user subscribes to your contact list, they will be sent an email with a link that they must click on to confirm their subscription. 

This is very important because many people can accidentally enter an incorrect email address, or even the email address of someone else on purpose. When that person receives a newsletter they did not subscribe to, they will assume they have been spammed, and your newsletter will be reported as spam. 

Please see Signup confirmation - double opt in

Remove stale subscribers
Consider removing, or reconfirming, subscribers who have not interacted with your company for some time, they may not be expecting your emails and may report them as spam. To reconfirm subscribers send them an email asking if they want to continue receiving your emails

Please see Reconfirming your subscribers

Remind customers why they are receiving your emails
It's best practice to include some text reminding customers why they are on your mailing list, this explanation could be placed in the footer before the unsubscribe link. If each customer has a unique reason for being on your list then you could create a custom field to store this information for each subscriber and then use a merge tag to display this in your email.

To create custom fields go to Lists > click on the list name, then click on Custom Fields.

For further information on using merge tags see: Campaign tags and filters

Ask your subscribers to add your email address to their address book
It's a good idea to include some text in your email asking them to add your email address to their address book, this can help prevent your emails from ending up in their spam folders.

Always use a verified sending domain (SPF, DKIM & DMARC)
Verified sending domains allow spam filters to confirm that BoltMail is legitimately sending email on your behalf, this way spam filters know that your emails are legitimate. Using a verified sending domain will improve deliverability significantly.

BoltMail makes this easy, please see Creating a sending domain

Always include unsubscribe and contact information 
Every newsletter you send out should contain a way for the reader to unsubscribe. Not doing so is illegal and is an instant sign of spamming. You should also display your contact information (Phone and Address) clearly, as this greatly increases confidence in your email and your company, as well as conforms to spam laws. Contact information also allows a potential customer to contact you if need be.

Please see How to ensure you are not sending spam

Always address your subscribers by their name
BoltMail allows you to use merge tags to personalise emails with your subscribers details such as their name. Beginning an email with "Hi John", instead of "Hi Customer" feels much friendlier and looks less spammy. Personalised emails will usually elicit a much better response than generic messages.

All lists have First Name and Last Name merge fields added by default, to personalise an email with each subscribers name simply type "Hi [FNAME]" ([FNAME] will be replaced with the subscribers first name when the email is sent). To create additional merge fields go to Lists > click on the list name, then click on "Custom Fields". 

For further information on using merge tags see: Campaign tags and filters

Test, test, test 
The key to avoiding spam filters is testing. The first method of testing I use is to send the newsletter to multiple email accounts with existing spam filters. For example, I have a Gmail (https://www.gmail.com) account and an Outlook (https://www.outlook.com) account that I make sure I send my newsletter to. If the newsletter ends up in the junk folder, then I've got some work to do.

Please see How to test your email campaign for spam

Avoiding spam filters when sending out legitimate newsletters can be a time consuming effort. However, as your contact list grows, it can also be a very beneficial exercise. I've watched open rates of just 2 to 3% soar to a massive 50% and over, simply by applying the techniques described in this article.

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