Email marketing provides businesses such as your own with a world of potential. It’s inexpensive, easily segmented and grows right along with your company. However, for any email campaign, regardless of scope, to prove profitable, it needs to avoid ending up in the spam folder.
Email marketing has evolved from mailer advertisements, handing out literature on the sidewalk and going door to door. However, unlike the other forms of inexpensive, direct marketing, email marketing may never end up in front of a recipient if you’re not careful.
In order to avoid the spam folder and improve your chances of landing in the inbox, here are several tips, tricks and suggestions your business needs to follow, regardless of the email marketing campaign.
Never Purchase an Email List
One of the biggest advertising sins any marker can perform is purchasing any kind of list, subscribers or followers. These are just baseless numbers with nothing of substance behind it.
When buying an email list these accounts may or may not be active. Even for active accounts, recipients of an email campaign will not know who the sender is, which reduces the chances of them opening the message. This is money more or less down the advertising drain. Instead, it’s far better to grow an email list organically, by capturing contact information directly from leads and customers. It takes longer to build up an email list this way but 100% of those emails organically captured are from individuals who, at the very least, have demonstrated some level of interest in the products and services offered by your company.
According to Bloomberg (2017), just over 85 percent of all email messages going out are considered spam. This means less than 14 percent of all messages going out are legitimate, which is why the spam filter is so active in looking to flag spam and prevent it from ever entering the Inbox. If you purchase an email list and send out these messages unsolicited to recipients, you run the risk of being flagged as a spammer, which may end up pushing all of your subsequent messages into the spam folder, regardless of future recipients.
One of the top reasons why emails end up in a spam folder is because of the sender’s email address. It may come from an account identified as potentially fraudulent. In order to avoid this potentially fraudulent flag, you need to authenticate your email account.
Authenticating your email address verifies you are who you say you are. When an email service provider like Gmail or Outlook sees a message coming in from an authenticated email it becomes more likely to send the message to an Inbox and not the spam folder.
There are a number of different authentication services available. The three most common are the Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain-Based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), and the Domain Keys Identification Mail (DKIM). By visiting the websites of these services, it’s possible to easily authenticate the email address and instantly improve the chance of landing in the Inbox.
According to Google’s Security Blog (2016), the best course of action is to have your email address authenticated with both DKIM and SPF. In fact, nearly 86 percent of authenticated emails go through this format. Failure to follow suit with email authentication will result in your message likely not ending up in an Inbox (specific numbers ending up in spam folders are not available with regards to email authentication due to some message recipients changing spam settings or retrieving messages from the spam folder).
Whitelist Your Domain
This runs parallel next to email authentication. The main purpose here is to establish your website as an authentic site. In order to do this, you need to whitelist the website domain (also known as your IP address). By whitelisting your domain it tells email service providers like Gmail and Outlook your website is authentic and not spam. Much like authenticating your email address, the more information the ESP of a message recipient has on you, your website and the email address, the more likely your send correspondence will end up in the Inbox.
The Double Opt-In
The double opt-in does require email recipients to perform an additional step in signing up for an email list. It may also reduce the total number of email list subscribers. However, it also improves the quality of the email list while eliminating the chance of a message ending up in the spam folder.
The double opt-in is a two-step email authentication approach. For example, your website may offer a special discount for those who sign up for the email newsletter. The interested customer inputs his or her email address into the designated area. Once they submit the information they then must visit their email address and, upon opening the email, click on an embedded link.
The benefit of requiring an email list recipient to immediately open their email address and click on a confirmation email is it ensures future emails end up in the Inbox. If they find the initial email has ended up in the spam folder they can mark it as not spam.
According to Get Response, while a single opt-in email list does receive more email address opt-ins, the double opt-in results in a twice as high click-through rate over the single method. This shows that, while the email list grows slower, the quality of the email recipient increases, which helps with the sender score (more on this later) and, in return, increases the chance of future emails going into an Inbox over the spam folder.
Purge Your Email List
You need to regularly go through your email list and purge out those who are non-responsive or who have unsubscribed from the list. When you send out marketing material in the form of an email, email service providers will see the engagement rate of your messages. As your email engagement rate lowers, the ESP becomes more likely to flag your messages as spam.
This is another reason why it is so important for you to avoid purchasing an email list. These individuals, who do not know you or your products, are less likely to open your marketing material. This, in turn, reduces your email engagement rate. By doing this, it actually hinders your ability to advertise to authenticate emails you’ve obtained organically.
Every email account has what is known as a sender score. Individuals typically have improved sender stores because the few emails they send go to family, friends or business associates. Due to this, they have a high sender score. However, as a business sending out potentially thousands of emails in a month, your sender score will drop. There will be times where people enter the wrong email address when prompted to provide an email account. This wrong email address will, in turn, drop your sender score because the message going to the incorrect email address likely will not be engaged with. So regularly clean your email list and remove unresponsive accounts.
The sender score has a direct connection with inbox placement rates. According to PinPointe, sender scores between 99 and 100 will almost always end in the inbox. As a business though, the chances of you having such a high score is not high, due to the large numbers of messages you send out for advertising purposes. A score of between 81 and 90 has an Inbox placement rate of 80 percent. A sender score of 71 through 80 drops the inbox placement rate down to around 57 percent. Any sender score under a 70 plunges the inbox placement rate down to nearly zero percent.
Watch Your Language
Language matters when it comes to delivering emails to an Inbox over the Spam filter. This is especially the case with how Google’s Gmail functions (and, to a lesser extent, Outlook). Email service providers have started to segment messages not ending up in the spam folder. Gmail takes this the furthest with three individual sections. There is the standard Inbox, followed by a social partition and a promotions partition. While the goal is to avoid messages deposited into the spam (or “junk” folder), the best performing messages also avoid the social and promotions folder.
In order to end up in the primary folder (or, at the very least, avoid the spam folder), messages need to avoid sales speech. This means cutting out words like “free,” “purchase,” “buy,” “order,” or really anything else commonly connected with buying and selling goods. It’s also important to avoid unnecessary punctuation. While the drive to build excitement behind a particular product or service is important, inserting more than one exclamation point at the end of a sentence takes it overboard. This isn’t a social media post. It’s an email message.
According to the Restaurant Hot Spot (2017), the words used in either the subject line or body of an email and most likely to push your message into the spam folder include “Amazing,” “All New,” “Avoid,” “Limited Time,” “New Customers Only,” “Open Now,” and “Last Chance.”
By following through with these different tips and tricks, you’ll increase the number of emails ending up inside a recipient’s inbox and not their spam folder. While you’ll likely never reach 100 percent inbox infiltration as each user has varying spam flagging priorities, you can greatly reduce spam potential with these suggestions. The sooner you begin implementing these changes into your next email marketing campaign, the better off your sales numbers and desired endgame will fair.