The most beautiful email marketing campaigns are worth little if your audience never gets to see them. Even though email continues to rank among the most effective digital marketing tools available, that statistic can only benefit your organization if your messages get the exposure they need to attract, convince, and convert your recipients to become volunteers, supporters, and donors.
In any industry, it’s essential to ensure your emails don’t get caught in automated spam filters or sent to the spam folder by your recipients. If you don’t prioritize spam-proofing, you risk not only losing out on audience members, but also getting blacklisted by an entire email client like Gmail, AOL, or Yahoo and pre-emptively closing the door on your fundraising and promotional efforts.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to safeguard your messages. Here are five tips that can help you spam-proof your email marketing and lock down your digital success.
1. Follow CAN-SPAM
Unsolicited email can feel intrusive and annoying. In fact, in 2003, Congress introduced a law designed to curb unsolicited emails. Known as CAN-SPAM, the law is important for email marketers to both understand and abide by.
The basic tenets of CAN-SPAM are relatively simple. Always identify your email as a marketing message (accomplished by adding your logo to the email) and include your physical address in the content or footer. An unsubscribe link is also essential, as is honest messaging (including your subject line). Following this law should be at the core of your email marketing strategy.
2. Avoid Trigger Words in the Subject Line
Even while following CAN-SPAM, of course, you can fall into a variety of spam filter traps. One of these traps are so-called trigger words. Essentially, trigger words are a list of common words and phrases used in subject lines that tip email clients off to whether or not your message is actually relevant to your audience.
The full list of trigger words changes constantly, but there are some words and symbols that remain true over the years:
- Take action
- Get started
- Free gift
- Dear friend
- Click here
To avoid having your message seem irrelevant, stay up to date with spam terms to avoid in your email subject line. Here are a few additional things to keep in mind.
When writing email subject lines, don’t:
- Write in ALL CAPS
- Use less than three words in your subject line
- Include excessive punctuation (!!! or …)
- Make spelling mistakes
- Add RE: in front of your subject line
3. Personalize the Sender
We all receive way too many emails every day—more than 110, in fact. When we clean out our inbox, the first messages marked as spam tend to be the ones with which we have no personal connection.
Fortunately, you can circumvent that process. Instead of sending an email from an anonymous account, send it from a member of your organization that interacts with your audience. The chances of increasing your open rates and minimizing your spam markings will increase drastically.
As an example, I send emails as “Bryan Caplan with BJC Branding.” The recipient will either recognize my name from attending my workshops and presentations or my company name from our online marketing initiatives, so I cover both bases and ensure the highest possible open rate.
4. Send to Organic Lists
Purchased lists have long been a preferred shortcut for organizations who don’t think they have the time or patience to organically grow their subscribers. Yet that process can increase your spam rates, and get you blacklisted from email clients in most scenarios.
All reputable email marketing tools explicitly forbid the use of purchased lists for that exact reason. It may take a bit longer for you to build a list of subscribers who opt in to receiving messages from you, but doing so will significantly minimize the number of recipients who feel irritated by your email, and mark it as spam as a result. Not to mention, an organic list will be more apt to engage with your messaging and lend their support.
5. Focus on Relevant Content
Finally, keep it simple. If more people actually enjoy your emails, fewer will mark them as spam. For each message you send, ask yourself whether its content actually adds value for its recipients. If it doesn’t, don’t send it—or at least modify it to maximize its relevance.
You can even go as far as segmenting your audience to make sure that each recipient only receives messages that are actually relevant to them. The goal should be to move away from mass emails toward a more customized strategy that adds value, rather than being irrelevant enough to be marked as spam.
Every email marketer fears landing in the spam folder and for good reason. If it happens often enough, you risk getting blacklisted and relinquish any chance of reaching your recipients in the present or future. With the above tips, you can avoid both automated spam filters and manual actions by your recipients. Instead, you can deliver beautiful and relevant emails that prompt your recipients to open them and act.
Bryan Caplan helps businesses elevate their digital marketing. CEO of BJC Branding and professional speaker, Bryan travels the country, presenting on a wide range of digital marketing topics. Bryan is a guest lecturer at the Sawyer School of Business and a contributing columnist to several publications including GoDaddy, BlueHost, and Constant Contact.