Email Marketers Worst Nightmare: The Spam Folder

Blog November 20th, 2018

For email marketers, our emails are our digital babies. They are born out of our creativity, intelligence and experience. It’s no big surprise that email marketers are proud of their work every single time.

Well, that’s until they see it in their audience’s spam folder.

Every day, up to 14.5million spam emails are being sent, accounting for over 45 percent of all emails. While this includes legitimate emails that got flagged as spam, one might wonder why and how emails get marked.

But is there really no way for email marketers to escape the fate of the spam folder? Are we but powerless against the spam filter?

Actually, there’s a way.

It’s also really easy.

You should’ve done it from the start.

And it all starts with being mindful of your subject line.

What is an Email Spam Filter?

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Before we dive into the solution, let’s diagnose the problem first.

A lot of us end up other people’s spam folders without realizing, and it’s mostly because spam filters can get confusing.

Just imagine spam filters as semi-autonomous robots that work specifically to detect spam. The way they do it is nothing special, but it’s a pretty rigorous job. Now, when spam filters detect spam-like qualities in an email, it gets automatically sent to the spam folder.

While the idea of a spam filter is smart, it’s not perfect. Many times I accuse people of not sending an email, but in reality, it was simply marked as spam. It is worth noting, however, that spam filter technology has come a long way and it detects most if not all spam in your emails.

How do they do it?

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Well, spam filters look at a variety of things before they mark an email as spam.

First, they scan the source of the email and cross-reference the sender against their spam list. See, all emails are tracked and are given scores. The score depends on the open rate, delete rate and bounce rate.

When an email sender has a consistently low open rate and high bounce rate, they receive a low score. If this becomes a trend, all his emails will eventually find the spam folder.

But you might ask, “I don’t have a low open rate and high bounce rate but my emails still go directly to the spam folder, why is that?”

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Spam filters don’t just rely on the historical records of the email sender. Sometimes, they just check the email for tell-tale signs of spam – starting with the very first thing we see.

How To Avoid the Spam Folder? – Writing a Better Subject Line

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So now that we understand how the spam filter works, let’s discuss how we can avoid the void. Let’s focus on the subject line first.

First of all, it’s 2018. By now, we can determine from subject lines alone emails that shout “SPAM!”. If you check your spam folder right now, you will most likely find common some of these words in the subject lines:

  1. Free
  2. Opportunity
  3. Bonus
  4. Remove
  5. Save
  6. $$$
  7. Amazing
  8. Prizes
  9. Discount
  10. Attention

By analyzing the 455 spam trigger word list, but we can easily find the top 10 words that found in spam emails. The subject line of emails should engage the attention of the reader, but it should do so without using these words (if possible).

Another thing to avoid is called hash busting, which is putting and/or replacing characters in the subject line to “fool” the spam filter. Subject lines such as “Fr33 Pr!z3 |ns|d3” will still trigger the spam filter. Bots are much smarter than that and putting everything in caps won’t help as well. Who wants to read a letter that’s shouting at them?

Also, be wary of using a deceptive subject line. This happens when email senders add “Fwd:” or “Re:” to fool the reader into thinking that there is an ongoing correspondence. The spam filter will detect this and automatically banish these emails to the spam folder.

It also helps if your subject line is 50 characters, or less. Who knew keeping it short and sweet helps?

Last, make sure the headline does not mislead readers. For example, if the email subject is about a product for sale, then don’t write a subject line that suggests the product is free. The subject line should “tell” readers what’s inside rather “sell” them on it. Even if sales-y emails pass spam filters, the reader will probably send it there anyways.

Take Note of the Body

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Let’s assume the email makes it through the spam filter, it should be all good, right?

Well, not really. Remember that the target can manually mark it as spam. According to email marketing company Campaign Monitor, only 0.5% of total emails are needed to be flagged, which effectively ends any campaign.

This makes editing the content of all emails even more important. Just because a specific type of content, or style of delivery, works for one guy’s list does not mean it will work for everyone.

In email marketing, it should go beyond making another sale, or pushing another product/service. While that’s certainly the ultimate goal, it’s important to understand that emails should always provide value for the target audience. After all, if it asks them for a few minutes of their time, make sure it’s worth it.

If we compose emails from the audience’s perspective, it’s important to ask, “What kind of email would I enjoy reading and then respond to?”


About the author: Andrew is the CEO of Next Level Web, a trusted marketing agency based in San Diego, California. He has three lovely daughters and the most patient wife of all time. They specialize in Web Design, Search Engine Optimization, PPC Advertising, and Email Marketing (The Agency – not the daughters… yet).

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