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You spend a lot of time and money on creating just the right marketing email to entice your customers; then they never see it because it goes to their SPAM box. Let’s talk about how you can keep your marketing emails from triggering those SPAM filters.
Know the Law
First, as a business who is engaging in email marketing, you should know the law. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 says that you could be fined $11,000 for each time you violate it’s requirements. That’s $11,000 for each email address on your list! This could be the most expensive email marketing mistake you ever make! In order to stay within the requirements you must:
- Never use deceptive headers, From names, reply-to addresses, or subject lines
- Always provide an unsubscribe link
- The unsubscribe link must work for at least 30 days after sending
- You must include your physical mailing address
International laws are somewhat different, so if you are targeting international customers, you will need to check those.
Be open and honest in your emails. If you are trying to hide something, like who the message is from, or that it’s being sent to a list, you’re going to get tagged by the spam filter, and worse, you could be fined. Be sure to tell subscribers who you are and why what you have to say is important to them. Always send your emails from the same email address so that subscribers know to expect it and can even whitelist it in their mail client.
Know Who to Send To
Never send your emails unsolicited, even if it’s too current or past customers. Although this seems like it would be a good idea, it’s not. Unwanted emails are a huge pet-peeve for many people and it won’t take much to turn off an otherwise happy customer. You don’t want to give customers a reason to hit that “report spam” button and get you blacklisted. Give customers the option to sign up for your list when they make a purchase from your website. Offer incentives — like discounts, coupons, or free downloads, for example — to encourage your customers or colleagues to become list subscribers. A double opt-in option is a way to double protect your reputation.
Never send to a purchased list. Even if the person you are purchasing the list from assures you the list is legitimate, it’s just not a good idea, and it could even result in legal ramifications. Sending to a purchased list is a sure way to get people to tag your emails as spam. Fixing your reputation is much harder than finding people who are interested in what you have to say.
Tell subscribers to watch for your messages. Emails that confirm a purchase or new subscription are among the most opened emails. So use them to tell your subscribers to watch for upcoming emails and to check their spam folders if they don’t receive them. You may also want to remind them to let their email client know that your emails are wanted by clicking the “not spam” button if they do find your emails in their junk folders or ask them to add your “from” address to their list of contacts so your emails won’t get filtered.
Be helpful. Start your email subject with the name of your newsletter so subscribers will recognize it right away or use a subject line that is straightforward. Misleading subject lines are a highly reliable way to identify viruses and spam. And something that may seem obvious, don’t talk about typical spam topics like Rolex watches, sexually oriented activities or drugs, or debt treatment unless those topics directly relate to your email. If they do, try to keep it to just one of these subjects per email. Stay away from typical spam words like “free,” “limited time,” and “money”.
Start with good content. Write messages that people want to receive. If people are opening and engaging with your emails through links in the email, then big email clients like Gmail and Yahoo will not send them to spam, even if they break other spam rules.
Use good grammar. Bad grammar is going to hurt you in more ways than just attracting the spam filters. It’s also going to make you look unprofessional to your subscribers. Capitalize the beginning of sentences. Don’t use excessive spacing or capitals in your email. If you try to use “cute” spellings like adding periods between your letters for emphasis or special characters to catch attention like “str@nge” or “S.P.A.C.E”, these items are going to catch the filter.
Use good HTML. Don’t copy and paste from Microsoft Word. Word has lots of HTML formatting that works great for Word, but not so great when added to an email. Use your email program to bold fonts and change the color of text, etc. And don’t hide words on the same color background. Whenever you try to hide something, the filter assumes it’s spam. On the same principal, if you need to track emails with a graphic, use a graphic that can actually be seen, not an invisible one. Don’t use iframes to embed web pages into your email. Line length should be no longer than 78 characters.
And of course, make sure any issues are quickly taken care of so the person doesn’t feel the need to report your emails. If someone asks to unsubscribe, don’t make them go through an extra step to make that happen – unsubscribe them right away. If people can’t easily unsubscribe, they’re much more likely to report your emails as spam and hurt your email reputation.
Remove bounces. Check which emails are bouncing and remove them from your list.
Include why they signed up. Something that tells the recipient why they are getting the email, where they signed up, will keep them from hitting the delete button. And don’t wait too long to email them so they forget they signed up in the first place! It’s also a good idea to indicate which email address is subscribed to the newsletter in case users forward the email from other addresses.
Use Good Links. Be careful what you link to. Links to blacklisted websites will cause your email to be filtered.
Don’t send huge messages. People don’t like to wait for large graphics to download anyway. Image only emails are not recommended. For every graphic, include at least two lines of text. Optimize your images as best you can to reduce file size. If you don’t know how to do this on your own, you can use services like optimizilla.com or tools.dynamicdrive.com
Don’t send attachments. Attachments are often regarded with suspicion and people feel uncomfortable opening them. If you must send an attachment, .jpg, .gif, .png and .pdf attachments are generally safe to send, provided you include some content in the email as well, especially text that explains what the attachment is and why you had to send it as an attachment. However, executable attachments such as .exe, .zip, .swf, etc. should be avoided entirely. Sending a link to an attachment instead is a good idea and services like Dropbox are great for this.
Don’t include a disclaimer that your email isn’t spam. Don’t claim compliance with some legal criteria, especially one which is not actually the law in your country. Only spam needs to claim compliance — non-spam is supposed to already be in compliance.
Test your Emails
Before you send out an email, always take a few minutes to test it with a spam filter like http://info.contactology.com/check-mqs
Hopefully following these guidelines will help your marketing emails reach your audience. If you want to learn more, you can find a lot of great information here: http://wiki.apache.org/spamassassin/AvoidingFpsForSenders.