Here’s Why Your Email Marketing Ends Up in the Spam Box

In every case, new clients I come in contact with do not use email marketing best practices.  I can’t fault them – best practices have changed a lot in the last few years.  It’s not easy to stay on top of something evolving and changing so quickly.  Back in the day, spammy emails made it into the Inbox just fine.  But today, outgoing servers and incoming servers filter out much of the spam and organize whatever is left into categories like ‘social’, ‘promotions’, and ‘updates’.

The problem is, they often filter out legitimate email marketing messages which the user has opted in to receive.  That’s not the intention of servers at all, but it happens a lot.  Here’s why:

Incoming Email Servers

If you use Gmail, or other webmail, you’ll see a lot emails ending up in the spam folder.  How did they get there?  Short answer, Gmail has learned what spam looks like.  This happens a few different ways.

  • The particular industry is known for sending spam. E.g. supplements, fitness, online gambling, day trading.
  • Users have marked that “type” of email as spam.  This is flagged by particular words, length, formatting, % of images in the email content.
  • Particular words in the subject line and email text are spammy.
  • The domain is known for sending spam and/or is blacklisted.

Outgoing Email Servers

Your outgoing server, e.g. Mailchimp, Infusionsoft, Aweber, Klaviyo or other will look at your email and determine if it’s spam.  Outgoing servers need to maintain a good “sender reputation,” or they won’t have a business.  Incoming servers get to know which outgoing servers send more or less spam.  If your outgoing server thinks you are sending spam, or even low-quality content based on your open rates, they will block and/or throttle down your send.

And they won’t tell you about it.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  They will show it in your stats, telling you how many emails soft bounced, hard bounced, how many blocks and maybe some information about throttling.  But you have to dig into your stats to see this.  You have to also understand why emails were blocked.  This requires stats analysis, tests, and more analysis.  They won’t send you a friendly email saying, “Hey, you need to do this differently.”  They might contact you to warn you that if you “do that again” – they’ll dump you as a client.  This can happen quite abruptly depending on what you have done.

Here’s the solution!

Well, if you are just beginning to market via email, your nose is clean and you can keep it that way by:

  • Ensuring email copy is relevant to the user and high quality.  This will keep your open rates high and both incoming and outgoing servers will love you…not too mention your subscribers.  High open rates indicate quality content.  If you’re not getting high open rates figure out why and by all means, ask your subscribers!
  • Segment your list.  Segmenting enables you to target different groups of prospects with different content.  Some are prospects, some are new buyers, some are old buyers, some abandoned the cart, some want more information or different information.  Email service providers like Mailchimp enable you to segment your list in a multitude of ways to keep your open rates high and your list healthy.  Be certain use any and all segmenting features!

If you have been email marketing already and have been struggling with making it into the Inbox or getting decent open rates, then you need an audit of your setup, stats, content, and reputation in order to unearth the problems.  Solutions may include better segmenting, improved content, and email warmup strategies.  If you are blacklisted or your domain is otherwise tarnished, you may need to use a new domain name and be sure to keep your nose clean going forward.  Remember, it doesn’t matter if you actually sent spam or not – it matters what the servers think you have been doing and there isn’t much you can do about that with regard to the incoming server.  Even a Sorry! won’t help.

Tip: Do not use your brand root domain for email marketing.  e.g. www.ikea.com.  If this domain becomes tarnished, what then?  Use a different domain for email marketing in case you need to dump it after being blacklisted.  E.g. www.ikeashopping.com could be dumped for www.ikeaonlineshop.com to start fresh.

Please ask any questions you have in comments below!