If your receivers never read your emails, then all of the time and work you put into creating and running your email marketing campaigns was for nothing.
The measuring and comprehension of a sender's success in getting their marketing message into inboxes.
I'll explain and demonstrate what you need to know to ensure that your emails are sent to the inbox and not the spam folder.
When you send an email to someone, for example, a Gmail account, you are interacting or communicating with the Gmail Mail System in the background. Gmail, like any other email service provider, features "SPAM Filters," which are a security layer that protects users against fraud and spam messages. Take a look at the diagram below:
As you can see, whenever you send a message to a target mailbox, the mail server uses spam filters to filter the message and determine if it is spam or not.
What Are Spam Filters and How Do They Work?
To send emails directly to the inbox, all you have to do is get past spam filters! We also need to understand how spam filters work in order to get past them.
Years ago, the Spam Filters were set up to filter emails according to particular rules. Image ration in your emails, blacklisted sites, spam keywords, Sender Reputation, Volume, and so forth...
NO, I'm not implying that those aren't still factors. However, as technology progressed, so did the way spam filters functioned.
Spam filters today are intelligent. With the new machine learning technology, it can learn!
As a result, spam filters can scan billions of emails and learn how to filter spam emails based on user behavior and trends!
Why does this matter?
Before, back in the day! If you send a small number of emails, you'll be fine and your messages will go through the filters.
However, even if you send 10 emails each day, these clever filters will catch spam today!
Even if you send an irregular number of emails, such as 100 emails every day when before you only sent 10-20 per day. This may potentially cause you to be flagged as spam. and why it's crucial to send emails in a consistent manner. (We'll go over this in further depth later).
For example, if you get a new domain today, it may be immediately blocked for 30 days as a precaution. It's also beneficial for your reputation to use an older domain.
So, certainly, it is important! You must also learn the new game's rules!
Let's get started by covering practically everything you need to know about avoiding spam and getting your emails into the inbox.
1. The Subject Line and the Body of the Message
The subject line is the first thing that people see when they open an email.
When you send an email, the Subject line and the Message Body are the two key components that make up your message. Simply put, you must assure that neither will activate the spam filter. How?
Simply avoid using any negative or spammy keywords in your subject line or message content. To do so, simply follow these steps:
When you've finished writing the subject line, test it with subject line testers to make sure it's good. So make sure you get a good score by using a service like SendCheckit Subject Line Tester, which is a free online tool.
"GET FREE [$100] GIFT - CLICK HERE!" is an example of a bad subject line.
This Subject Line is bad Simply because it contains some Bad & Spammy keywords like “Get”, “Free”, “here”
Also, it contains bad characters like the exclamation mark “!” and the All caps letters.
Example of a Good Subject Line: “Email Marketer? Want to Boost Conversions”
Like Subject Lines, The Message Body also must not contain any spammy or bad keywords like the following:
Earn $, Get Rich, 100% Free, FREE ….and other keywords.
Other than spammy keywords, there are some good practices to follow when you write your email:
Text to image ratio: Spam filters are suspicious of emails made up of mostly images.
Thoughtfully add links. You don't want to add links more than 3 times in one email. (we will talk about links more later)
Personalization. insert personalization into your emails (person name or company).
2. Your Sending Domain
The Second important thing that you have to look into, is your Domain name. the domain that you are using to send emails.
example: I use support@MakeMoneyWithFOO.com in my campaigns, so “MakeMoneyWithFOO” is my sending domain.
Before you send your email campaigns, you need to make sure your domain is clean and not blacklisted. How to check?
Another Important Note to Know!
If you are sending cold emails if you are a cold email marketer, it's better to use a domain other than your primary business domain. because if it got blacklisted, your main domain will stay safe.
Gmail Postmaster Tools
The Next Step is to add your Domain to Gmail Postmaster Tools to Monitor its reputation, Spam rate, Authentication, and other stuff which will help you understand your email sending level and detect any problems.
Added Your Domain? Great! Let's Move on.
3. URLs & Links
The URLs you include in your emails are extremely sensitive to spam filters. Because it is here that the user will act.
As a result, you must use extreme caution when adding your links.
The first thing you should check is whether or not the Domain URLs are blacklisted. and whether it is safe or not
Okay, I indicated that you may check the blacklist with Mxtoolbox.
What about safe links?
So always check your links before adding it. This is one.
The second thing you have to take care of is the Affiliate & CPA Offer Links. Don't Ever Ever add Affiliate links directly into your emails!
if you work as an Affiliate & CPA marketing Like promoting ClickBank Offers, Amazon products, Maxbounty Offers, or whatever. Then one of the main channels is to promote using email marketing.
Of course, I am not talking about spamming here! You have a subscriber base, you know their interests, you can send them some special deals and promotions.
Here we have 2 Approaches and I do prefer the second one because of its more professional.
What are these two approaches?
Cloak Your URLs.
Use a Landing Page.
Cloak Your URLs. (Masking Links)
URL Cloaking, or what we call Stealth Forwarding is a technique used to hide the target URL that you want to use to visit and mask it by another one that looks like a normal URL.
How this works?
We use an HTML frame on our web page to hide the main URL. or we can use HTML redirection.
You have to know that not all links are allowed to be used in frames, so you will be obliged to use redirection.
Use a Landing Page.
The second option which I do prefer is to use a landing page or a normal post on your blog that is talking about the offer, then you can add your links inside the post.
So in your emails, you will be linking to your website landing page or blog post, and everything will look normal.
4. Email Tracking
When you send an email marketing campaign using any email marketing service or with your system, you will have the ability to monitor and track your emails.
So we can know who opened the emails, and who clicked the emails, from which countries and so on.
Why Tracking may trigger spam filters?
To know why you need to know how attacking works in the background. how email marketing application know if someone opened the email or clicked on a link?
Simply, when you enable tracking, what happens is that automatically a small hidden image will be added to your email. this hidden image will have the source attribute as a Link which is responsible for connecting to an online service and sending information about the email.
So when someone opens an email, this hidden image will load automatically and the link will be executed informing the server that this email is opened.
And what about tracking Clicked links?
Now to track clicks, what will happen is that all the links in the email will be replaced by other URLs by the email service or application. so, in reality, we track special URLs and not the real URLs.
so when these special Links are clicked it can be recorded by the email service then it redirects the user to the target URL.
So after we understood how tracking works, I think you know why it may trigger spam filters? yes?
Simply, you need also to ensure that the tracking URLs are safe and not blacklisted.
Also as a good practice, if you are using an SMTP service like Sendgrid or Sparkpost, or any other SMTP service, or maybe if you are using your own SMTP server. configure always a custom domain for tracking other than your main domain.
5. Sending Score
Sending score is very important, and in short, you must ensure at least 9/10 – 10/10 as a sensing score in Mail-tester.
How to get the best sending score?
Mainly to get almost 10/10, you should take care of the following:
SPF (Sender Policy Framework)
DKIM ( DomainKeys Identified Mail )
Reverse DNS (PTR)
1. SPF (Sender Policy Framework)
An SPF record is a TXT record that is added to your Domain DNS Zone and allows you to set the mail servers that are allowed to send emails from your domain.
Messages sent from a server that isn’t included in the SPF record will be marked as spam or rejected.
As an example, you can’t send an email from your own server and set your sending email as “firstname.lastname@example.org,” you can’t use google’s domain. It indicates that you are trying to spam.
In the same way, you can configure SPF and prevent anyone from using your domain to send emails, So setting SPF is very important when it comes to making your domain trusted by other mailing providers.
Example of SPF. Open your DNS zone in and add the following record:
v=spf1 a ip4:XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX ~all
*Replace with your server IP.
Now only your server can send emails from your domain.
2. DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail)
A Dkim record is also a text record in your DNS that holds a public authentication key. This key will be validated using a private key saved privately inside your server.
All emails will be signed, and this will avoid any alterations and protect your email originality, and this is very important for your server to achieve high sending scores.
How to set Dkim?
This can't be answered since it depends on the SMTP service or server you are using. each has its own way to setup.
3. DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance)
It is a Protocol that uses (SPF) and (DKIM) to determine the authenticity of an email message.
DMARC makes it easier for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to prevent malicious email practices, such as domain spoofing in order to phish for recipients’ personal information.
It allows email senders to specify how to handle emails that were not authenticated using SPF or DKIM. Senders can opt to send those emails to the junk folder or have them blocked them all together.
4. Reverse DNS (PTR)
The reverse DNS is called a pointer record and is used to point your IP to your Domain, its the inverse of the regular DNS A record.
So when you call the IP, you will get the name. It is also an essential factor in setting up your mail server and increasing your sending score and reputation.
5. Message body
I talked about the message body before, but I wanna add here three more points to take care of:
The first one is the message structure, just make sure that you don't have a lot of images in the email much more than text. keep it normal.
The second point is to always ensure to have a text version of your email with HTML. Now, this is not so important because almost all email applications will generate the text version automatically, but keep it in mind if you face it one day!
The third one is to add unsubscribe links to your emails, now also this is done almost with all email marketing systems and applications, so keep it in mind.
Now you have to know something very important, Sending Reputation is only something you can take care of if you are using your own SMTP server, or if you are using an SMTP service with a Dedicated IP.
Why? Because Sending Reputation is the Reputation of the sending IP address.
How to get a good sending reputation?
Short answer: Warmup your STMP Server.
Warming Up your SMTP server
When you build a New SMTP Server with a new IP Address, and Before You can Start Sending Your Email Marketing Campaigns, you have to warm up your IP Address.
What is Warming Up IP?
When you have a new Brand IP Address for your SMTP, this IP will have no Reputation on the internet, and ISPs (internet service providers) doest know this IP.
So IP warmup is the practice of building Your Reputation on The Internet by gradually increasing the volume of mail sent with your IP address according to a predetermined schedule.
Example of warming up your server shown in the table below:
Warmup Day Emails To Send
7. Email List Health
When you are sending emails, you are sending it to a target email list. this email list must be healthy!
What do we mean by a healthy email list?
Simply, We say an Email List is Healthy, when:
All Emails Are Valid.
No Spam Traps.
1. All Emails Are Valid. (~ 0% Bounce rate)
If you are collecting emails through option forms on your website, ensure to enable double options so all users will verify their emails to subscribe to your lists.
If you are a cold email marketer, you need to validate all your emails before sending any campaign. and it's better to use an online verification service to achieve this.
2. No Spam Traps.
Does your email list contain any spam traps!? what is a spam trap?
In the fight against spam, some organizations use spam traps to find and block spammers. A spam trap is an email address that’s not actively used but is actively monitored. If a spam trap receives an email, then the sender fell in the trap! because that email address never opted in to receive emails. and it's not an active email.
How to check for spam traps? simply by email validation.
You can use https://email-checker.net/
3. Complaint rate.
The complaint rate is a rate that shows how often your subscribers complain to mailbox providers about receiving your email and report you as spam.
The best way to get an almost 0% complaint rate, is to target the correct people in your emails.
And the second thing is to write the perfect email that simply doesn't look like spam!
As a Good Practice, when you finish writing your email copy, just send it to your email. and put your self instead of the recipient. and ask your self?
Does the email look spammy?!! the answer will make you run the campaign OR change the message.
A high percentage of Complaint rate like (2-3) % may destroy your reputation.
4. Active Users.
Another important factor that determines the health of your email list, is used activity.
When you send an email, how many users open it? how many users click on the links?
So as a good practice, like every 2-3 months, just delete all inactive users, because they will hurt your overall email list health.
But! Maybe your emails are not reaching the inbox, so anyway, you will get no activity. so start deleting inactive users after you ensure that you followed all that is mentioned in this guide.