What’s Wrong With Spam?
For starters, it’s annoying— but you already knew that, and you’re not here because you want to be told something you already know. The real problem with spam is that your genuine marketing efforts might get lumped in with all the Nigerian princes out there.
The issue is that email clients recognize spam when they see it by looking for keywords, key phrases and basic tricks (like spamming one .php link over and over again!) that are common to spam. The problem for marketers is then that emails that contain any of these phrases, and emails that are too content heavy can sometimes be incorrectly marked as spam. The trick is to walk the line, and avoid common problem phrases to make sure that no matter the email client of your recipient, you’re going to get past their spam filter.
Which Clients Are The Worst?
So, which email clients are notorious for their anti-spam tactics? Since Hotmail are owned by Microsoft, you might think that their client is tough on spam, and it is- after a decade of finding new ways to fight spam, Hotmail managed to reduce the number of spam emails reaching people’s inboxes to just 3% of total volume (in 2011). That’s fairly impressive, although it took them a while to achieve it, and many newsletters and marketing emails were harmed in the process! Of course, that was ten years when the Internet was still evolving into what we know today, and every email client’s spam filter was evolving too; but today we have a fairly good idea of what to do and what not to do to avoid them.
Probably top of the anti-spam pile are Google’s Gmail. They boast that 99.9% of spam is filtered out before it reaches account holders. Even more impressive is that their false positives rate is also very low indeed, at only 0.05%. This means that A) Google have a very effective spam filter, and that B) your competitors know exactly how to avoid it. So it’s about time that you learned, too!
How To Format Your Emails
Spam emails have ‘tells’ that email clients use to identify them. Any email that doesn’t meet the requirements of laws like the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 will be listed as spam. Here are the most common reasons why your email might be wrongly deemed spam.
First of all, your subject line has to be on the same topic as your content. A key trick that spammers use is to lure somebody in with a subject line that might seem important, but the email doesn’t contain more than a couple of links. Your email address as it will appear to the recipient also benefits from being clearly legible—no symbols used instead of letters, for example, and no meaningless strings of characters.
The content of the page itself also has an effect. So if your page is nothing but one big image, it’s likely to be considered spam. The same applies to an email that’s basically flooded with links, especially repeat links to one page, and especially shortened links (i.e. bit.ly links).
At the bottom of the page, you also must include a visible unsubscribe button. There’s nothing that gets an email consigned to spam quicker than the lack of one, or one that’s hidden (e.g. as white font—although you shouldn’t be doing that anyway!) It also helps if you provide a physical mailing address, as email clients find little touches like this indicate that an email is probably above board. More generally, if you didn’t get your customer’s consent to receive an email, you’re also far more likely to run afoul of the spam filter– or worse yet, run afoul of GDPR.
30 Phrases To Avoid
So last but not least, here’s our list of all the email phrases you should avoid to stop your newsletters and service emails being classed as spam!
- 20/50/100% Off
- Call Free
- Act Now
- All natural
- Apply online
- Free XYZ
- You are a winner/You win
- As Seen On…
- Bad Credit
- No catch
- Click here/Click below
- Best price
- Dear [your email address]
- No questions asked
- No obligation
- This isn’t a scam/This isn’t spam
- Time limited/Limited time offer
- Risk free
- Save money
- Amazing deal/Incredible deal
- Take action!
These terms, and those like them (e.g. ‘order now!’ instead of ‘order’) cumulatively make your email look like spam. Now, an email client isn’t going to label your email as spam if you use just one of these terms. They aren’t gospel. But if you send bulk emails using plenty of these terms and terms like them, especially if you use a vague subject line too, you’re not only making your emails look spammy to an email client—you’re making them look spammy to your customers. The best advice we can give? Use a bit of common sense and ask yourself: if you got an email like the one you’re about to send out, would you open it? Also when you’re done doing your checks, it’s definitely worthwhile carrying out some frequent email marketing housekeeping to make sure that the emails you sent out receive maximum engagement.