As marketers, we spend a lot of time, effort, and yes, money to grow our email marketing lists and we want to see those efforts be profitable. One of the biggest challenges we all face, regardless of niche or industry, is making sure our emails are delivered to the inbox rather than to the SPAM folders of our potential clients.

In today’s video I’m sharing 5 tips I learned from the email delivery team of a prominent autoresponder and marketing automation service about things you may be writing in your emails that are causing them to be blocked as potential SPAM…

There is no doubt that email marketing can be one of the most powerful tools in your marketing toolbox. It’s a great way to keep in touch with existing clients and prospects who have expressed an interest in your services but one battle that we all fight with our newsletters, e-zines or whatever you want to call them is making it through the “SPAM” filters and ensuring that they are delivered to our clients inboxes without issue.

Lots of factors go in to determining if your email will pass the “SPAM test” and most good autoresponder programs like Aweber, iContact or MailChimp (and other similar products) will scan your email for red flags before you send. Even if your emails pass their test, it doesn’t mean they won’t be filtered out at the user’s email server.

I just had the unfortunate experience of all of a sudden having a large number of emails not making them to the recipients despite the fact that they contained content the user was actively LOOKING for. After a lot of back and forth with tech support and tracking things down, we found that a lot of the emails were being rejected due to content that was “suspicious” of being SPAM.

That means they weren’t even making it to users junk mail folder, they were being bounced at the server with no notification sent to me or to the user.

As we worked on solving the problem I learned a few things that can cause this to happen. The email delivery team at the autoresponder I was using at the time were terrific to work with and were really helpful in preventing the same thing from happening again.

Here are 5 things I learned that could get your email bounced before it even has a chance to reach your clients:

Make sure you have a text only format.

Most of us send our newsletters or e-zines in some sort of HTML format so it looks “pretty” rather than just a plan text email. It has our logo, a header image, section breaks, columns etc. That’s great for clients who are using an email program that can read and display the HTML, but what if they aren’t?

A lot of people accessing their email from mobile devices choose to disable the HTML option so their emails load faster and use less data. When they do this, their device will look at the source code of the email for a text only option. If you haven’t included a text only version, this is considered a red flag. Some autoresponder will create one for you and some will prompt you to enter one but lots of entrepreneurs don’t always take the time to create one.

The reason this can be considered SPAM is that when something REALLY IS SPAM and the email contains text it would absolutely be blocked, the sender will put all of the text in an image and the email is just an image. Nothing else. Since the bots that look for spammy content can’t actually look at the image it used to get by. Not anymore!

Solution: take the time to create an text version of your email.

Avoid bullet points.

‘This was a big surprise to me! Here’s what I learned about this from the email delivery team: “There are some types of characters or formatting that ISPs will just send you to spam for outright and lots of bullets are one of them.”

I’m not sure why that is, but it appeared to be a big part of the problem we were having! I use bullet points often in newsletters. Now I wonder how many have been bounced outright without me even realizing it!

Solution: use a numbered list or use just a dash at the front of your list instead of actual bullet points.

Double-check your subject lines.

Before you hit send on your email, take a look at your subject line again. We all know that a great subject line makes all the difference in the world in whether or not your email gets opened once it hits someone’s inbox. We get creative and try to make it enticing. Unfortunately sometimes that means we make it appear spammy too.

Think about it, all of these internet marketers have all been told that we need these amazing subject lines and we’ve all been given similar advice on how to write them. Unfortunately that means that there will be a certain percentage of people who are not following best practices of making sure their list is permission based and that their subscribers have all opted in properly. If their emails get marked as SPAM by users at a high enough rate and then you send out an email with a similar headline strategy, your email is likely to be seen as SPAM too.

Solution Look at your subject lines and consider them out of the context of the rest of your email. Consider them as stand alone copy. Does it seem “too good to be true” or anything that could be seen as spammy? If so, make a change. 

Keep your formatting consistent.

Changing up your formatting too much is a big red flag. That means if you change text color or size a lot or if you use random bolding, italics or underlining you may be in trouble.

I’ve always been told to bold important points to draw attention to them or to bold the first sentence of every paragraph to improve readability. What I learned with this experience is that random bolding is becoming a really big red flag for spam filters (likely for the same reason I described with subject lines! A few bad apples spoil the bunch.

Solution: As much as I hate to say it, avoid bolding within the body of your email as much as possible. Keep it for section headings only.

Don’t style your email with punctuation.

This one has less to do with what marketers have been doing as it does with what individuals have put in emails where punctuation is used to “draw” a picture. That sort of thing often accompanies emails that tell you if you don’t forward it on to 20 people that something bad will happen.

Some of the types of punctuation styling (but certainly not the only ones!) are “——-“, “=======”, “==>”, “<===”, “<<<“, “>>>”, “{“, “}”, and “~~~~~~~”

Solution: just don’t do it! Better to use an actual horizontal line that to try to create one with a bunch of dashes!

Have you been guilty of any of these “spam sins” without even realizing it? I certainly was, especially bullet points and bolding! I’ll certainly be more careful with those going forward.



Want my top 2 tips for improving your email deliverability and open rates?

There are a bunch of resources and places to learn about how to grow your list online, but far fewer people are teaching, or even talking about, how to maintain a healthy email list that has a good “reputation” with email servers and that is the #1 way to make sure your emails land in the inbox.

I’m sharing my top 2 tips for good list maintenance to raise your email “reputation” and increase your deliverability and open rates. Click below to watch the 15 minute video training.

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