What you give and what you get when a company has your phone number.
I have a new text bestie, and it’s the brands.
Scrolling through my phone recently, I was surprised to see just how many of my incoming messages were not from friends or family but instead from companies. The package update from UPS made sense, as did the alert on the restaurant reservation I’d made over the weekend. But why did I have an offer from a swimming-pool-sharing service I’ve never used and an alert about a sale on items from Tory Burch, a brand I’ve never purchased? And what about the Pride party invite from a beauty loyalty program named Allē?
The situation made me feel a little sad and uncool — I’d rather a friend ask me to a party than an app made by the pharma giant that makes Botox. It’s also just a reality of being a consumer today, albeit a reality that snuck up on us. Reaching consumers via SMS, meaning text messages, has become increasingly popular among marketers. If you feel like the brands are texting you a lot more than they used to, it’s because they are.
“Getting someone’s phone number is incredibly valuable for marketers,” said Erin Blake, vice president director of connections strategy at Digitas, a digital marketing agency. “There’s a reason why a lot of brands care about SMS as a channel for marketing and why you’re seeing so much of it right now.”
It’s not that hard to see why. I voluntarily gave my phone number to all the companies currently texting me except for one (I think), and I’ve considered engaging with those messages much more than I would any other advertisement. If I’m being honest here, if I’d taken a closer look at the party invite, maybe I would have gone.
You open your texts a lot more than you do your emails
There are multiple reasons marketers are turning to text to reach consumers, the main one being that it works.
Text message open rates are astronomically high, having a 97 percent read rate within 15 minutes of being delivered, according to Insider Intelligence. That’s well above open rates for emails, which estimates place at around 20 percent. Consumers click through on SMS at higher rates than they do emails, too.
“Texts are acted on in near real-time, we’re talking minutes, as opposed to email, which is going to have a low response rate in a couple of days,” Blake said.
Text has served as a fresh channel as other, more traditional formats have become difficult to navigate, explained Sara Varni, chief marketing officer at Attentive, an SMS marketing platform. “There’s been a lot of changes around privacy and regulation when it comes to how people can retarget customers, and so channels that used to be tried and true, whether that was a retargeting program with Google or an email, some of those channels have declined over time,” she said.
Many people’s inboxes are inundated with messages from dozens upon dozens of companies they’ve interacted with a handful of times, if at all. Even if you wanted to jump on that sale from American Airlines, you have to sift through 30 other offers you have no interest in. People’s text messages, at least for the time being, are less cluttered — in part because it’s more expensive for brands to text people than it is to email them.
“In general, most users’ text message feed is a lot less spammy than their email feed. It’s harder to get permission, but once you get permission, it works better,” said Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at advertising firm Publicis.
Unlike email, text doesn’t have a separate folder for junk or for spam, or, in the case of a service like Gmail, a different section for promotions you never even have to look at if you don’t want to. “There’s none of that filtering on your SMS messenger client,” Goldberg said.
All of our text messages are mashed together, putting brand texts together with messages from your mom. It’s a solid deal for marketers, though maybe not so much for you.
“Your text message inbox is incredibly personal, that’s where a lot of people are having most of their interpersonal communications on a day-to-day basis,” Blake said. “I would caution brands to really think through how they can be good stewards of that trust and build that relationship, because if you break it, that’s a lot harder to get back.”
The good, the spam, and the ugly
What people in the industry say about marketing via text message is that it’s one of a number of avenues brands can use to reach consumers and that the good actors involved are very smart about how often to message and with what. They say that SMS marketing is more conversational, not just a constant attempt at a hard sell, and note that consumers can often respond to messages to really interact. It’s actually somewhat true.
There are plenty of examples where you can see text messaging from brands working. There are moments when SMS is really clutch, like when a flight moves gates, or a shipment is delayed. Chatbots on websites and in text messages are notoriously bad for solving anything beyond basic problems, but in a world where artificial intelligence and ChatGPT do really make them better, you could see that adding some value to SMS, too. “Maybe now because of Chat GPT, the robots will make people more happy than humans, so SMS could grow along with all of the other text-based services,” Goldberg said. (To be sure, the hype machine around AI right now basically has it either fixing everything under the sun or ruining the world, hard to say.)
Varni said that text message marketing can be a solid medium for giving consumers a curated experience, for sending loyal customers special deals, for educating people, or for alerting them when an item becomes available they wanted. Her company works with its clients to try to make sure it doesn’t go overboard. “We don’t want to turn SMS into the next version of email, which becomes a graveyard of brands and promotions in your inbox,” she said.
In many cases when it comes to legitimate companies and brands, people are signing up to receive text messages, often in exchange for a discount or free shipping or some sort of gift. A survey from Attentive found that 91 percent of consumers globally have signed up for an SMS program or are interested in doing so.
Still, it doesn’t take much for people to start to feel annoyed and overwhelmed by all the texts. A report from data company Validity found that 96 percent of survey respondents have felt annoyed at least occasionally by marketing text messages, 84 percent have gotten a text message from a company they didn’t remember signing up for, and 70 percent have worried brand texts pose a data security risk.
According to data shared with Vox by Robokiller, a spam text and call blocker, 70 percent of the spam messages identified on its platform were related to brand marketing messages in May and June of 2023. Even if the texts aren’t technically spam, that’s how many consumers see them, said Patrick Falzon, the general manager at Teltech, the app maker behind Robokiller. “Those are messages that are coming from what you’d think of as legitimate companies offering some degree of promotional discount, sales offer, trying to pull people back into some web funnel or experience,” he said, meaning guiding people from an entry point toward some goal or action, like a sale. He acknowledged that the high open rates can be enticing for marketers, but they can also create tension for brands over time. “You’re likely going to see increasing consumer fatigue,” he said, “and with that, consumer pushback.”
The good news for consumers is that if they want to stop getting marketing texts from brands, in many cases, they can just respond “stop” to the messages, and that’s that. Phone providers tend to take the issue quite seriously, too, in part at the government’s urging, blocking robotexts and making sure that once people say they want to opt out, they can. Still, the system is imperfect. Not every marketer is going to heed a consumer’s “stop” wishes or refrain from passing your phone number onto someone else. “There are more gaps in the regulatory frameworks on the text side of things vs. calls,” Falzon said.
Between the brands and the politicians, maybe just throw your phone into the sea (I kid, kind of)
Much of our personal data is already all over the internet and in the hands of actors good and bad. That landscape makes it a little difficult, from a distance, to decipher just how to think about text message marketing. On the one hand, it’s not ideal that companies that are pretty bad at protecting their data get their hands on yet another piece of information. On the other hand, a text from a company with a sale isn’t the worst thing in the world. Like, oh, yet another brand has my phone number? At least I got a 20 percent discount for handing it over.
“It’s just way more common to see, in funnels, brands asking for your phone number,” Falzon said. “We, as consumers, have become kind of numb to giving out our information online.”
The tipping point here really hinges on whether people become so inundated with messages that their phones wind up looking like their email inboxes — a space where there’s so much of everything that it’s next to impossible to find anything. And again, we don’t really have much ability right now to filter our text messages like we do our emails right now.
The brands, hopefully, aren’t going to blow up our phones to the level of email in the near future, but we should prepare for some text-heavy months ahead. Marketers generally jump on the holiday season to send an extra number of texts, meaning you should expect more messages in October, November, and December. Then there’s election season and the raft of political texts that come along with it. And then there’s the next holiday season after that.
“Political campaigns are really leaning into SMS as well, so it’s not restricted to commercial brands,” Falzon said. “Politicians are using it a lot. I think, unfortunately, it’s going to be a pretty rough next 12 to 18 to 24 months for consumers.”
We live in a world that’s constantly trying to sucker us and trick us, where we’re always surrounded by scams big and small. It can feel impossible to navigate. Every two weeks, join Emily Stewart to look at all the little ways our economic systems control and manipulate the average person. Welcome to The Big Squeeze.
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.
If you hate email, you’re probably not using it right.
As far as famous people go, Mark Cuban is a very easy person to reach. He has several public email addresses where he invites entrepreneurs to send him pitches and ask for advice — and as you can imagine, there are a lot of people who take him up on that.
Cuban says he gets around 750 to 1,000 emails from entrepreneurs every day. And he works through all of them, in addition to all the other emails he receives from his team and everyone else. Most people seem to be interested in how to craft an email that will get his attention, but as an efficiency nerd and self-proclaimed email expert, I was more curious about his process for dealing with so many emails.
Here’s what I found, with some sage advice of my own peppered in.
Step 1: Delete
On an episode of the Raising the Bar podcast, Cuban explained that his primary method for dealing with all these emails is to “Delete, delete, delete.” He said it takes him about two seconds to decide whether to respond to an email or delete it.
I think this is great advice, except for one glaring issue. There’s really no need to delete an email in this day and age. Instead, you should be archiving your emails. When an email is deleted, it’s gone forever — but archiving means it’s still accessible in your email’s archive.
Any time an email isn’t relevant to you or doesn’t warrant a response, you should archive it to get it out of your inbox without truly deleting it. That way, you can keep your inbox clean without letting anything get lost. This is a crucial step in achieving Inbox Zero, an email management technique I highly recommend implementing.
Step 2: Delegate
If Cuban sees something that piques his interest, he’ll send a quick reply peppering them with questions. If the person provides sufficient answers, he knows there’s some potential.
At that point, he hands the email over to his team. Essentially, he delegates the conversation to someone else. He says, “I have different people with different types of expertise and I’ll ask them to dig in and cover the bases that I’m not fully versed on,” which is something I often find myself doing.
As a business founder, I’ve spent years building up a team of experts. So if I find myself in an email conversation that would be better suited to someone more specialized than myself, I’ll just cc the relevant person on my team and ask them to take over the conversation. I trust that they’ll make a better decision than I would since it’s their area of expertise, and it’s now one less thing I have to think about.
Step 3: Filter
The first two steps are essentially how Cuban handles the 1,000 emails he receives from entrepreneurs every day. But there’s one final strategy he implements to cut down on the number of emails he receives in the first place.
For anyone looking to get Cuban’s attention, he says “the absolute worst thing” you can do is email him repeatedly. His solution to this is simple — he creates a filter within Gmail that auto-deletes any emails from the specified address.
This specific technique probably isn’t relevant for most people, but it’s worth considering how you might implement a similar technique in your daily life. I often say “the best way to get to Inbox Zero is to get to Email Zero,” meaning the best way to cut down on email is to limit the amount of emails that make it to your inbox in the first place.
Most email tools have automatic filtering features that will sort your email into different categories, like “social,” “promotions,” “updates,” and more. These are great features that use machine learning to improve the way they sort emails over time. If you haven’t already, try turning them on. That way, you can focus on your most important emails right away and get to the other stuff later.
You can even take it a step further by creating custom filters to remove emails with certain keywords from your inbox. If you really don’t want any marketing emails, for example, you could create a filter to move any email containing the word “unsubscribe” to a different folder. Then you can quickly review the folder once a week or so to make sure nothing slipped through the cracks. (Or, if you’re really daring, you could set the rule to archive them all.)
I have a lot of thoughts on how to use email properly, but I have to say, Mark has the right idea here. Whether you’re at Inbox Zero or not, give these steps a shot. You might be surprised how an efficient inbox can impact the rest of your day.
Legitimate emails land in the spam folder every day.
People have been reading more marketingemails in the past year. No less than 78 percent of marketers say they’ve seen an increase in engagement over the last 12 months. Now is the time for you to make the most of email and its marketing potential.
However, not all your subscribers will see your messages. With 17 percent of all emails going to spam, some of your campaigns may never reach your target prospects and customers. Internet and email service providers use advanced filters to separate legitimate emails from spam. Sometimes, one or more things can trigger these filters to relegate your emails away from people’s inboxes.
Let’s see why this happens and what you can do to avoid the desolation of the junk folder.
To avoid being labelled as spam, don’t act like a spammer
That may seem self-explanatory, but if you don’t know what behaviour is spammy, you may not know how to avoid it. Here are the top things to be aware of when you want to land in the inbox and avoid the spam folder.
Stay on top of your email list hygiene
What some email marketers forget is that the most well-crafted email means nothing if the list you send it to is full of bad contacts. Not only will those emails reach no one but also, those bounces affect your sender reputation and cause ISPs to see you as a spammer.
Spammers don’t care about their list hygiene. They scrape email addresses from the Internet and use them without any regard for ethics. Getting bounces and spam complaints or hitting a spam trap doesn’t stop them from sending more spam. Until, of course, they’re blocked and can’t even reach the junk folder anymore. It’s common for spammers to get blacklisted – but it also happens to respected businesses when they’re not careful.
As a legitimate email marketer, you can’t afford to engage in such behaviours and be mistaken for a spammer. So starting with a healthy list is vital. Buying one is never a good idea, as everyone on your list should be there because they want to get your emails. Permission is key in email marketing.
Whether you’re just starting your list or already have a number of contacts, consider implementing double opt-in. This subscription method requires every new subscriber to confirm that they do indeed want to receive your emails. It’s easy to set up and prevents your database from acquiring poor-quality contacts.
Apart from that, validating your list at least quarterly shows you’re following email marketing best practices. For inbox providers, it’s a sign that you are a trustworthy sender, so they’re confident about directing your emails to people’s inboxes.
Learning about and implementing good email list hygiene matters as much as what you write and how you present it. What good would your hard work do if nobody ends up seeing it?
Be careful with your subject lines
There must be hundreds of articles online about email subject lines – and for good reason. After your “From” name, your subject line is the first thing your subscribers see. It has a significant impact on your open rate: 47 percent of people say they open an email based on the subject line alone.
So it’s worth taking the time to polish each subject line and ensure it’s:
informative: people should get a clear idea of what your email is about
enticing: it should spark curiosity without resorting to cheap tricks.
A helpful exercise is to write down several versions of your subject line until you find one that stands out. If it helps, consult with your team or friends, their feedback can be eye-opening.
When choosing the final version, make sure it doesn’t include any spammy words that could trigger ISPs to think your email is spam. If you get an email with the word “free” in the subject, it can cause suspicion. Also, words you should avoid include “lowest price,” “fast cash,” “save $” and other similar constructions.
Spammy subject lines look like scams and ISPs could categorize your legitimate email as junk because of gimmicky, spam-like words. If you’re in doubt, change it.
Avoid including too many images and too little text
You may have noticed that a lot of spam consists of just a couple of lines and other times, no text at all. Sometimes it’s just an image and occasionally, it’s an email with a few words and many pictures.
Legitimate marketing emails have an average of 434.48 words. If you’re only including a sentence, you’re not offering much interesting content.
Why is it so important to have a healthy image-to-text ratio? Again, it boils down to not looking like a spammer. The purpose of an email is to provide relevant information. Few emails can do that in just a few words.
Of course, you can use images to illustrate your points or show the products you sell, but try to keep a balance. Images may also take longer to load if your recipient has a slower internet connection.
Another aspect to keep in mind is the links you include in your email. Try to avoid the temptation of using link shorteners – they can trigger spam filters. Instead, be fully transparent and link directly to your landing page. You want to stay away from any practice that may endanger your deliverability.
A common email mistake that businesses make is pulling a disappearing act.
Let’s say someone sells beach and pool merchandise. In the winter, operating hours naturally decrease. The company will just stop emailing its lists. There’s nothing to promote anyway, why bother? This marketing approach is detrimental to any business.
It’s a smart idea for email marketers to get on a schedule. Send your emails on the same day of the week or, if you send less frequently, do it no less than once a month. It’s a mistake to only send when you want something or have a new product or service to sell.
First of all, people forget about you. When you resume, they may not recognize your email and mark you as spam. Being predictable and sending your emails regularly is the opposite of how spammers behave. Not only does it build brand awareness and trust, but it also keeps ISPs aware of you.
If your services or products are rather seasonal, it’s natural to increase your email volume during your sales peak. However, to stay top of mind, continue to email your list regularly throughout the rest of the year. Create useful, entertaining content that can nurture your subscribers and keep them engaged. You’ll see much better results when it’s time to target them with a campaign.
One of the secrets to getting more eyes on your marketing emails seems obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing. You have to be where people can see you and the only way to do that is to land in the inbox.
The behaviour and impetus for spammers are all about taking. With your email marketing, you must give to get. Strive for the principles of generosity and service in everything you do. Keep security, ethics and respect in mind at all times. Be of service to your readers and they will remember you and open your emails consistently.
Having survived the rise of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and other social media platforms, email marketing still has huge marketing potential. More than 4.4 billion people worldwide are expected to be using email by 2024. Such a massive user base makes it a powerful platform for businesses to directly reach out to their target audiences.
But a cookie-cutter approach isn’t enough. Gone are the days when you could randomly send out mass emails to promote your latest offers. As the way people interact online changes with new devices and technologies, it’s important that your email marketing strategy keeps up with the evolving times.
Look back upon some email marketing trends that caught our attention in 2020. Some of them are still effective, so you can leverage them again.
Videos in emails are a hit
Video email marketing can be a great way to convey a lot of information without making your emails text-heavy. For tutorials and how-to videos, it’s a great platform. What’s more, 91% of consumers revealed that they watch an explainer video to learn more about a service or product.
It’s also important to prioritize concise content over wordiness. Long paragraphs can look cluttered and make your email harder to read.
Responsive design is important
Forty-six percent of all email opens come from mobile devices. With such a large number of mobile users, responsiveness proved to be a crucial factor to create successful email campaigns. Mobile-friendly templates enabled users to read and view emails seamlessly, even on smaller screens.
Spamming is not cool
For the past couple years, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has tightened restrictions on spam emails. Now the majority of users only receive emails that they have actually opted for. As privacy becomes more important for users, email marketers are beginning to open up to the idea of adding an unsubscribe button to give them the option to opt out as well.
If recipients are unable to find an option to unsubscribe, they can mark your email as spam. Being identified as a spammer can affect your spam score and overall sender reputation. This, in turn, can further affect your email deliverability. To avoid this, you should always add an unsubscribe button that is easily visible.
Spamming can also be detrimental to your brand’s reputation. According to Adam Robinson, CEO of GetEmails, an email marketing platform, you should “pull unengaged people (off your email list) after three days to protect your reputation.”
Data is everything
With dwindling attention spans, users quickly want to know what’s in it for them with every brand interaction. If you want them to engage with your emails, you need to provide relevant experiences to them based on their preferences.
In fact, 72% of consumers engage only with those marketing messages that are tailored to their interests. With advances in machine learning, personalization isn’t just restricted to adding a subscriber’s name in the subject line. You can store user data and send them celebratory emails on birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. Chipotle uses this strategy to engage their subscribers and even offer them a special gift.
Through predictive analysis, you can also find the most optimal times to send your emails. All in all, you can control every little detail to ensure that your email marketing campaigns are engaging for your target users.
It’s all about integration
In 2021, the biggest mistake an email marketer can make is to believe that it’s OK to operate in a silo. Even when consumers aren’t checking their inboxes, they are likely to be active on social media channels and visiting other websites. They can reach you through multiple touch points, so you need to take a unified approach to their customer journeys.
To take a more integrated approach, you can add social sharing buttons to your emails. When someone opens your email, it allows them to share your email content on social media platforms.
Interactivity is most engaging
Interactive elements can instantly make even the most mundane ad copy engaging. When you give people something to play with, they are more likely to be interested. By adding an interactive element, you can get the reader engaged. Interactive maps, polls, quizzes, GIFs, games and other such elements can add some fun to your emails.
You can also tease your product with a cool rollover effect. When a user hovers over a particular element, it can reveal some part of the product. Nike used this effect creatively to showcase product tips and descriptions in their email campaigns.
As data and interactivity take centre stage, email marketing is slated to become more personalized and engaging. Marketers who want to create successful campaigns also need to be cognizant of the fact that unsolicited emails aren’t welcome. If you haven’t started working on your email marketing strategy for the next year, it isn’t too late. Get started now.
If you are reading this it is highly likely that a portion of your emails are landing in SPAM.
You must be pondering – “why are my emails going to spam?“, “What did I do wrong in the last few weeks that caused my emails to land in SPAM?”, “Am I being too aggressive with my email marketing campaigns?” Or “Is it the new Email Marketing Provider which we moved to recently?”, “how to make emails not go to spam?“, “why do some emails go to spam?“.
Before I get deep into the topic, here is a quick preview of what we will be covering in this guide:
So, back to the question: “why are my emails going to spam?”
The tragedy is:
You don’t have to be a spammer for your emails to land in SPAM.
It is very likely that you were part of the collateral damage in a war being waged against email SPAM.
With this guide we will teach you exactly how to prevent your email from going to SPAM.
For some reason (probably unintentional) your emails mimicked the behavior of a Spammer and they were sent straight to the email graveyard (read: spam folder).
The goal of this guide is to teach the rules of this war to You (a non-Spammy innocent civilian) so that you can stay off those dangerous territories.
Before we jump into rules, a quick line on how email delivery infrastructure works.
In order to deal with the email SPAM problem, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Email Inbox providers (like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL etc.) rely on SPAM filters, Firewalls and Blacklist directories to keep your inbox free of “Unsolicited” SPAM emails.
There is 3 broad class of reasons because of which your email might land in SPAM.
So, this will answer your questions “how to make emails not go to spam“?
A). Your email looks (design, copy, header) like a SPAM email
B). You Domain has a poor reputation
C). The IPs (read: email servers) over which you are sending emails have a poor reputation.
A lot of factors (70+) contribute to the above and here, with this guide, we deconstruct each one of them. Also, if your email is landing in SPAM it is highly likely that you are violating more than 1 law across the 3 classes.
Few Abbreviations & Definitions which I will be using in the article:
Inbox Providers – Companies that provide an Inbox for your emails (Gmail, Yahoo Mail. Outlooks, Hotmail, AOL, Apple Mail etc.).
Spam Filters – Decides whether the email should be present in the inbox, promotions tab, spam folder or whether it should be blocked all together.
IP Address – Internet Protocol Address. In this article’s context it refers to the unique public address of the server over which your emails go. This is typically maintained by the ESP.
Now, let’s get started with deconstructing all the LAWS of the SPAM WORLD and answer the question which every email marketer encounters at some point in their career – “why are my emails going to spam?”
Download a checklist for Email SPAM?
A). Your Email Looks (design, copy, header) Like a SPAM Email
The spam filters and firewalls take a look at the anatomy of your email, match it with commonly occurring themes (of a SPAM email) and decide if your email is SPAM or not.
Here are all the various factors that a spam filter takes a look at:
1). Keywords in your email body
These are also known as SPAM trigger words. It is highly likely for an email to be SPAM if these keywords are frequently present in your email. With highly sophisticated AI and Machine Language being used inside SPAM filters, this subject is more complicated than just simple words being present and their frequency. Always take an objective look at your email and see if you’re being too pushy or salesy.
Here are the words that you should either avoid entirely or at least avoid overusing:
cancel at any time
check or money order
for only ($)
free or toll-free
this is not spam
money back guarantee
2). Keywords in your email subject line
Pretty similar to the above point. Avoid using pushy words in your subject line and stay away from words like (lottery, prize, fortune etc…).
3). Image / Text ratio
A common trick used by spammers is to hide all SPAM trigger words in an image and use the email body for neutral words only. Since most SPAM filters do not process the image it gets past them. So, an email with a really skewed ratio of Image/Text can start getting flagged by SPAM filters.
4). Alt Text not present in images
Some users don’t allow display of images in their in inbox. The images in your email won’t show to them, making your email look spammy. This can further lead to them marking the email as SPAM. SPAM filters will take this feedback and over a period of time will start considering most of the emails with a similar signature as SPAM.
A simple way to handle this is to use Alt text with your images. Alt text is a text that shows when ever the image is not displayed.
5). Similar email being marked as SPAM by users
This is how SPAM filters learn new email SPAM patterns. If your emails are landing in SPAM and Gmail is giving a message like the following it is time to change the copy and HTML templates of your email.
These laws lay down guidelines and not following them will not only attract heavy penalty (according to the FTC, if you violate the law, you could be fined $11,000 for each offence—that’s $11,000 for each email address on your list). Here are a few things to keep in mind:
8). Not having Unsubscribe link in the email footer
All marketing emails need to have a clear way for users to opt-out of them. If you are sending emails to opted-in list(s) ensure every email going to them has a way to opt out of using an unsubscribe link.
9). Not having a Physical Address in the email footer
All opt-in emails need to have the physical address of the company (in the email footer).
10). Not having an Unsubscribe Link in the header
This is not mandated by law (considering you have an unsubscribe link in the email footer) but email providers like Gmail consider this an important signal of reputation. This is how the unsubscribe link in the header looks like:
This can happen if you forget to add this while creating your email campaign and the email marketing software you use does not stop you from sending the campaign. Most of your emails will land in SPAM folder and also your domain and IP reputation will take a hit.
12). Missing ‘Subject Line’
This can again happen in case you missed adding a subject line while creating your email campaign and the email marketing software does not stop you from sending the campaign. Again, almost all your emails will land in SPAM folder and giving a beating to your domain and IP reputation.
13). Missing ‘Email Body’
Same as above. If you missed adding the email body itself while creating your email campaign and the email marketing software does not stop you from sending the campaign.
14). Missing Plain Text version of your email
This is applicable in case you are sending HTML emails.
Every HTML email should have a plain text version.
There are three reasons for this:
a). Spam filters prefer a plain text version.
b). Some email users prefer text emails.
c). Email provider serves this email version for users on a slow internet network.
Unless you are sending a simple plain-text email, multi-part MIME should be part of every email.
Multi-part MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) bundle together a plain text version of your email along with the HTML version.
A multipart MIME message is like a package with multiple boxes within it. In your standard HTML + text message, both types of content are sent in the email. Your email client, assuming it understands MIME format, will decide which of the boxes to open and display to you.”
15). Different versions of HTML and plain text email
This adds on to the above point. Ensure you are not having two different messages in your HTML & plain text versions. You don’t need to be too clinical about it, just ensure that your email does not signal anything suspicious to spam filters.
Again, SendX takes care of this for you as well by auto-generating the plain text version of the HTML email.
16). Broken HTML
Broken HTML will appear sloppy and unreadable on certain (or all) email clients. Not only will users mark your email as SPAM, but it will also alert SPAM filters (they will think you could be a lazy spammer using unsophisticated tools).
An important note here – I have seen way too often, marketers copy content directly from Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. Beware, these applications add additional unwanted characters to your message source. Always copy your content to a plain text editor that strips off all such characters.
Now, the debate is out if email size impacts your SPAM score. Email Acid team did a test on this and this is what they had to say:
We created text-only, HTML emails in various sizes, from 15-650KB.
We found that sending a file size between 15KB-100KB is A-OK. These emails successfully passed through all our spam filters with flying colors!
Deliverability issues began to occur once the email file size was over 100KB. Every email from 110KB to 650KB wound up failing multiple spam filters. Interestingly enough, once the email file size was over 100KB, the number of spam filters that failed each email stayed the same. For example, an email that was 110KB got caught in the same 7 spam filters as an email with a file size of 650KB.
Multiple studies point that there is a correlation between email size and deliverability. We would recommend keeping emails between 15KB-100KB to ensure healthy deliverability.
18). Unsafe OR binary attachment
This is an obvious one. Scammers use this technique to steal your data. You would see a warning in Gmail like this:
19). Image only email
Here are the reasons we think sending image only emails could be bad for you:
a). Typically email clients don’t parse the text and hence this technique has been used by spammer. Your emails will get shot down by spam filters and firewalls that place a high weight on this.
b). Image only emails will likely have an empty text field (refer point #14).
c). Some email users don’t allow display of images by default. For them, your email will come as empty (with only Alt text if you have followed point #4). Your email will look spammy to them. They can even mark your email as spam.
It is better to be safe than sorry in such grey areas. Avoid sending emails with a single image in them.
20). Non-responsive email design
This in itself will not directly cause your emails to land in SPAM.
Spam filters and more importantly firewalls always take a “better to be safe than sorry” approach. So, all your well-intentioned emails with any type of script will go straight to the SPAM folder.
23). Using iframe tag
An iframe is an HTML element that embeds content from one website into another. Iframes more often than not contain scripts and will simply get blocked.
Instead of using iframe use a link to your content you want to embed.
24). Using flash
Most email clients simply don’t support flash content as it is considered unsafe for something as sensitive as email. Email clients block emails containing flash.
You can use GIFs as an alternative to make your emails more appealing.
25). Using HTML forms
26). Using rich media content
All major email clients don’t allow the ability to view rich media content as they don’t support HTML5.
Remember: Email HTML is NOT equal to Web HTML.
The email with this type of content will look spammy to most of your users and will ultimately lead to emails getting marked as SPAM (if they make it to the inbox).
27). Spelling and Grammar Errors
Poorly Written Email Copy
Sounds obvious? Not really. If you are a psychology junkie, the reason for this might blow your mind.
This is the secret reason why most scam emails are poorly written – It is not because the scammer has poor English or he is lazy. It is because a poorly written email self selects the most gullible victim. Read the last sentence again. Now. Done?
What would you do if you really get scammed – Report it to the police.
This is a bad outcome for a scammer. They would rather want you to ignore the email Or mark it as SPAM, which is what a poorly worded email does!
It self selects people who are at the bottom of the pyramid because of
a). They would fall for it easily (blind spot due to lack of knowledge + greed)
b). They might not have the resources to come after you (once they are scammed).
Okay, enough of a detour. So, why did I tell you this?
a). Any of these obvious and stand out slips in spelling abd grammar will alert SPAM filters.
b). Obvious, but, worth repeating – the user will mark the email as SPAM hence indirectly affecting your reputation.
So, here are things you should avoid:
28). Big Fonts and Flashy Color
29). A lot of Exclamations!!!!! and $$$$$$
30). Using phishing phrases
This will typically happen only if you are sending emails in an unauthenticated manner or using brand names in the emails which are most regular victims of Phishing attacks.
31). Malformed From Email address
Avoid frequent changes to the From email address field and avoid obscure From email fields like email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. We strongly recommend our users to use trustworthy email addresses like “feedback@”, “newsletter@”, “support@”, “hello@”, <your_name@> etc.
We can’t tell for sure if this goes as a direct signal to SPAM filters but we have seen emails with trustworthy addresses getting much better open rates. Also, weird obscure email addresses can make some users mark them as SPAM (affecting your domain and IP reputation).
Download a checklist for Email SPAM?
B). Domain Reputation:
Your domain (which you use to send emails) reputation plays a vital role in your email deliverability. To borrow an analogy from the finance world, it is a lot like a credit score for your email domain. If it is high, you will get good deliverability. We have seen it is equally hard to reverse a bad domain reputation and impersonation techniques (like using a new domain/sub-domain to send emails) rarely work. With SPAM filters getting really sophisticated it is getting impossible to be a bad citizen in the world of email without permanently damaging your domain reputation.
That said, let’s deconstruct what are the factors that contribute to it.
32). Purchased email list
If your email list is purchased then a portion of your email receipts will mark yoir emails as SPAM and you will have a high bounce rate.
33). People marking emails as SPAM
This should not come as a surprise. If people mark your emails as SPAM, your domain reputation will get effected.
When your subscribers click on Mark as SPAM, a SPAM complaint is logged by mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Outlook etc. notifying ESP’s about the same.
Since SPAM complaints are an explicit user signal about unsolicited emails (even a 0.5% SPAM rate is considered really high).
SendX automatically removes all email addresses from your list as soon as we detect they have marked your email as SPAM for the first time. This ensures that you do not send any further emails to those users. We do this to protect the domain reputation of legitimate users.
34). Email Bounces
There are 2 type of Email Bounces:
a). Hard Bounce – Hard Bounce is an email message which bounces back OR returns to the sender because the recipient’s email address is simply wrong (invalid).
b). Soft Bounce – Soft Bounce are temporary failures because recipient’s email mailbox is full, down or out of office.
Hard bounces affect your domain reputation much more than soft bounces since it is a clear sign that something is wrong with your email list.
You should get alerted if your email campaign has > 5% bounce rate.
SendX automatically removes all hard bounce email address from your list as soon as we detect it for the first time. This ensures that your domain reputation does not get spoiled by repeated email bounces.
35). Gmail users blocking your emails
This feature was introduced by Gmail in 2015. If someone blocks your email, you will never be allowed in there inbox again (until they unblock you). Needless to say if this happens a lot with the emails from your domain then your domain reputation will take a toll.
35). An unusually high number of abandoned emails in your list
For SPAM filters this smells more like a purchased list. List sellers bloat up their list size (to sell at a higher price) with abandoned emails.
They are fake email addresses which are published in a hidden location of the web. The only way these email addresses can be a part of an email list is when some has crawled the web and collected email addresses.
37). Using free email address as your From Email address
If you are using an ESP (like SendX) then you will need your own domain to send emails. The reason you can not use free email address inside a 3rd party system is that they have strict DMARC policies.
If you have your own domain you can set DMARC policies that will tell receiving servers how to handle emails that have failed the DMARC check.
38). Not having a valid website
This is a typical behavior of a spammer. They keep buying new domains to send emails (and do not really create a website on that domain). In case you are buying domains to only send emails, ensure you either redirect that domain to parent business website or host a simple page like this.
39). Inconsistent Email Volume
This again is typical behavior of a Spammer. Also, can you think for legitimate business who will suddenly increase their email volume by 100x?
Sudden changes in email volume is always considered suspicious in the email world.
Email authentication is an important topic if you are using a 3rd party ESP (like SendX). If you are using a mailbox provider like – Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL, Apple Mail etc then your emails will be authenticated by default (if everything is setup correctly).
Quite simply, email authentication means – that you (owner of the domain) are giving required permissions to a 3rd party ESP, to send emails on your domain’s behalf.
In case you are wondering if it is even possible to send emails from a domain without providing permission (from the domain owner), the answer is YES. You would have seen emails having via <some_domain_name> in the email header like following.
If not, go check your inbox and you are sure to find several emails like this. This simply means Johnny Appleseed’s domain is sending this email over the authentication of sendx.io domain. To read in-depth about email authentication I would recommend reading the Email Authentication section of our Email Deliverability guide.
Needless to say, this is not the best way to send emails. And SPAM filters look at such an email with suspicion. A lot of spammers also rely on this technique since they are able to leverage the good domain reputation of the ESP.
Always ask for your ESP to provide email authentication. At SendX, we provide email authentication for free in every plan and strongly encourage our users (during on-boarding) to get their domain authenticated with SendX.
Here are common mistakes we see people make (when it comes to email authentication):
35). Not adding SPF Records
It stands for Sender Policy Framework. It is an email authentication method to detect forged sender addresses in emails. It is a TXT DNS record entry which allows an IP or a set of IPs or email servers to send emails for you. All emails not originating from these servers will be considered as unauthenticated. Email inbox providers check this to either reject the mail entirely or send them to Spam of the receiver’s email ID (so that no one else exploits you as a sender). It is a best practice not to allow more than 10 servers to send emails on your behalf.
To test this, you can open any email that you received and check the headers and/or the original mail. The “mailed by” domain tells you whether or not the SPF is applied properly. It should match the domain of the from email address.
In inbox providers like GSuite, there is a simplified description of the header in the original email stating whether the SPF passed.
It is the abbreviation for Domain Keys Identified Mail. It provides a mechanism to verify that the email message has come from the domain it is claiming to and the message hasn’t been tampered with along the way. This is done using a two-way (private key and public key combination) authentication. The public key is usually supplied by the ESPs (again, in the form of a TXT DNS entry which can be queried globally) and the private key is used by themselves to encrypt the entire or a part of the email, which can be decrypted on the receiving end by using the public key. If the decryption fails, the receiver knows that either the domain hasn’t allowed this email to be sent or somebody in between has tampered the email (man-in-the-middle attack).
To check whether your DKIM is valid, you can check the email headers and look for “signed by”.
In inbox providers like GSuite, there is a simplified description of the header in the original email stating whether the DKIM passed
DMARC is a declaration from the sending domain that their owner knows about email authentication and receivers should receive fully authenticated emails (including both SPF and DKIM) originating from them. It also declares what actions should be done to emails not having the proper authentication. They may include: letting them be or not affecting them, sending them to the spam folder or blocking such emails entirely. When DMARC is added for any domain, it can be configured so that inbox providers like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo etc can send regular email reports as to how many emails were encountered with/without proper email authentication and what actions have been taken.
This can be added directly by domain owners following the steps in https://dmarc.org/overview/. Although the absence of DMARC doesn’t cause emails to land in Spam folders currently, most email inbox providers are fighting towards mandating this since the domain owners are much more in charge and help fight email spam globally.
DMARC entry can be checked in the original email data and inboxes like Gmail also provide simplified headers for it.
38). Using via Domain
If ESP doesn’t provide you with authentication/whitelisting details(SPF/DKIM), then they are using their own domains to send your emails. These temporary domains are authenticated by the ESPs themselves. This means that not only would your emails go over their servers, but also, your email deliverability would depend on the reputation of these via domains which might be used for their multiple clients with variable email sending habits. This could impact the deliverability and open rates of your campaigns heavily.
You can check the “mailed by” and “via” domains to validate your settings.
39). Domain Present in Email Blacklists
Domain blacklists are quite simply a directory of domains that have been involved in suspicious behavior.
A lot of publicly available blacklists (300+) have been created. SPAM filters refer to one or more of these blacklists.
We proactively help our users with getting them delisted from these blacklists. Do reach out to us for more help in this regard.
40). Domain Age
This one might sound obvious, but in the email world this is even more important.
It is much easier to spoil your reputation forever when your domain is young. This is because – buying new domains and sending SPAM over that is a typical signature of an email spammer. So, spam filters are extra cautious about you in your early days.
If you have maintained a good email behavior for years it is hard to damage your reputation until something really tragic (like a phishing attack) happens using your domain.
41). Sending a lot of emails in a very short period of time on a new domain
This is a typical signature of a Spammer. Also, a new domain (read: business) cannot build a big email list organically overnight. So, if you try sending, say, a million emails over a brand new domain, most of them will go right into SPAM + the domain reputation will take a hit.
42). Frequent changes in the email sending domain
This behavior again mimics the signature of a Spammer. If your older domains have a poor reputation they have high reason to believe that you will continue that behavior with the name domain as well.
Email providers don’t talk about it openly but we have seen email engagement to be really important in getting good email opens. Also, this entire topic is contextual in nature. For example – your emails might start landing in SPAM for a user who has not interacted with your last 10 emails but for a user who has opened 3 out of last 10, the emails will still reach the inbox. But, if a majority of your users don’t open your email, email providers have a strong reason to believe that the emails from this domain are no longer adding value.
Here are the behaviors that result in a bad email engagement:
There is no point sending emails to a user who does not open your email. You are not only wasting your money but also adding to a poor domain reputation. I can’t recommend this enough. Whenever we onboard a new customers experiencing low opens, we recommend them to prune their email list.
From a domain reputation standpoint:
50% email opens for 5,000 subscribers (2,500) > 20% email open for 50,000 subscribers (2,500)
44). Non opt-in email list
This one should be pretty obvious by now. Apart from getting a lot of SPAM complaints and email bounce, people won’t engage with your email(they don’t know you… why will they?)
45). Not having a double opt-in list
What is better than a Single Opt-In(SOI) list? A double opt-in list (DOI). That said, I must point out that there are valid arguments on eitherside.
My point of view on this is driven by this simple logic – You don’t make money from the size of your list (unless you sell email lists, which I sincerely hope is not the case), you make money when people engage with your emails. DOI leads to better engagement and hence better domain reputation.
Email list size is a vanity metric for most businesses.
46). Your subscribers delete your email (without reading them)
This is worse than an unread email. This tells that users are confident that they will not get any value from your email(s). Of course, there is little you can do to directly change this except to write better email copies and even better email subject lines.
The most optimum solution for an email marketer would be to send an email right when the users is most likely to open their inbox. The email will be right at the top! Of course, this would require telepathic powers and sadly the world has not reached there yet!
But, we have a solution for you until then. SendX has two really cool features that can probably help you come as close to it as possible.
a). Smart campaigns – With smart campaigns we send your emails at a time they are most likely to open it.
How? With time, we learn your users email open behaviour. When you send a “Smart Campaign” we use that data and send emails based on that.
b). Geo optimized delivery – This is important if you have subscribers from across the globe. Suppose you want to send a campaign at 9 AM, Geo Optimized Delivery ensures that everyone gets the email at 9 AM their local time. That’s right, no more sending marketing emails to your subscribers at 2:32 AM!
50). Secondary level email engagement metric:
Multiple Email Opens
The point is simple – The more a user engages with your emails the more a SPAM filter will get confident about your domain.
Email engagement = Email providing value to recipients
Otherwise, why would they spend time engaging with it?
We have seen Gmail being especially stringent about it. Here are few cases to be aware off:
51). No real inbox for your domain
You need to have an email inbox for your domain (which you want to use to send marketing emails). It will give you legitimacy in the email world.
Email providers and Spam filters will get to know this since your domain:
a). Might not have MX record (Mail Exchanger record) – This is a publicly available record.
b). Reply emails will bounce.
52). No inbox for a from email OR reply-to email address field
If you are sending emails using a from email address which does not have a real inbox you might be successful initially but, pretty soon you will start facing issues. Email providers and SPAM filters will know this is an invalid email once your receipts try to reply (email replies will bounce).
This is the same reason it better to never use a <no-reply>@ email address in your “from” OR “reply-to” email address.
a). This is typical behavior of a sophisticated spammer.
b). This is never a behavior of a real business. Ever heard of a business that sends a lot of marketing emails but doesn’t use emails regularly to run their business?
55). Inconsistent domains for from email & reply-to address
Email header has an option for you to explicitly set an email address that will get auto-filled when the recipients click on the reply (email) button. This helps in cases where you want all the replies of your email campaign to be diverted to a specific address (like – support@ or marketing@). Just be sure that your From Email domain and reply-to email domain are same.
At SendX, we have seen emails that were landing in SPAM started going to the Inbox after changing this very thing.
56). Very frequently changing IPs
IP/Infrastructure Reputation refers to the backend infrastructure which is used to send emails. This is taken care by the ESP you are using to send an email. Very Frequently Changing IPs for your email is typical behavior of a Spammer (as they keep trying new IPs for better delivery).
57). The domain used for phishing attacks
This can happen if your domain got compromised by hackers. The domain used to do the attack will get blacklisted pretty quickly.
C). IP/Infrastructure Reputation:
IP/Infrastructure Reputation refers to the backend infrastructure which is used to send emails. As a marketer or an email user you never interact with it directly.
Taking our finance world analogy of credit score to the next level: if domain reputation was the credit score for your email domain then IP reputation is the credit score for the IP (email server). Again, a lot like domain, it takes time to build an IP’s reputation.
In order to know the reputation of an IP you should check it’s Sender Score. Anything above 90 is a healthy score. Sender Score is a comprehensive reputation measurement covering email senders worldwide.
You need to decide on what IP infrastructure should be sending emails – shared or dedicated based on your business requirements.
Here are the pros & cons of both the choices:
a). Dedicated IP
This is best when you are sending a consistently high volume of emails. Dedicated IP will be used exclusively to send your campaigns only.
It helps you built a reputation over a period of time. It allows you to be in total control over your email deliverability.
On the flip side, inconsistent sending pattern or dips & spikes in email sends may lead you being classified as a spammer.
If you are sending more than 200k emails on a consistent basis then opting for dedicated IP will be the better choice.
This works well when you are just getting started with building an email list.
On a shared IP pool, you will have many businesses sending from the same IP.
Why do SPAM filters and Firewalls consider the reputation of the IP at all? This is required to ensure anyone who provides email infrastructure has skin in the game in keeping the email traffic clean.
An IPs reputation takes a hit whenever unsolicited emails of any kind are sent over it. So, email infrastructure providers have to ensure they do not allow Spammers over their infrastructure.
Since an IP’s reputation is so much dependent on the kind of emails that get sent over it so, a lot of reasons that affect the domain’s reputation also affect its IP.
Here are some factors that affect IP Reputation.
58). IP not warmed up properly
IP warm-up is a process to establish a reputation for a new IP. Or an IP that has not been used for some time. This also makes it difficult to send a lot of emails over a new infrastructure. A lot of ESPs do not warm-up their IPs correctly which leads to poor deliverability for their users. If you are facing such issues there is little you can do about it apart from requesting your ESP to move you to a different IP or switch to a new ESP.
59). IP Server not configured properly
If the backend of the ESP is not configured with proper email header, authentication parameters, and encryption then the emails will get rejected by Email providers (like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL etc.)
60). IP Present in Blacklists
Just like domain blacklists, there are IP blacklists as well. If an IP gets blacklisted all emails going over that IP will take a hit.
We proactively help our users and help them get delisted from these blacklists. Do reach out to us for more help in this regard.
61). Not having TLS Authentication
Email runs over the top of a protocol called SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) which is unencrypted by its very nature. TLS or transport level security provides a mechanism to encrypt email messages which prevent the content being read from entities other than the intended recipients.
You can check this using the email headers when you receive them. If your ESP is not using TLS authentication for their IPs, it will affect their reputation.
62). Inconsistent Email Volume over the IP
If your IP is sending 10,000 emails one day and 500k emails on the second day then there is something wrong. The IP you are using should be sending consistent email volume to maintain its reputation.
Sudden changes in email volume are always looked at suspiciously by the SPAM filters.
If the IP has been used for phishing attack it’s reputation will drop overnight and you can know that by seeing the drop in it’s Sender Score. You should move to another IP in such a case.
Here are other reasons which lead to poor IP reputation. These are same as what effects the domain as well, so I won’t get into details:
65). Purchased email list
A purchased list will take a hit on your IP reputation due to reasons already discussed in the Domain Reputation section. It could be either you or other senders who are sending emails over the IP you are using.
66). Users marking emails going over the IP as SPAM
This is the most common reason for the IP losing its reputation. If you are on shared IP, then someone else spamming can make a part of your emails go to SPAM as well.
67). Email sent over the IP getting bounced
Just like a domain, an IP will lose its reputation if consistently a high percentage (> 5%) of emails sent over it is bouncing.
68). SPAM trap emails present in the emails going over the IP(s).
As I have already covered, SPAM trap emails are like the secret agents of SPAM filters. Just like in case of domain reputation, your IP reputation will take a beating if a lot of SPAM trap emails are present in the emails going over the IP. This is an indication for Spam filters that the ISP is allowing bad email traffic over its infrastructure.
69). Emails sent to a non opt-in email list(s)
Non opt-in email list means that the email user present in the list did not give consent to receive (marketing and sales) email from the respective business. This is the definition of a SPAM email. Hence a non opt-in list is looked down upon by SPAM filters. How do they know it is a non opt-in list? The email recipients will mark the email as SPAM and it is highly likely that the list will have higher than usual bounce and SPAM trap emails.
70). Sending a lot of emails in a very short period of time on a new domain
This has a direct impact on the domain reputation but also expect your IP reputation to take a hit too since it is regularly allowing this behavior. As mentioned before, the email gatekeeper penalizes the email infrastructure for even allowing such spammy behavior over there IPs.
71). Not having an inbox for domains which are sending an email over the IP
All sending domains over an IP need to have an email inbox for their domain.
Spam filters will get to know this since the domain:
a). Might not have MX record (Mail Exchanger record). This is a publicly available record.
b). Reply emails will bounce.
You will start seeing a hit to your IP reputation if this happening regularly.
72). Not having an inbox for a “from email” OR “reply-to” email address that is used while sending the email over the IP
Now, there could be a scenario when the domain has inbox BUT the “from email” being used while sending the email does not. A common example of this is <no-reply>@ email addresses.
SPAM filters will know this is an invalid email once your receipts try to reply (because the reply emails will bounce).
You will start seeing a hit to your IP reputation if this happening regularly.
Download a checklist for Email SPAM?
If a portion of your email traffic is landing in SPAM then you are leaving money on the table.
A portion of your prospects and users are not getting important messages from you like: pricing changes, deal emails, new features, and product updates, upgrade opportunities and a host of other things.
Your revenue is leaking because your emails are landing in SPAM.
But, understanding why your emails are landing in SPAM could be really complicated.
With this guide, we have attempted to lay down all that LAWS that govern the SPAM world.
So, that you are no longer part of the collateral damage in a war being waged against email SPAM.
SendX complies with all the above laws.
In case your emails are landing in SPAM and you are struggling to figure it out all by your self, reach out to us for help.
Don’t leave money on the table, fix your revenue leakage now.
By Mayank Agarwal
Mayank is an email marketing expert & co-founder of SendX. SendX is an intuitive & affordable email marketing software. Read more posts by this author.
Data is powerful. Companies that use data to send smarter campaigns outperform their competitors by 85% in sales growth, according to research from McKinsey.
In the world of email marketing, data gives marketers the power to personalize emails that drive conversions and ROI.
While most marketers know the value of data, collecting and using it can be challenging. Between complicated data collection programs, siloed information, and sporadic automation practices, putting data to good use is hard.
Fortunately, by selecting a modern email service provider (ESP), you can gain access to a host of tools that turn customer information into actionable intel. Ready to learn how? Here are five ways you can use data to send more relevant emails.
1. Encourage subscribers to use a preference center.
You need to know your subscribers in order to deliver relevant emails. You need to know their likes, dislikes, birthdays—you name it. The more information you have, the better.
So, how do you go about collecting information? Data collection is an ongoing process, but you can start by setting up a preference center.
An email preference center is designed to help you learn more about subscribers so that you can provide them with the content they want. You can ask questions, encourage subscribers to select the kind of content they’re interested in, and get basic demographic information like age, location, and gender.
Subscribers love preference centers because they let them control the messages they receive, while companies love them because they result in a ton of rich data.
Flight Centre uses a preference center as a core part of their email marketing strategy. The travel company learns everything from the subscriber’s birthday to their most-used airport.
Using the information collected, Flight Centre can send more relevant emails. For example, if a subscriber signed up for the Club Red newsletter and prefers to fly out of Ottawa, they’d receive the following message.
Flight Centre can use the information from the preference center to segment contacts by travel preferences, send deals based on the airport of choice, or curate a newsletter full of travel itineraries based on a subscriber’s age. The options are endless, and it’s all possible thanks to a data-collecting preference center.
2. Dynamically change content to fit subscribers’ interests.
When you have data on your subscribers, it’s much easier to send relevant, valuable emails that they’ll open and click. But, crafting relevant messages can be time-consuming. Enter dynamic content. With dynamic content, you can change an aspect of an email based on recipient.
For example, if you’re hosting a fall clothing sale, you can entice customers to come to your store by showcasing some items on sale. It would be most relevant if the women on your list got pictures of women’s styles while the men saw their own styles, right?
Rather than segmenting your list and creating two separate emails, you create one email and use dynamic content instead. The images and content in the email will dynamically change based on the gender of the subscriber.
For example, Adidas uses dynamic content to send relevant styles based on gender.
3. Send emails based on important milestones.
The more relevant your emails are, the stronger the connection you make with subscribers.
One of the best ways to build a relationship with a subscriber is to celebrate milestones with them. Milestones include a birthday, anniversary, or even a purchase anniversary.
For example, on a subscriber’s birthday, you can send a special promotion. When a subscriber reaches one year as a member, you can send an email celebrating this milestone.
Mom365, a company focusing on newborn photography and parenting tips, sent a personalized offer to a subscriber for her daughter’s birthday. The subject line was hyper-personal, including both the mom’s name (Lisa) and the daughter’s name (Adalyn) and a special offer.
This email couldn’t be any more relevant to the subscriber. It’s a special offer designed to celebrate a milestone.
4. Change your cadence based on email activity.
A lot of email marketing relevancy is based on customer data, but it’s not the only kind of data you can use. You can also track a subscriber’s email activity. If a subscriber opens an email or clicks a link, these actions can fuel your email marketing decisions.
For instance, Personal Creations sent a promotional offer to its VIP segment. Then, based on email activity, the company sent a follow-up email.
If a subscriber opened the first email, a second email was sent giving those subscribers additional time to take advantage of the offer.
Using email automation, the company can set up an automated journey, so when a subscriber opens the first email marketing campaign it automatically triggers the second email to send the next morning.
5. A/B test different aspects of your campaign.
When you create an email campaign, you make a lot of decisions. You pick a layout, craft a message, select a color scheme, add images, create a call to action (CTA), hyperlink text, draft a subject line – the list goes on.
How do you know if the series of choices you made resonates with subscribers? Data to the rescue (again).
You can create different versions of your email and send them to two small test groups. The idea is to see which email gets better response rates and let that data dictate which email is ultimately sent to your subscribers.
You can test nearly everything. Here’s a quick glimpse of things you can test:
Subject line wording or length
Personalized features vs. non-personalized features
CTA buttons vs. hyperlinks
Campaign Monitor makes it easy to A/B test your email marketing campaigns. Simply create two versions of your email in the campaign builder and we’ll send the emails to two subsets of your list for you. We’ll gather the results and send the email with the highest open rate to the rest of your contacts.
It’s another great way to use data to send smarter, more relevant emails.
Email marketing isn’t about blasting messages to every contact on your list anymore. Today’s email marketer is smarter. Today’s email marketer relies on data collection and strategic decisions to send the most relevant, successful emails possible.
Following these tips will help you keep your audience engaged instead of frustrated.
How will you alter the subject line of your next email to increase open rates?
By Neil Patel.
Neil Patel is a New York Times best selling author. He is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar and he helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 online marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world. He was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 35 by the United Nations. Neil has also been awarded Congressional Recognition from the United States House of Representatives. Continue reading