When you’re emailing weekly newsletters or running email marketing campaigns, having those emails flagged as spam is a major frustration. Fortunately, there are ways to improve the “deliverability” of your emails and avoid getting them sent to the junk folder. Here are some proven methods:

1. Provide a prominent unsubscribe link.

Do provide a clear way for your email recipients to unsubscribe, and don’t make them jump through hoops to stop receiving your emails. In other words, don’t make your recipients provide their contact information, fill out a survey, or otherwise get stuck checking a bunch of options boxes in order to stop receiving emails from you. The harder you make it for your recipients to unsubscribe, the more likely they’ll get frustrated and just mark your email as spam.

Once you receive an email unsubscribe request, be sure to act quickly on it and complete the requested action. This is also required by the CAN-SPAM Act.

2. Sign up with a reputable email service provider (ESP).

ESPs such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail contain spam checkers and continually tighten their internal algorithms to reduce spam emails, regardless of whether those emails are inbound or outbound. Signing up and using one of these services for communicating with your subscriber list is therefore highly recommended. If possible, generating a business email and using it in place of the ESP domain name (e.g., @mybusiness.com instead of@gmail.com), helps your emails look less like spam- and makes you appear more legit too.

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3. Perform a spam check.

There are many spam checkers out there that will scan your emails before they are sent and alert you of possible spam issues. One such spam checker is ISnotSPAM, a free email checking service that quickly scans and reports your email’s spam potential. Other free spam checking tools are SpamCheck from Americaint and the Email Spam Checker from Contactology, both of which provide total spam scores based on your email copy.

On occasion, your server IP or domain may be blacklisted thanks to a spammer. You can check if you’ve been blacklisted by checking your IP or domain at MxToolbox.

4. Reduce your images and/or links.

Spam filters are easily tripped by emails containing lots of image files or links. Thus, you are better off reducing the number of images in your email to one or two at most. Always include text with images; spam messages classically contain only images in order to bypass filters that pick up on spam text. Regarding links, use as few as possible and don’t shorten them; conversely, don’t include links that contain one or two letter folders (e.g., domain.com/ru) because many ESPs will assume such links lead to spam.

5. Become a contact.

One of the best ways to ensure your emails always go through is to ask your recipients to designate you as an email contact. While this creates an extra step for the recipient to complete, you can encourage this action by regularly adding a note within your email such as, “Enjoy what you just read? Make sure you never miss an email from us by going to your email settings and designating us as a contact.”

Ideally, you should include such a line in your opt-in form, when subscribers are most likely to mark you as a contact.

6. Compose your subject lines with care.

Creating subject lines with lots of exclamation points, special characters, capital and red letters, 16+ font, and words like “free,” “sale,” and “dear friend” is bound to get your emails tagged as spam by system filters. So is using an unusually short (under five words) or long subject line. Your best bet is to use a plain yet descriptive 35-50 character subject line that tells your reader exactly what your email is about and doesn’t include any fancy gimmicks or graphics.

7. Keep your coding simple.

Spam filters will kick your messages out if they contain extraneous or sloppy html or css code. This can easily occur if you are composing your emails in a program like Microsoft Word, which adds extra characters, and then copying and pasting that content into your emails. For best results, use a standard email template provided by your ESP or sign up for a free email marketing platform like Mad Mimi. If you have some extra funds, you can also hire a programmer to custom design your emails for you.

8. Beware of purchased email lists.

While it is possible to effectively increase your subscriber list by purchasing an email list, you should fully research the company selling these lists and email only a subset of new subscribers at a time. It’s very easy to get into trouble with purchased lists because many ESPs require only a 1% spam alert from subscribers before they flag your ISP address or domain name as being that of a spammer.

9. Remove (or entice) inactive contacts.

Some ESPs include your email bounce and open rates when calculating your overall email sender score, which is then used to determine if you are a spammer. Obviously, the more active your subscribers are, the less likely it is that you are a spammer. This is why you should periodically follow-up with inactive subscribers and asking them if they wish to remain subscribed to your list. If they say no or unsubscribe, you have your answer.

Alternately, you could use a last minute effort to rescue your inactive subscribers by sending them a special discount code or offering a freebie. Sometimes, such tactics work beautifully in terms of reviving inactive subscribers.

10. Segment your list.

Finally, don’t send one-size-fits-all emails to all your contacts. Instead, segment your email list by subscriber activity, account size, past purchases, etc. Find out as much information as you can about your list, then craft your messages to each specific audience. Also, perform A/B tests to gauge which subject lines, email copy, images, etc. garner the highest response rate versus unsubscribe requests.

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