As a salesperson, prospecting to cold leads using emails, what keeps you up at night? Spam Filters. Those pesky little gatekeepers that decide who gets to land in the inbox and who gets relegated to obscurity. It does not matter how personalized and thoughtful your email is or how helpful your offer is. If it gets filtered into spam, you have lost the war before a single bullet was fired. As automation and email marketing increases in popularity, spam filters have also increased in sophistication. And they need to. By certain estimates, over 70% of all email traffic is spam. Aided by AI and machine learning technology, spam filters today are increasingly stringent when it comes to determining what gets to the inbox and what gets filtered out. But in this crossfire between the spammers and spam filters, your thoughtful and relevant sales email can often end up as collateral damage. So, how should you as a salesperson adapt. What can you do? First, embrace reality. Accept that spam filters make the inbox a better place. Make the spam filters your friend. In this article, we discuss the 16 critical things you must do to stay on the right side of spam filters.
Table of Contents
- Build your Domain Reputation
- Set up your email infrastructure
- Monitor your IP reputation
- Target the right prospects
- Monitor your recipient engagement
- Review and minimize bounces
- Make it easy to opt-out
- Follow spam law guidelines
- Personalize your emails
- Do not aggressively follow-up
- Use automation carefully
- Avoid spam trigger words
- Use different templates
- Use open tracking only when you need
- Avoid sending attachments
- Focus on Image-to-Text ratio
What Is Spam?
Any irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent in bulk to contacts that haven’t been researched or qualified ahead of time can be considered spam. Spam emails are often generic, impersonal and templated. They rarely provide any real value or present information in a way that addresses the recipient’s needs.
How do Email Spam Filters Work?
Email Service Providers (ESP) such as Gmail, Outlook etc, place filters in their system in an effort to protect their users from unnecessary emails. These filters, also known as Email Spam Filters, are algorithms that review incoming mail to prevent junk from reaching a user’s inbox. They use a rating system to judge if a mail is worth delivering to the inbox. Spam filters weigh several parameters – such as sender reputation, the volume of emails sent, email engagement rate, etc – and assign a score based on which they decide on whether to pass an email through the filter and land it the inbox. Since there are different approaches to catching spam and each filter has unique criteria to judge an email, it can get difficult to avoid spam filters. We’ve put together a few best practices to help you get past email spam filters.
16 Critical Steps to Avoid Email Spam Filters
Here’s everything you need to know to avoid email spam filters and make your precious emails land in the prospect’s inbox.
1. Build your Domain Reputation
The first step to avoiding email spam filters is to appear as a legitimate sender. Spam filters bank on your Domain Reputation to evaluate your reliability – to determine the positioning of your email between the inbox and spam folder – so it’s pivotal to maintain it properly. Your domain reputation is evaluated based on the following factors: Spam rate: The percentage of emails sent from a particular domain that were filtered out and landed in the spam folder directly. Bounce rate: This refers to the percentage of emails sent from a domain that was rejected by the prospect’s email server and returned to the sender. Spam report: If a prospect particularly marks you spam, it is considered as a spam report. Spam reports are the last thing you’d want as an email sender – they immediately set off spam filters and severely affect your email deliverability. Regularly tracking these metrics and keeping them minimal is the best way to build your domain reputation. Apart from these, it’s also important to have a method to protect your emails from spoofing but surprisingly, only a few companies have implemented it. One of the methods that you could implement easily is the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance.
2. Set up your Email Infrastructure
Another important step to avoid email spam filters is to set up your email infrastructure properly. This simply means that you have to authenticate the domain that you will be using to send the emails. Domain Authentication is a technical standard that allows the recipient’s server to confirm your identity – to verify that it’s really you who’s sending the email. This significantly reduces your chances of being marked as spam. So, how do you authenticate your domain? Authenticating your domain involves setting up three protocols – SPF, DKIM and DMARC. a. Sender Policy Framework (SPF): This standard validates your identity by checking if your mail is sent from an authorized IP address of a particular domain. b. Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM): This authentication protocol affixes a digital signature to every outgoing email from a particular domain, which is then verified by the prospect’s system. Meeting this standard ensures that an email is not tampered with during its transmission. c. Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC): DMARC policies verify if the sender’s domain is authenticated with SPF and DKIM protocols and provides information on what to be done in case the sender is not verified (such as sending to the spam folder, rejecting the mail, etc). Contact your IT team to check if your SPF and DKIM are set properly.
3. Monitor your IP Reputation
An IP address is a number registered in your domain that is authorized to send emails/messages on behalf of the domain. Use a reliable IP address to send emails. Every IP address has a rating and if it is low your mails will likely be considered as spam and might be at the risk of not being delivered. That is why it’s crucial to maintain a good IP reputation. Tools like Sender Score by Return Path help you track if your domain/ IP’s reputation is moving up or down over a period of time. If you see your reputation going down, it may be time to cut down on email volume.
4. Target the Right Prospects
Only contact prospects who have a real need for your product and are likely to benefit from your services. This will improve the chances of your prospects replying to your emails and will soar your engagement rate, which again is a positive sign. The best way to go about targeting the right prospects is to build an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) for your product/service.
5. Monitor your Recipient Engagement
Email spam filters constantly monitor how prospects are engaging with your mails. Engagement metrics like reply rate, click rate etc indicate spam filters about your prospects’ interest in receiving your emails. When a prospect positively engages with your mail by replying to it or adding you to their contacts, it sends a strong positive signal to the spam filters that you’re an emailer with credibility. This will in turn shoot up your sender reputation.
6. Review and Minimize Bounces
Tracking bounce rate helps you evaluate the risk of being blacklisted by spam filters. An email is considered as bounced when it is not delivered for permanent reasons such as fake email addresses or your prospect’s domain not being verified. This is something you’d want to avoid. The more bounces you get, the more your reputation suffers and the more difficult it is to avoid spam filters. It is a vicious cycle that is tough to get out of and your email deliverability will suffer for a long time. Review your bounces regularly. The best way to minimize bounces is to keep your email list fresh, regularly cleaned and verified from time to time. A “clean” email list has a bounce rate of less than 1%. Anything above that will alert the spam filters that you’re sending emails to stale email addresses. You can also take the help of email verification services like Briteverify or Findthatlead or Clearout to validate your email addresses.
7. Make it Easy to Opt-out
One easy way to reduce the likelihood of being reported as spam is to make it easy for your prospects to unsubscribe. Provide unsubscribe links at the top/ bottom of your emails, so that if your prospect is not interested in hearing from you, he can quickly and painlessly opt out – without having to mark you as spam. If your prospect chooses to opt-out, make it frictionless. Don’t ask them to re-enter their email id/ username or pass additional hoops – it shows that you respect his preferences.
8. Follow Spam Law Guidelines
Understanding and complying with the laws in the countries you’re prospecting into will limit the number of complaints against your domain, ensuring your emails land where you want them to – in the inbox. Make sure your emails comply with the standards set by the CAN-SPAM act such as:
- Provide a physical mailing address
- Don’t use any deceptive subject lines.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly.
- Accurately identify the person you’re messaging to.
9. Personalize your Emails
Personalization tells your prospects that you know who they are. It shows them that you’ve put some effort into messaging them. This makes your prospects receptive to your emails and increases the chances of engaging with them which will in-turn improve your engagement metrics.
10. Do not Follow-up Aggressively
No denying. Follow-up emails are extremely important to stay on top of your prospects’ minds. But if you’re aggressively following-up with too many emails in a short span of time, you’re likely to irritate prospects and they might even end up reporting you spam – the last thing you’d want as a mail sender. Maintain a reasonable time gap between each of your follow-ups. Structure your cadence in such a way that your follow-ups provide value to your prospects while not being too frequent.
11. Use Automation Carefully
Spacing out the time period between individual emails – instead of blasting them all in one go – helps improve email deliverability. If you are using an outbound sales automation software (like Klenty) to send mail merges or cadences, set it up such that there is a reasonable interval between emails. For example, at Klenty, we use a random interval of approx 2 minutes between each email sent by you. Sending 100 emails in a minute is a signal that you may be a bulk emailer.
12. Avoid Spam Trigger Words
Spam filters are constantly on the look-out for any spam-like patterns in your email. So, it’s important to craft a credible, professional-looking mail. Draft your email template carefully. If your copy contains words like “FREE”, “Order now”, “Make $” etc or has too many exclamation points !!!! , CAPS, multiple colors, too much HTML etc, it might alert the spam filters and get filtered out. You can also use tools that work like spam filters to assess your email copy. Run a test on tools like Mail-tester to check if your template looks spammy and the likelihood of its deliverability.
13. Use Different Templates
Your recipients’ Email Service Providers are constantly tracking your email activity – if you repeatedly keep sending the same email copy, you might alert the spam filters. Try experimenting with the different components of your email – right from the subject lines, email body, calls-to-action, etc. A/B testing your subject lines, email copy, etc will help you understand what’s working for your goals. With Klenty, you can setup multiple A/B testing options. That way different email templates will be used instead of the same email content being sent repeatedly.
14. Use open tracking sparingly
It is recommended to limit the number of links added in your email copy as they tend to have a negative impact if your prospect has advanced spam filters. For the really sophisticated prospects, you may even want to turn off email open tracking as it could trigger their spam filters.
15. Send attachments sparingly
Attachments usually have a negative impact on deliverability. It would be a good idea to hold off on sending attachments unless you really need to. If required, then upload to Google docs/ Dropbox etc and send the link over.
16. Focus on Image-to-Text ratio
Spam filters block any email that doesn’t maintain a healthy balance of text and images. So, as a general guideline, it is recommended to maintain a ratio of 80% text to 20% images in your campaigns – if you have to use images. Else, it’s a good idea to avoid using images in your cold email campaigns.
It all boils down to this: Stay on the right side.
Take a look at your spam folder some time – you’ll know what a savior spam filter is! Without them, our inboxes will probably be full of emails from random strangers offering a fortune – if only we give them our banking passwords! Spam filters do serve a great purpose. Life will indeed be harder without them. But given the sheer volume of emails they need to classify, they’re just not fair always. They do filter out important content once in a while. The only way to consistently get past them is to do the right thing always. Difficult, maybe. But doable. Target the right prospects. Comply with the spam law guidelines. Send personalized emails. Avoid spam trigger words. Craft a professional-looking mail. It’s all about getting the basics right. As long as you get them right, you’re good to go. And we hope this post gets you there!