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10+ Expert tips to prevent your emails sent to promo/ spam box

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Have your email open rates ever suddenly plunged to single digits without explanation or warning? Well, friends, welcome to the exciting world of email marketing! Sooner or later, it happens to everyone - experienced marketers included.

First of all, don’t panic!

Secondly, learn from it, so that you can avoid it next time!

And when it comes to learning, we’ve got good news and bad news for you. The bad news is that major mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook never share the exact rules they use to filter out emails as spams. So, it’s challenging to prepare for every possible scenario.

But the good news is, there are some expert-backed tips to help you deal with this. And by applying these, you can make significant improvements.

Therefore, in this guide, we offer the best 10+ email marketing practices you should follow to keep your emails out of the promo/ spam folder.

Let’s dive in right now!

What is a promo/ spam box in your email?

First and foremost, a spam box, also called a “junk mailbox” or “junk folder,” is used to store unwanted incoming emails, so it stays out of a recipient’s Primary inbox. Usually, spam messages look like a promotional campaign or advertisement. Even though you don’t create an email marketing campaign to perform any kind of fraudulent actions, your messages still can end up in the spam box for some reason.

While the Promotions Tab isn’t as bad as the dreaded spam box, it’s still not an ideal place for your emails to land in. As a matter of fact, in the Promotions Tab, recipients can see your brand name, items that are on sale, discount information, and preview images - all information related to your promotional campaigns. However, it’s understandable when most marketers want to avoid it, mainly because they can achieve higher open rates in the Primary inbox.

What is a promo/ spam box in your email?

When your audience receives a message, the email service provider will look at the time it was sent, the sender’s email address, and the message’s content. If any of these aspects look suspicious, that message will be sent to the spam folder. In reality, email service providers allow their users to decide what should or should not be sent to the junk mailbox by adjusting specific settings.

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Two main reasons why an email lands in the recipient’s promo/ spam box

According to ReturnPath, only 79% of emails sent by genuine email marketers reach audiences’ inboxes. This means 21% of emails are being sent to the infamous spam folder. It is discouraging for those of us who spend weeks, or even months, crafting the perfect email campaigns, only to be disappointed by the open and click-through rates.

Many studies show that there are two main reasons your emails end up in spam box:

  • Emails are flagged by spam filters. Each email provider has its own sets of spam filters that generally include the sender’s technical specifics, email content, and subscriber engagement. By using these different criteria, they filter out unwanted and unsolicited bulk mail, thus preventing it from reaching email inboxes.

  • Emails are marked as spams by the recipient. Subscribers can move messages to spam folders if they no longer want to receive your emails. If a certain number of people start doing this, email providers could classify messages coming from you in the future as spams.

In reality, only a small error is enough to send an email from an honest marketer to the 9th circle of email marketing hell, consequencing in serious and almost irreparable damage to email deliverability and the sender reputation.

Below are 10+ tips to help you make sure the promo/ spam box doesn’t let you lose your valuable customers without further ado.

1. Be aware of the CAN-SPAM Act

The CAN-SPAM Act (2003) is a law setting the rules for commercial emails and establishes requirements for commercial messages. It gives recipients the right to have senders stop emailing them and spells out strict penalties for violations.

Be aware of the CAN-SPAM Act
Be aware of the CAN-SPAM Act

There is no exception for business-to-business emails, which means all emails - for instance, a message to former customers announcing a new product line - must comply with the law. Each separate email in violation of this law is subject to penalties of up to $16,000.

The requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act include:

  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  • Don’t use misleading or false header information
  • Identify the message as an ad
  • Tell recipients where you are located (simply add your physical address in your email)
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly
  • Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future emails from you
  • Manage what others are doing on your behalf

2. Get a certificate by a trustworthy third party

It’s possible to get sender accreditation by a trustworthy third party that acts as a guarantee to the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) that you’re not a spammer.

Some companies, such as Return Path, assess your email practices and certify you as a trusted sender. This certificate makes sure that your emails will reach a majority of the inboxes, as it signals to ISP to allow your emails to bypass spam filters.

It’s not a free service; however, it’s probably worth investing because the money you spend can return with increased conversions.

Use permission-based email marketing techniques
Use permission-based email marketing techniques

Permission-based marketing is a common technique of sending commercial emails only to recipients who agreed to receive them from you. By implementing it, you can reduce spam rates and complaints, build a strong and loyal relationship with your audiences, and present your brand as caring and trustworthy, hence improving your reputation.

3. Use permission-based email marketing techniques

So, keep in mind to get permission from your recipients to send them marketing emails. Place a subscription form on your website or landing page, and ask visitors to subscribe to your mailing list. Make the process simple, to-the-point, and easy-to-understand.

You can take a step further and ask them to confirm their subscription to avoid spam and bot subscriptions.

4. Use a recognizable sender name

It is a good practice to always strive to send emails from an address that contains your personal name with brand name so that the recipients can recognize you. In the sea of emails people receive every day, they prefer to open those which include a personal name in the “From” box, rather than impersonal and generic ones.

Furthermore, email service providers tend to pay close attention to the “From” field. Spam technology has reputation-based filtering that gathers information about the source of the message (e.g., IP address and domain) among other things. Frequently changing the IP address often signals shady business to email service providers. They will alert the email service provider to perform a check on you.

If you inadvertently choose a blacklist address, your email will be filtered out. In short, changing the email address too often will confuse the recipients and make them mark you as spam.

So, you can prevent this from happening by:

Read more: 12 Mental Triggers in Email Marketing and How to use it effectively

5. Take good care of the subject lines

In addition to the sender name, the email subject line is the only thing a recipient has to go on when deciding whether it is legit or not and whether they should open it.

Convince and Convert even emphasizes, “69% of email recipients report emails as spams based solely on the subject line.” So, you need to nail it.

A compelling subject line should:

  • Accurately reflect the content of the message
  • Not using all caps everywhere, which indicates that you are shouting at recipients
  • Not sounding overly salesy or pushy
  • Not going overboard with exclamation points

When coming up with an email subject line, we recommend putting yourself in your audiences’ shoes. In most cases, you will be more than fine if your headline is relevant and written with the reader in mind.

Read more: 101 Killing Email Headlines

6. Keep your email lists clean

Even if your email list is entirely built on valid opt-ins, you’re at risk of being labeled as a spammer if you don’t practice proper email hygiene. The reason behind it is ISPs base complaint rates on active subscribers, not total subscribers.

Expired email addresses eventually turn into unknown users or bounces. If you hit these accounts at a rate higher than 5%, ISPs will flag you as having bad email hygiene. Consequently, they will make it harder for your emails to reach recipients’ inboxes, and your overall sender reputation will definitely drop.

Therefore, you should identify expired email addresses and inactive subscribers using metrics, such as open, click-through rates, and website activity, and remove them from your lists. We recommend implementing this on a monthly basis to get the best result.

7. Pay attention to your email content

At the core of any effective email marketing program is a commitment to sending interesting and valuable content to your recipients. Don’t just send emails for nothing!

Every time you send an email that doesn’t resonate, it decreases the likelihood that your recipient will open or click your next email. And that means a higher chance of landing in a spam box.

So, the next time you craft your next email, think about these following questions:

  • Are you sharing new or urgent information with your audiences?
  • When was the last time you sent an email about this topic? Is it too soon to deliver another update?
  • Do all of your subscribers need to know this information or if only a segment of your list needs to be updated?
  • If you were the person to receive this email, would you find it valuable?

It can also require you to understand your recipients’ pain points and offer appropriate solutions. You can provide educational videos, how-to tutorials, product-related emails where you show problem-solving tips.

Writing an email copy that converts can take a bit of trial and error. However, once subscribers see that you care about their needs and wants, they’re much more likely to engage with your business.

8. Manage bounces from your mailing lists

When one mail server unsuccessfully attempts to send a message to another server, it will result in an automated email response called a bounce. In general, bounces are classified into two types: soft bounces and hard bounces.

Manage bounces from your mailing lists
Manage bounces from your mailing lists

Soft bounce error codes usually result from temporary causes:

  • The recipient’s mailbox is full
  • Large email size
  • Technical issues on receiving mail transfer agent’s end.

Hard bounces are often the result of a closed, invalid, or non-existent email address, and these emails will never be successfully delivered. Trying to send these emails will eventually be recorded by the ISP as a spam trap hit. So, pay attention to the notification of the bounce ISP sends you and delete the problematic email from your list.

9. Test your emails before sending them

Spam filtering systems are getting more and more advanced all the time. You might not be aware that your email includes a string of code, a link, image, or headline that would immediately trigger spam filtering. It’s not about you making a bad email, it’s about mail servers protecting their clients.

Test your emails before sending them
Test your emails before sending them

You should send out a test version of your email before sending out the real deal. This is the quickest way to know whether a particular will end up in a spam folder or not. It’s also a good way to analyze what your email looks like on desktop versus mobile.

10. Monitor your email engagement metrics

Tracking your email engagement and performance metrics is a true way to know if your email campaign is improving or if some changes are needed. Before you measure, it’s necessary to develop some baseline metrics to have a consistent picture of your email performance.

You can start with these following metrics:

  • Open rates
  • Click-through rates
  • Share/ forward rates
  • Spam complaints
  • Unsubscribe rates

Don’t be afraid if you start to notice negative trends, just be sure to act quickly once you realize the problem. For instance, if your open rates are starting to dip, review your headlines and email frequency to see how to improve them.

Read more:

The bottom line

There is no magic formula that guarantees 100% that your emails won’t land in the promotion/ spam box. Fortunately, to some extent, this issue is preventable.

By familiarizing yourself with the CAN-SPAM Act and understanding the logic behind spam filters, as well as the thought process of human readers, you should be able to eliminate any spammies. As a result, more and more of your emails will end up where they deserve to be - in the recipients’ inboxes.

Being tested and experienced by many customers, AVADA Email Marketing app is recommended for you as a spam-proof. Focusing on Abandonded Cart Emails, Welcomes emails and optimized email workflow, it just take you a few minutes to start your email marketing campaigns and wait for conversions come!

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Sam Nguyen is the CEO and founder of Avada Commerce, an e-commerce solution provider headquartered in Singapore. He is an expert on the Shopify e-commerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. Sam loves talking about e-commerce and he aims to help over a million online businesses grow and thrive.