Email marketing remains one of the most popular marketing strategies for businesses, which comes as no surprise as email is the third most influential source of information among B2B audiences. A staggering 86% of business professionals prefer it as a means of business communication.
When correspondences are flagged and dumped into the spam or junk folder—instead of reaching your audience’s inboxes—it completely destroys your email marketing strategy. This means that marketers’ number one priority is to ensure that emails make it to audiences’ inboxes. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult as more email spammers, as well as their tactics for wiggling through spam filters, has forced webmail providers (such as Gmail) to beef up security.
These newer filters do a better job of flagging spam but have also resulted in non-spam emails being directed into the junk folder. According to a study conducted by Return Path in 2015, about 21% of commercial emails land in spam folders.
However, if you follow a few straightforward rules established by webmail providers with regards to email quality, you can increase the likelihood that your emails make it to your subscribers’ inboxes.
How To Prevent Email Getting Flagged as Spam
Gmail has more than 1 billion active email accounts, which means that any email marketing campaign will most likely be dominated by Gmail addresses. This makes it especially important for marketers to be aware of Gmail’s email algorithm and rules when it comes to identifying spam.
Gmail could flag your emails as spam because of issues related to email headers, link sources, sources, email engagement, email content, and image-only emails.
The header of your email includes routing information, such as the sender, recipient, date, subject, and return address. If the sender and return email are different or inconsistent, you can count on your emails being flagged as spam.
It’s very standard to pack a marketing email with outgoing links as a way to start moving potential clients down your sales funnel. If your email contains a link to a website that has been blacklisted by the webmail provider, it will automatically be flagged as spam.
Every webmail provider, including Gmail, operates under the general rule to flag emails that contain blacklist domains or links. Each service provider keeps its own internal blacklist of domains and companies. Hopefully, you’re not on the list, as you don’t end up on the blacklist unless you’ve gone seriously afoul of the webmail provider’s rules.
If you are blacklisted, things will get a lot more challenging from here. Your first step will be working on getting removed from the blacklist.
If the IP address you send your marketing emails from was previously tagged as a source of spam, then your emails will also be filtered as spam. This is particularly problematic for those sharing a server, because even if you don’t have a record of spamming, if someone who uses the same IP address has a spam record, you will get dragged down.
This means that if a campaign is being sent through an email marketing service provider, such as MailChimp, Aweber, ActiveCampaign, or GetResponse, and another one of their customers sends spam, it can impact your emails, as everyone using the service shares the same server.
The email marketing service providers mentioned all have stellar reputations with regards to this matter. However, not all such service providers do, which makes it absolutely necessary to use one that has a reputation for quality to their customers.
If it turns out that your IP address has been flagged, you’ll need to start working on getting your IP address from the blacklist.
Top webmail providers, such as Gmail and Yahoo!, use engagement metrics to filter emails. This means that if your emails have really low open rates or are simply deleted without being opened at all, it can impact whether or not your emails are flagged as spam.
The use of engagement metrics makes a lot of sense as Google strives to provide better user experiences through improvements to their algorithm—across services (like online search). If your emails have a low level of engagement, it indicates that users are not really interested in them, which makes them look spammy.
Of course, there are plenty of tips for optimizing your email marketing strategy to increase engagement. This is not only important for steering clear of the spam folder, but also fundamental to the success of your email marketing strategy. After all, members of an engaged audience are on the verge of becoming clients (if they aren’t already!).
Email content is, in fact, the least common cause of correspondences being redirected into the spam folder. Nonetheless, it is possible. This usually occurs when messages are overtly spammy, containing trigger words or phrases that are filtered by webmail providers.
Common triggers words and phrases include:
- Exclusive deal
- Fast cash
- Earn $
- Million dollars
- Not spam
- They keep your money — no refund!
If you’re worried that your emails are being flagged because of your content, you’ll want to review this list of 455 spam trigger words.
Having a visually appealing marketing email is incredibly important. However, this means you should have some images and graphics in your email—not that your entire email should be a single image.
Though image-only emails allow you to manage every aspect of the design, they are notoriously used by email spammers.
Additionally, if you decide to create a graphic with text, even if it doesn’t get flagged, some email clients won’t display these images—so there’s no way your audience will actually get to read the words on the image.
Another downside to image-only emails is that there won’t be an email preview, which is one of the first things people check when something new pops up in their inbox. A preview helps the receiver understand if they need to even to bother open the message or if they can just trash it. An email without a preview tends to look spammy, which means it’s likely to be immediately deleted.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t use any images in your email marketing strategy. If you do, you’ll want to make sure to follow best practices in designing your emails. In general, you’ll want to use images that are no more than 600-800 pixels wide and are compressed. Additionally, you’ll want to use web safe fonts that are guaranteed to work across all email providers.
Final Thoughts: Email Marketing: What Google Automatically Flags as “Spam”
Still not sure if your emails are being flagged as spam? Given that you might not know if your server is compromised by someone else who has been spamming, it’s a good idea to start sifting through your data to ensure webmail providers aren’t tossing your emails into the trash.
By analyzing available data, you can determine whether or not your email open rate is meeting your marketing strategy targets. If it’s falling way short, it’s possible that your emails are being flagged as spam, which means it’s time to go through a checklist to establish why—and then fix it.