Are you one of those naughty email marketers who didn’t follow the advice we shared on our blog posts in September about holiday marketing tips and email list management? That’s ok. We’ve still got your back.
This month, we’ve asked our guest experts to help you dig yourself back out of the spam folder and get back to being the good-natured email marketer we know you really are.
We’ll start by echoing the advice of many of our experts. Don’t panic!
In the event you find yourself stuck in the spam folder, deliverability experts from Epsilon, Word to the Wise, Netcore, Campaign Monitor, TrueAccord, Pardot, ActiveCampaign, Zeta Global, Emarsys, MessageGears, as well as yours truly will help guide you through this stressful situation.
So let’s begin…
Why Your Mail is Going to Spam
My fellow deliverability geeks have provided a spot-on list of reasons why mail may be going to the spam folder, as well as helpful tips to improve your situation.
As a result, I’ll focus on some of the top reasons I see mail going to the spam folder:
Not taking action early enough (or “ignoring warning signs”)
The first thing people tend to do when they start seeing negative engagement is bury their heads in the sand and hope it goes away. Hope it was a fluke. Hope it was just a boring subject line or two… until those two campaigns turn into two weeks of low performance. And then two months. And by the time they start to take their issue seriously, they’ve dug themselves into a very deep hole.
Knowing WHERE you’re going to spam is important to prevent further damage because what’s driving the issue will vary with every provider. And some Mailbox Providers (MBPs) actually treat mail going to the spam folder as a negative signal. The more mail that goes to spam, and the longer you keep sending it, the more it will impact your deliverability over time.
So once you detect a spam folder issue, your best bet is to pump the brakes on your sending and take action to quickly identify the cause of your issue. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to stay in the inbox than it is to dig yourself out of the spam folder. Not to mention, your spam folder issue could turn into an outright block or extend to additional MBPs if left untreated.
Too many user complaints (aka “marked as spam” reports)
While a huge spike in user complaints will usually result in your mail being blocked, a slow and steady flow of users marking your emails as spam, particularly when paired with low opens and clicks, can result in your mail being delivered to the spam folder of your subscribers.
You’ll never know exactly what caused someone to flag your mail as spam, but you can look for clues based on the data you have at hand:
- If users are marking your emails as spam shortly after they’ve joined your list, look to your sign-up process — you do have one, right? Permission is of utmost importance if you’re looking for consistent inbox placement.
- Are you properly setting expectations about the types of content you send, as well as the frequency? Are you sticking to what you said you’d do?
Depending on how severe your spam folder issue is, it’s important to note that you may see that your spam complaint rate is at or close to 0%. This is not really anything to celebrate though, because it’s probably an indication that most of your mail is going to spam.
Users can’t complain about an email if it’s already in the spam folder. So look to the time period when you did still see complaints coming in, or when you first started to notice mail going to spam:
- Any changes in volume around that time suggesting you sent to a very inactive segment, or worse — your suppression list — by mistake?
- Has your content changed recently, or have you increased your sending frequency? If you send offers, are they as high-quality, unique and valuable as what you used to provide?
Spam complaints are a clear indication to MBPs that your mail is not wanted, and they can lead to mail being delivered in the spam folder for other recipients. They can also result in your mail being blocked entirely if you let them continue for too long, so nip them in the bud quickly.
Once You’re In [the Spam Folder] It’s Not So Easy to Get Out
Ongoing spam placement issues impact your ROI, your brand exposure, and can seem overwhelming to troubleshoot since mailbox providers each have their own filtering criteria. It’s a rather vast topic you’ve given us this month, Lauren!
First, try to get a good understanding of the scope and potential cause of your issue:
- Is your mail filtered to spam at a specific mailbox provider?
- Are all your mail streams affected? If not, what could differentiate those affected vs. the others?
- If you’re sending from a shared pool of IPs, could other senders on that pool negatively impact you?
- When did the issue start? Did anything change in the way you mail around that time (e.g. creative / HTML, mailing frequency, data source, segmentation…)?
There are different reasons why your emails could land in spam. If your issue is at a smaller/ regional mailbox provider, it could be related to something in the content of your email. In this scenario, start by running a basic content test (for example SpamAssassin), and review everything from URLs to authentication, HTML code, etc.
Ongoing spam filtering at larger providers (e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Comcast, etc.) is usually linked to sender reputation issues: lack of user engagement and/or high rate of spam complaints. These providers’ proprietary algorithms look at a variety of signals to assess your reputation, that’s then attached to your sending IPs and domain (mail streams sharing IPs / domains can impact each other).
There’s a reason why deliverability folks keep ranting about maintaining best practices at all times: that’s because once you get caught into the spam folder at Gmail and Microsoft, it is not so easy to get out. Given that email engagement is the key determinant in forming reputation, how do you get people to engage with your emails if they land in Junk in the first place?
If that’s the issue you’re caught in, you’ll need to make some changes in the way you mail to see improvements. Cutting down your targeting to your most recent and engaged subscribers is a good way to see results.
Are you currently not removing inactive users? Then start by only targeting 12 months actives. Does this not help? Then reduce again to 6 months, and so on, until you start seeing a positive shift.
It can be painful – we have seen clients having to temporarily cut their segmentation to 30 days actives. That stage is a good time to reach out to the mailbox provider, explain you made changes and ask them to review the treatment of your mail.
By shifting your targeting to your most valued recipients, a higher ratio of them engage with your emails, which demonstrates to the mailbox provider that these are wanted; in turn triggering more emails to get placed into the inbox. Once you start seeing results, be patient. Mailbox providers will want to see positive signals overtime before fully trusting you again.
When you’ve improved your reputation, you can start to progressively open up your targeting again. Make sure that you closely monitor your campaign results or any other tools you have access to (e.g. Google Postmaster) for any signs of degradation though; if this happens, roll back to tighter targeting.
Aside from all this, it’s important to work on the underlying causes of the issue: why are your recipients not engaging with your emails, why do they complain? Well, that would be enough for another whole post, so I’ll stop here for now.
To sum it up: it’s never too late to review your mailing strategy to improve performance and inbox placement – but you must be ready to make changes to see results. Engage with your ESP’s Deliverability Team for advice and help with setting up a recovery plan!
Start By Identifying Where Your Mail is Being Sent to Spam
The first question is always: where? Is it one or all of the free mailbox providers? Is it at one of the business hosting services? Is it in your own company? While there is a generic base solution that will work at most places, knowing who is putting mail in spam can identify broader issues that need addressing.
For instance, the consumer mail providers will put mail in spam because the recipients are unengaged. Business hosting companies will often tag mail, but the filtering is controlled by the business itself. Filtering your own mail when sent by an ESP is infrequent but happens because of authentication rules at the recipient company.
The major benefit of identifying where mail is going to the spam folder is that the sender can focus changes on the domains with problems. For domains where delivery is fine, no changes need to be implemented. This leads to less business impact during the 4 – 12 weeks of remediation.
The base solution works for most consumer domains.
- Identify those recipients that are getting the mail in their inbox. This is a place I do rely on opens and clicks, as most of the consumer mailbox providers do not enable images or links if mail is in the bulk folder.
- Pick an activity window. I often default to activity in the most recent 30 days but some clients choose shorter times and some choose slightly longer times. Don’t go too far back as the goal here is to identify those recipients known to be receiving mail in their inbox.
- Send mail to just those recipients for 3 – 8 weeks to firmly establish a good reputation. Monitor engagement, reputation, and inbox placement as normal.
- When inbox placement looks better, start adding back in mail paused during this time. I like to start with the next most recent cohort of addresses and then work backwards based on the most recent activity. I also don’t like to add more than 10 – 20% new addresses in any one mailing.
I use the ISP contact forms when I am not seeing improvement in delivery after a week or two. That’s unusual, but it does happen.
Utilizing Public Postmaster Pages to Solve Spam Problems
Identifying the cause of your issues should be your first order of attention when looking to resolve spam folder placements. Start by reading the Mailbox Provider’s (MBPs) postmaster page and see if your mailing practices are in line with their recommended practices for sending bulk mail. Postmaster pages will typically give detailed instructions on sending email, authentication policies, interpreting bounce messages, what types of blocklist or reputation services they use, and how to open a support case with the postmaster page.
Based on the recommendations of the postmaster pages you might need to change some things in your segmentation, win-back campaigns or re-evaluate the window of time you use for determining an engaged user.
Look at suppressing your unengaged users, updating message content, review data acquisition practices, resolve any blocklist issues, and implement list hygiene. All of these are options for helping you resolve your active spam folder placement concerns. Oftentimes one or more of these options is necessary as you work to identify the cause and the solution.
Here are three postmaster pages you will want to consider reading, even if you are not currently experiencing issues with your delivery:
Once you’ve determined that your email is being sent in a manner that is compliant with the MBPs guidelines, you should open a ticket with the postmaster team – always follow the process with regards to opening a support ticket first.
The last thing to remember is building a positive reputation is a journey and occasionally you may stumble and have issues with delivery. Remaining in step with the best practices of MBPs and your Email Service Provider will help keep you out of the spam folder.
Getting Out of the Dreaded Spam Folder
The worst feeling for any marketer is realizing your hard work and strategized emails are not getting into your recipient’s inbox and they are landing in SPAM. The question is what do you do, how can you get them to stop going there, and how to keep them out.
I always start with making sure of a few things are first not causing issues and can be corrected immediately. Start with checking there are no issues with your email infrastructure, i.e DKIM, SPF records and BIMI. Always make sure you have DMARC set up as you never want your from domain to be spoofed.
Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) is a standard email authentication method. DMARC helps mail administrators prevent hackers and other attackers from spoofing their organization and domain. Spoofing is a type of attack in which the From address of an email message is forged.
Next, if the infrastructure is not an issue, I recommend the following:
Make sure to always use a real reply address and not a no-reply address. Recipients want to know there is a person on the other side and have no interest to open emails that they realize has no interest in not creating a relationship. One of the biggest reasons Gmail, Yahoo, Microfot domains push emails to spam is lack of engagement. The objective of any marketer is to promote opens and a user to interact with their emails, website and brand.
Dedicated IP address
I have discussed this throughout my career in Email and there is always a back and forth, “why do I need a Dedicated IP?”.
Well, the biggest reason is for a brand to create its own reputation, because at the end of the day if your marketing team is doing everything correctly in terms of best practices, why ruin it by sharing reputation with other companies that may not be following the same methodologies.
It is not always the case, but often companies that use shared IPs are email senders that want to leech off others’ good reputation and in the long run, have the ability to hurt deliverability for your team.
There is a large possibility that you are ending in SPAM because of someone else, it is an easy problem to fix, build your reputation and teach ISPs you are a good sender.
Sending targeted, quality content should always be top of any marketer’s mind. Highly engaging emails and witty subject lines are important tactics to get contacts to interact with you. Make sure to segment your lists for increased targeting. When you’re sending an email, take a step back and think about what you’re really trying to say and who you’re trying to say it to. Is it something you need to send to all of your contacts? Make your audience feel special, that this email was meant for them personally.
In the end, it is all about engagement to get out of the SPAM folder. Don’t send email to marginally engaged contacts. If they haven’t engaged recently, it might be time to switch up your strategy. There might be a reason why your email is ending up in SPAM.
This is the time to send to your last 30-day engagement recipients, help ISPs know that you are a good sender. You want your brand (and your clients’ brands) to be at the forefront of the target market’s mind. An unopened email isn’t doing anyone any good.
Being in SPAM is the worst feeling, but don’t worry yourself too much, there is a solution and hope.
How Did You Break Your
Arm Email Program?
How did you get there?
You need to figure that out
Then, you can escape
When I get asked this question, it’s usually followed with questions like, “Do we change our IP? Do we change our domain? Do we send everyone an email asking them to manually move the email from their spam folder to the inbox??”, and that leads to my best advice: Stop focusing on fixing the issue from the onset.
No, really! Think of it this way: if, for example, you break your arm, the first question people ask is “How did you break it?”. Similarly, for your email program, you need to look at how things broke to get you where you are right now.
How did you break your arm? Or, how did your current email practices lead you to the spam folder?
This is the time to take a good, hard look at your sending practices. Mail filters are quite smart, and they’re getting smarter every single day. They don’t put you in the spam folder because they have a personal vendetta against you and your sending program, they put you in the spam folder because you’ve done something to make that receiving filter think that is where you belong.
If you’re sending to purchased lists, you’re sending spam and you’re in the spam folder because that’s precisely where unsolicited email belongs.
If you’re sending to ridiculously old contacts, you belong in the spam folder because you’re sending mail to disinterested individuals.
If you’re sending mail with poor authentication practices, that could also be contributing to your spam folder placement.
If you’re using purchased data, stop doing that.
If you’re sending to unengaged subscribers, plan and execute a re-engagement campaign and trim your list to only active and interested subscribers.
Much like there is no one action that leads you to the spam folder, there’s no one solution to get you out.
By starting with identifying what caused the problem, you can give yourself (or an email deliverability professional!) the data to figure out what you need to do from there.
Stop! Take a deep breath.
Get out of the spam folder?
Checklist to Troubleshoot & Fix Spam Issues
When an email lands in the spam folder it’s because it met the threshold of one or more of the criteria of the anti-spam software used by the receiving server. While this may seem like stating the obvious, it’s important to understand how spam filters work and what general criteria they use in order to fix the issue of emails landing in the spam folder.
Spam filtering is dynamic, in that it is constantly evolving and changing. This can happen as the machine learning algorithms process incoming data and make decisions in real-time. Anti-spam vendors also regularly update their software, and the organizations using it can always customize the software’s settings.
For example, two recipients using the same software, like Office365, may have different allow-listing rules on how they treat incoming emails.
While we don’t know the exact thresholds for every spam filter in existence, mailbox providers and ISPs publish general information and guidelines on how to successfully deliver to their servers. This allows us to come up with a checklist of factors to consider to help troubleshoot this issue.
- Send to direct opt-in lists – Anti-spam filters are designed to block unsolicited emails, and sending to someone who didn’t ask for the email will result in it being blocked or junked as spam, if not the first email then one soon after.
- Allowlist with business domains when possible – Reaching the inbox of business domains, like private companies, law firms, universities, government departments, etcetera, can be more difficult because of rigid and strict anti-spam filters. A sender may need to contact the Mail/Security Admin and ask them to set up allow listing rules for the emails to pass these checks and ask individuals to add the sender to their safe-sender list.
- Consider engagement with ISPs and free webmail addresses – Successfully delivering emails to Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Comcast, etcetera, often relies on good sender reputation with the mailbox provider. A sender should focus on targeting their most active and engaged audience while regularly removing inactive and dormant contacts from their list.
- Set up Authentication for the sending domain – Authentication allows a receiving server to verify the email is sent from an authorized sender. While most Email Service Providers (ESPs) manage the SPF requirements, a sender should set up DKIM for their sending domain. The ESP’s Support team can help set up and check a customer’s authentication settings.
- Use sub-domains to separate sender reputation – If a sender has different email streams it helps to separate their reputation by using sub-domains. For example one sub-domain for transactional emails, one for marketing emails, and another for internal emails. Setting up sub-domains is an involved process, and it’s best to consult a deliverability specialist before creating and using a new sub-domain. As a side note, please don’t use cousin domains as this makes it difficult for your recipients to identify and avoid clicking on phishing links.
- Review your email content – Many spam filters will treat emails with URL shorteners or attachments, like PDF files, as suspicious. It’s better to link to your own website’s landing page and host the content there. Also, where possible, use your own domain in email links, like tracking links, to help spam filters easily “fingerprint” the email and assign reputation.
- Review your domain usage – As reputation is tied to your domain, it’s important to determine how it’s being used both internally and externally. A salesperson sending many “cold call” emails will impact the delivery of marketing emails sent from the same domain. Alternatively, if you suspect a bad actor is spoofing your domain to send blatant spam or phishing emails, you may consider setting up DMARC. Setting up DMARC is a complex process and it’s best to consult a DMARC specialist before implementation.
Once a sender has reviewed the above points they can then contact the receiving server’s postmaster or helpdesk and ask for technical assistance, or contact the Deliverability team of their ESP.
Landing in the inbox is a privilege rather than a right, and if one wants to be invited in as a welcome guest, they will need to make sure they present themselves as a trustworthy sender by taking responsibility for their emailing practices.
Take a Broad Look to Assess the Situation
Once you’ve made the horrifying discovery your mail is stuck in the spam folder, it’s a good idea to take a step back and determine whether you have a large-scale failure or simply a minor deliverability mishap.
This step is often overlooked as panicked marketers dig for solutions to a perceived deliverability problem, throwing a lot of time and resources at what may end up being a minor issue at worst.
Ask yourself the question, “How do I know my mail is trapped in Spam Folder Limbo?”
“Our internal tests are going to the Bulk folder!” That could be due to heightened security within your own network and might be resolved with a simple allow list request.
It could also be due to a lack of adequate authentication (SPF and/or DKIM). You likely have the same domain in the From: and To: addresses, so your inbound mail servers may think your mail is spoofed if it’s being sent from an outside server (like one belonging to your ESP).
“A very important customer reported the mail went to Junk!” There are a number of reasons that a single recipient might receive your message in their spam folder. Some may indicate a more widespread issue, while others are the result of a setting or filter unique to that user or a small subset of recipients.
Additional research is needed to determine whether the incident is isolated or more widely-occurring. This is especially true if the recipient is on a corporate or private domain as opposed to a B2C provider, as these domains are more likely to employ customized filtering protocols.
“Seed tests show half our mail is hitting Spam!” Seed tests to determine inbox placement are a useful tool, but they’re no crystal ball. As most major mailbox providers have employed some degree of user engagement in their inbox placement algorithms, seed tests have become less likely to behave like a real recipient’s mailbox would.
A drastic change in seed test results should warrant a closer look at your other metrics. Have your opens, site visits, or conversions from email also changed? If not, the issue may be specific to the seed list and not your overall campaign delivery.
Checking to ensure your seed list is up-to-date or contacting your deliverability tools vendor for assistance might be the next step here.
Make sure you’re authenticating your mail with SPF and DKIM, then contact your mail server admin for any potential adjustments to allow the mail to reach the inbox.
If you’re not able to reproduce the behavior and there are no other indicators of delivery problems, it may be an isolated issue. If that’s the case, having the affected recipient(s) add you to their address book or allow list will ensure they get your mail.
After you’ve taken a broader look, you may determine you really do have a significant portion of mail hitting the Spam folder, and then you can begin to address the issue using the steps my cohorts have so eloquently outlined here.
Follow this 4-Step Plan for Getting Out of the Spam Folder
Don’t panic! At least not yet. The sooner you intervene the less you have to worry about it.
Deliverability takes into account many factors: Authentication, Reputation, Content, List Hygiene, Engagement. You don’t want to overlook any one of them, especially if your emails are going to spam.
To begin the repair process, follow these steps to get out of spam and into the inbox:
- Assess the impact
- Check that everything is “by the book”
- Change your perspective
- Make a recovery plan
Assess the impact.
The first thing to do is to assess the severity of the filtering. It’s easy to say, “every email is landing in spam,” but you want to measure how many emails are being filtered and at which mailbox provider(s).
Spam filtering is not binary. Not all of your emails are going to spam: SOME emails are being filtered at SPECIFIC providers. If you don’t intervene promptly, the issue will spread to more emails and more mailbox providers and the more difficult it will be to solve. In addition, the steps to resolve vary slightly between mailbox providers.
Check that everything is “by the book”.
Domain authentication doesn’t directly prevent your emails from going to spam. That said, an authenticated domain is more trusted and consolidates your reputation. It’s better to have a non-authenticated domain than to have an incorrect record: an incorrect DKIM, SPF or DMARC could itself be responsible for spam filtering. Make sure that your sending domain is properly authenticated using DKIM, SPF and DMARC.
While content is every day less relevant with spam filters, it’s something you can easily check, test, and fix. If that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, you’ll want to get it sorted.
- List Hygiene
List Hygiene is essential to keep your engagement high: why should you send email to contacts that didn’t open a single email in months? Sometimes it’s not just “okay” to say Goodbye, it’s the right thing to do.
Change your perspective.
Spam filters are there for a reason, so try to change your perspective. It doesn’t matter if you are a legitimate business with an opted-in list, if you behave like a spammer, you are a spammer. Period.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers: Are you receiving too many emails? Are those emails engaging? Is it the type of content you signed up for? Do you recognize the Sender? And last but not least, is it easy to unsubscribe from the list?
Truth is, as a marketer you will probably tend to send a little more than your contacts want to receive. Less is more! Especially if you focus on quality: be sure to keep your subscribers engaged with relevant content – You don’t want to betray their expectations.
You are probably also scared of people unsubscribing from your list, and therefore the thought of making that process harder for your subscribers might have gone through your mind.
Think about this a different way… People who cannot easily unsubscribe will most likely end up reporting that email as spam which will hurt your reputation. It’s better to lose a subscriber today than have 100 of your emails in the spam folder tomorrow as a result of elevated spam complaints.
Make a Recovery Plan.
If you are still stuck in the spam folder after a few weeks of implementing the best practices above, it’s most likely because of your domain reputation. As in the real world, reputation is easy to lose and tough to recover. Be aware that improving one’s email reputation takes time… and a plan.
A plan should include defining aspects like segments, the starting volume and a sending schedule.
- Define segments
Remember that for your sending segments, engagement truly matters! You should contact first the most active users, those that will most likely positively interact with your emails.
- Define sending volume
However, volume-wise, you should be very conservative. Start small and slowly increase your audience over time if your metrics suggest an increased engagement.
- Determine sending schedule
Timing is an important aspect because domain reputation is often calculated in 30 days periods. This makes perfect sense if you change your perspective.
Why should a mailbox provider trust your email if you don’t follow sending best practices? Keep your list in order and provide the relevant and engaging content your subscribers expect from you.
Their engagement will be the best signal to the mailbox provider that you are a reliable and trustworthy sender.
Digging Yourself Out of the Spam Folder to Regain the Inbox
I’ve been thinking a lot about my kids lately and they often inspire my direction when I’m thinking about analogies, in this scenario, getting stuck in the spam folder.
So, what do you do? First, don’t panic.
That often leads to decisions that can cause more harm than good or detract from a program that is growing successfully.
As with kids that find themselves in precarious situations, sometimes it’s better to let things ride and have the kids course-correct on their own.
This is obviously with the knowledge that something serious isn’t happening that requires urgent attention. If you’re in the spam folder one day, let it ride for a couple of days as it could be a false positive (no filter is perfect) or messaging that is off-target.
If you intervene too quickly and start making changes, you won’t be able to determine if the bulking was a fluke, a bad message or if there was an underlying issue starting to form.
Your changes or remediations will take a new direction with their own signals, which could keep you from identifying the original issue source.
You also don’t want to keep the AI from doing its job and learning on its own how to properly build out an accurate view of your mailing.
If however, you’re in the spam folder because of complaints or you’ve been in the spam folder for some time, then you need to dig into your program. It’s not always easy to pinpoint the exact reason for the change in placement.
There are so many signals that receivers take into consideration when accepting and placing mail. I would start by seeing which receivers are impacted.
Each receiver focuses on their own combination of signals, however, the majority of the time, especially if the bulking is across the board, it’s likely who you are mailing and how they are engaging (or not).
If it’s only one receiver, then it’s important to look at the signals that are important to them and how you stack up to meeting their acceptable behavioral thresholds.
As a general next step, review who you are mailing and try to determine if anything has changed there in the last day, week, month, especially if there is a change in the number of bounces you are seeing.
Look at the content and see if there is a significant change in offers or if you introduced a third party feature that may contain domains with poor reputation.
Look at your campaign metrics to see if perhaps you are starting to fatigue or increase in complaints and need to either customize content or reduce outreach. Content is important to look at, for some receivers, more so than others, but I wouldn’t focus as much on the actual words (although that can happen).
Instead, there are other aspects and questions to ask yourself. What is the reputation of the domains included, what are you stating in the ‘hidden portions of the email’, is the content relevant, have I changed the content, images, image ratio, etc.?
Most importantly, once you regain the inbox, maintain it. I’m not sure about anyone else’s kids, but mine often ignore my first warning, second, third, … fiftieth. However, I have to remain diligent and consistent to not only keep them safe but teach them so that they can be successful on their own and have it be lasting.
Small adjustments targeting individual issues can be helpful, but training your program to follow best practices overall is the best way to help it run effectively and with fewer issues.
Basic, Advanced & Expert Troubleshooting
Don’t forget your raincoat when walking in the rain. And an umbrella. And waterproof shoes.
Usually, if you do not need to send bulk emails, you will not be worried about getting into the spam folder. I would like to compare it to not being worried about getting wet (which is not pleasant, especially in autumn) if you do not need to walk in the rain. But, if you choose to walk in the rain, you usually go through a checklist and the length of the checklist depends on the rain intensity. Same as you should go through a checklist when you are worried that your emails may land in the spam folder and the length of that checklist depends.
What can I do to expect better results?
When it comes to walking in the rain, the answer is obvious – you need an umbrella. However, depending on the rain intensity you may want to consider additional gear like raincoat, waterproof shoes or skipping on going out in the storm altogether.
In the same fashion, depending on your current situation with mail filtering, you may want to introduce a longer checklist to go through or even refrain from sending emails to a particular provider until you fix the underlying issue.
However, here are a few things to consider:
- Basic troubleshooting. Just a regular checkup before you send a campaign:
- Check DNS authentication, whether your DKIM, SPF and DMARC records are in place and functional;
- Check your segmentation – are all potential recipients looking forward to your email or are you just sending to everyone and expecting the best?
- Check your list acquisition process – can bots easily abuse your subscription forms? Do you set incorrect expectations of your recipients? Are you using best practices for list acquisition?
- Advanced troubleshooting. You can confirm that your emails are landing in the spam folder or your open rates suddenly dropped:
- Check the activity of your recipients. Some mailbox providers do not give back information about spam complaints, so you need to exclude the recipients that have not interacted with your email for a long time manually. The time period here depends on the provider. The safest approach is 30 days of activity, but in some cases, 180 days of activity is already enough to solve filtering issues.
- Check/test your content. Nowadays email filters are not very strict on the phrasing, but it depends on the mailbox provider. For example, if your main target audience is in Germany or DACH region, please keep in mind that even emojis in the subject line may not be a good idea. You can create mailboxes with providers that are most used by your recipients and test, then edit and test again until you reach a desirable outcome.
- At this point, unfortunately, the main advice is to contact an expert in the field. Some mailbox providers like Gmail may have as many as 5000 mail filtering criteria, so it is not possible to go through them all and those criteria are not public. The underlying issue may be anywhere from mail server infrastructure to your email marketing strategies.
- Communities like Email Geeks and subscribing to blogs as this Kickbox series is a very good start, but at this point, a solution may require a thorough investigation of your campaigns.
In a best-case scenario, before starting your email campaign and encountering any mail filtering issues you have already consulted with an expert and did not make any harsh mistakes.
In an unfortunate scenario, where you did not consult and made mistakes, please keep in mind to be patient and understanding, as getting your mails recognized as spam is very easy whereas, making your mails being reclassified as wanted by your recipients may take weeks or, in some cases, even months.
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