Contributors from members of the Copper team
Email is a powerful tool that can launch products, generate revenue and convert subscribers into paying customers.
But it’s also a tool that’s easily abused… with severe consequences.
Your email list is only as strong as the number of subscribers who open and respond to your messages.
When you’re sending bulk email, there are two keys to avoiding the spam filter. First, you need to abide by technical requirements. Secondly, you need to create valuable content your users want to see.
In this post, you’ll learn about:
What causes bulk emails to be sent to spam?
First, let’s look at what causes bulk emails to go into your spam folder in the first place.
It’s based on your email reputation, which is a measurement of your email sending practices. It tracks how closely you adhere to an Internet Service Provider's (ISP) standards. ISPs like AOL, Google, Outlook and Yahoo use a set of criteria to filter spam email.
Email reputation is measured based on the IP address you send email from. Typically, bulk email is sent from a dedicated IP address.
Another way to think of it is like a credit score. Every engaged email user you gain slowly builds up your “credit score” over time, but a few bad decisions (e.g. if you spam someone with emails) could send it plummeting.
Here are the top factors that affect your email reputation:
- Bounces: The number of undeliverable messages
- Complaints: The number of people who report your messages as spam
- Spam traps: Messages delivered to addresses used to trace and track spam
A poor email reputation causes messages to land in the spam filter. Worst-case scenario, ISPs will even block or blacklist your IP address, preventing you from sending to the majority of your database. If you rely on email marketing for your revenue, this could have a significant impact on your business.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to send bulk emails without a run-in with ISPs.
Here’s how to send bulk email without spamming.
Become an email master.
Learn how to write compelling emails that get readers to take action with this free series of email tips.
1. Build an organic email list.
First, you need to make sure people actually want to receive your emails. This sounds straightforward, but it’s still a common issue.
Purchasing email lists used to work about 10 years ago. Not anymore. Now, it’s crucial to send bulk email only to people who agreed or “opted in” to receive your emails.
The most foolproof way to verify this is to implement a double opt-in.
With the double opt-in method, people must opt in twice to receive your emails. When they sign up for your emails, they’ll receive a second email confirming they subscribed. Clicking the follow-up email confirms their subscription.
Here’s an example from Mailchimp on what that process looks like:
While it’s technically a best practice, that second step requires your subscriber to navigate away from the page, open their email, locate the confirmation email, and click it to confirm their subscription. That’s a lot of steps and additional work.
As a result, implementing double opt-in often negatively affects the number of subscribers you get. Since it’s more difficult to build your email database, many businesses choose to stick with a one-step process. Whichever way you choose, make sure you can be confident that people have agreed to receive your emails.
Next, let’s talk about what to put into your bulk emails.
2. Create high-quality emails.
When you’re sending bulk email, it also matters what you put in the emails.
To make this a little more straightforward, I’m going to break it up into two sectors; the technical components you should have in every email, and copy and design.
Technical guidelines to sending bulk email:
There are a few things you need to do with every email you send.
First, always include an unsubscribe link in every email. It should be easy-to-see, and readable size and font color.
If you’re sending an HTML email, you’ll also always want to provide a plain-text version. Plain text is exactly what it sounds like — plain, simple texts without any additional graphics, formatting or design. Most of your personal emails are plain text emails.
HTML emails have everything plain text emails don’t. You can add color, style, multimedia and images to HTML emails.
HTML is much more visually appealing (who doesn’t love a beautiful design or cute puppy GIF?) However, they can be distorted by email providers and are more likely to be caught in spam filters.
So how do you know which one is better? Test them. Send a version of each. Some people may choose to view a plain text version. Or, the HTML iteration may perform better.
Finally, you’ll also want to think about email frequency.
Unless your business model requires it, don’t send emails every day. Try weekly or monthly and see if it affects your open rates. Test email frequency during promotions and special events. Maintain a consistent, regular frequency so your audience knows when and where to expect your emails.
Also, be mindful of any other emails they might be getting from you from other systems — not just your email marketing tool. For example, are they getting payment confirmation or order emails? Even though they aren’t marketing emails, they’re still emails from you.
If they’re already getting tons of operational emails, you might not want to be sending marketing emails the same week or day.
Let your readers know upfront what they should expect from you, whether it’s a monthly newsletter, special discount or weekly promotions.
Being transparent and honest about where and how you send your emails builds trust with your audience and reduces the chance they’ll report your emails as spam.
Copy and design rules:
Next, let’s talk about the copy and design of your bulk emails.
First, always use a familiar name and address when you’re sending bulk email. Make sure the name, email address and company name are consistent so it doesn’t arouse any suspicion or concerns.
To get an idea, let’s take a look at a spam email pretending to be Walmart. You see immediate differences in the subject line (WalmartPoints), the email domain (@bonuslatestspecialinfo.com) and the company name (Walmart). Consistency reduces the chance of being marked as spam and makes it easier for your reader to recognize exactly who is sending them emails:
You should also avoid spammy words in the copy. Sales-heavy words like “discount,” “free,” “order” and “cash” are used often in spam emails and flagged by ISPs.
Formatting and style details can also put you at risk of being flagged as spam content. Avoid capitalizing everything or using unusual formatting like extra exclamation points or extremely large or small text.
3. Send relevant emails.
The best way to send bulk emails without spamming is to provide value to your audience.
Take a moment to think about the content you’re currently sending. Is it useful? Interesting? Unique? Look at the engagement stats. Are people opening your emails and clicking on your content?
While it varies by industry, a good open rate ranges from 15 to 20%. Click-through rates hover between 1.5 to 5%.
Over time, if users don’t consistently open, read and engage with your content, it’ll be filtered into spam.
Segmenting your emails is one tactic to keep your audience engaged. If you have a diverse, massive email list, chances are a single email may not appeal to your entire audience. You can segment your email list and send more targeted bulk emails depending on your audience.
For example, say you run an online training site like LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com). There’s a massive amount of courses available from Adobe to SQL Server — the same person who is interested in learning Photoshop probably isn’t as interested in an IT training course.
Here’s another example of an email campaign segmented by gender:
Segmenting the list by interest, buyer persona or purchase behavior can improve bulk email engagement rates and avoid spamming your list.
4. Make sure your emails are clearly designed.
Email layout and structure is also crucial to sending bulk emails without spamming. When you’re writing email copy, lead with key information. Don’t make people search for relevant information (otherwise it’s likely they’ll give up and delete your email address.)
If you’re writing a text-heavy email, break up large walls of text with bullet points and sub-headers. Use bold or italics to add emphasis if necessary.
Here’s an example from a conference email. You can see the main action (book a room), followed by two key points marked by icons. It’s clear, scannable and easy to read quickly, and you immediately know what the email is about:
5. Monitor your email list health.
Once you have your email list and content, you’ll want to monitor your email sending reputation.
There are many tools out there to check your sending reputation, like:
- SenderScore.org: Checks your reputation and offers suggestions to improve it.
- TalosIntelligence.com: A Cisco product, it checks your reputation as Good, Neutral or Poor.)
But email reputation isn’t enough. While they’re a great help, it still doesn’t indicate whether you have a healthy, engaged email list.
For example, it’s not unheard of to have a great email reputation score — but still have your emails end up in spam. Just because your IP address is sending emails doesn’t mean they’re getting delivered successfully.
A sender with low spam complaints might have a great reputation score. However, if they have low engagement rates, they might still be filtered to the spam folder by ISPs.
That’s why you need to track your email reputation with your engagement stats — to get a complete picture of your email health and be able to send bulk emails without spamming.
The ultimate secret to sending bulk email without spamming...
It’s easy to fall into the trap of sending spam bulk emails. Think about it. You’re sending to hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of people. Your message won’t resonate with every person every time.
The key is to stay focused on your audience. Continue to improve the content. Run A/B tests to see what works and what doesn’t. Don’t rest on your laurels, but stay focused on improving the value, quality and information you’re sending your audience.
If you focus on providing value, that will carry forward in everything you do.