Many small business marketers hold a misconception that email marketing isn’t effective or worth trying due to their campaigns potentially being marked as spam.
If you’re a small business owner who wants to use email marketing for its cost-effectiveness and flexibility, yet shy away because of the spam factor, this article is for you. We’re here to shed light on a few things that’ll help you understand the nuances of spam and how to avoid letting it become a roadblock to executing a successful email marketing campaign.
What is spam?
In today’s email marketing world, spam is largely the result of some bad practices and irrelevant targeting. In a moment, we’ll explain how to remedy these mistakes.
But how and why did spam come into existence? In general, spam is an unsolicited email sent by someone in an attempt to dupe people. A good example is an email that says your bank account is locked for security reasons and wants you to click a link for immediate recovery.
To protect people from email scams, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and ESPs (Email Service Providers) like Gmail, Yahoo, Zoho Mail, and more have set stringent rules and regulations for what emails can successfully arrive in your inbox. They also build and maintain spam filters and algorithms to run compliance checks on every email. So if you’re not complying with the standards, you’re preemptively considered a spammer, even if your intentions are good.
Now, assuming your emails pass the test of ISPs and ESPs, your contacts may mark you as spam if your messages are irrelevant or not useful to them. The bottom line is, you’ll be in trouble only when you don’t follow the basics before launching your campaign.
How to avoid spam
Now that you know what spam is and what flags your email as spam, here’s a list of practices that make your campaigns safe and fruitful.
Use an authenticated domain
What’s the first thing you would do after buying a vehicle? You lawfully register it for official identification. Similarly, once you have your email marketing database and software ready, buying your own domain and authenticating it with records like SPF and DKIM should be your next move. These records act as the “license plate” for your emails when they are stopped and checked to see if they are spam.
As a bonus, using your own domain (for example, email@example.com) creates a sense of security for contacts who see your email, ultimately increasing your brand value. Since spammers generally use free domains of ESPs to send spam, your emails look highly suspicious in the eyes of spam filters if you don’t use your domain.
Quick tip: DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is the most widely used domain authentication method.
Clean your email lists regularly
As an email marketer, you go back to the drawing board if your contacts are not opening the emails. But what if the contacts you presume are active don’t exist at all?
Emails sent to invalid and inactive email addresses return as a bounce. If the trend continues and your bounce rate becomes far too high, your sender reputation (a score assigned by ESPs) takes a beating. Once the score goes below the defined level, your emails land in your contacts’ spam folder.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, you’ll have to clean your mailing lists often. Moreover, following a double opt-in process helps you add only valid contacts into your lists.
Segment your target audience
Imagine ordering a pizza online while you’ve barely eaten anything, only to see the delivery man bring cupcakes after an hour. You’d be upset, right? Your contacts also might feel the same way if they receive emails that are irrelevant to them. For instance, you can’t send a lead prospecting email to a mailing list that also has your customers’ email address.
But how do you understand your recipients’ taste and preferences and segment them?
There are two ways to do it:
Using your audience’s profile information (location, demographics) and behavior metrics (like clicks and opens)
Configuring different topics and letting your contacts choose their preferred ones when they subscribe. Assuming your company is a product-based, you can have topics like product releases, updates, offers and discounts, and more. Needless to say, each topic should be associated with a mailing list
Craft clean and targeted content
Half the job of creating targeted content is done when you segment your audience. Segmentation gives you small subsets of your user group, helping you know what to send to whom.
As far as your actual content, start by keeping the subject line highly relevant to your message. This way, you’re not baiting your audience to open the email and potentially annoying them straight to the “report” button. Furthermore, avoid using shortened URLs inside your email as most spammers use them to conceal their identity.