Avoiding the Spam Folder

While we know you have the best intentions when you hit send, even great emails from great companies can end up in spam.

Why do emails go to spam or junk? Sometimes it seems pretty random, and there are lots of reasons that emails can go to spam. There are also many solutions to get your emails to the inbox. We know from first-hand experience that avoiding the spam folder is not solved by just one solution.

In this blog, we go over best practices that help you avoid your emails going to spam.

1. Don’t purchase lists
Send to recipients that have your permission and wish to receive your emails. Use double opt-in or stronger means of confirming engagement (such as clicking a link in a confirmation email). Stop sending to hard bounces (JangoMail prevents that if an address has bounced with us). Hard bounces are an invalid or non-existent email address that cannot be delivered to (again or otherwise). ISPs pay attention to a sender’s rate of hard bounces. Avoid sending that results in recipients frequently marking your message as spam/junk (aka complaints), which has an extremely negative effect. Consider pruning non-engagers (i.e., people who have never opened or engaged with you otherwise). Opens can be a little questionable as to who actually opened a message, but clicks are a pretty decent indicator of actual human engagement with your message and you.

2. Send emails that drive engagement
ISPs learn to recognize what recipients typically do with your messages over time. If you normally get negative actions and inactions from your recipients – this greatly affects your sending reputation. Things like regularly receiving high bounces, getting a large number of unsubscribes, and users marking your messages as spam all impact your sending reputation.

The goal for your sending reputation is to teach and train spam filters that your emails are desired and expected. This comes from sending relevant, timely emails to recipients that want and expect them. For initial engagement, include a message at the sign-up source prompting recipients to check their junk folder and add you as a contact or safe sender.

Sending reputation is a huge factor in avoiding spam and getting to the inbox. User action trumps everything though. Your process and emails can check all the right boxes but some people will still mark your message as spam or junk versus unsubscribing – because clicking that button or link is easier than finding your unsub link. Make it easy for users to unsubscribe. You can add an unsub link at the top of your message, and don’t hide the unsub link in microprint at the bottom of the message using a font color that barely stands out from the background.

3. Use consistent and trustworthy from addresses
Use a recognizable From Address and Display Name. Never use deceptive headers, from names, or reply-to addresses.

Consider not using a “no-reply” in the from address, as a no-reply is impersonal. If the From Address is an unmonitored mailbox, be sure to make it clear to your recipients how to reply otherwise.

Avoid frequent changes to your From Address. Your sending domain has a reputation (good or bad) and receiving ISPs keep track.

4. Authenticate your emails
Most receiving servers and spam filters look at your sending domain’s DNS records to determine whether they are properly implemented and if they authorize JangoMail or whomever to send emails on your behalf.

Your domain’s SPF record should be valid and include JangoMail’s “include” record (or in special cases, a custom SPF record or specific IPv4 addresses from us). Your DKIM record should be valid and enabled in your JangoMail account. You should send from a valid email address that can receive emails; some servers check that your sending domain has an MX record and can receive emails.

Set up a DMARC record for additional security of your domain.

Using BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification) is the latest and greatest extra step you can take.

5. Ask your recipients to whitelist you
Whether you are sending an email for the first time or making a new from address announcement, ask your recipients to whitelist your from address. It’s as simple as adding an instruction in your message: please add our from address (example@yourdomain.com) to your address book.

6. Emails should look good
Use pre-designed email templates from JangoMail or a reputable email designer for your messages. Bad HTML code can trigger spam filters. Copying from Microsoft Word or other programs can create sloppy and extraneous HTML that can cause rendering issues, plus add code bloat. Bad coding practices can also greatly increase the size of your email messages, such as embedding images and including attachments. Normal-sized messages are typically under 30 KB in size. Avoid font colors similar to your background color. Use an easily readable font size. Do not use characters that are not standard ASCII characters. If you need to include an empty cell or paragraph for spacing, encode the blank space with “nbsp;”  so you don’t leave email clients hanging trying to interpret your empty space and filling it in with a black diamond question mark. Not all HTML is equal (thanks, Outlook), so use HTML (and CSS) that renders well everywhere.

7. Don’t use spammy words and phrases
Subject lines and the body of your message are both subject to the critique of spam filters. Try to avoid too many spammy characteristics, like the examples below:
* Words: “cash”, “money”, “income”, “bank”, “credit”, “pills”, “free”, etc.
* Phrases: “subject to credit”, “increase traffic”, “free gifts”, “100% _____”, “Risk-free”
* Capitalization: Too many or all capital letters
* Punctuation and Symbols: Excessive use of too many “???” or “….” or “!!!” or “$$$”
* Misspellings

8. Make it easy to unsubscribe
Your unsubscribe instructions and link should be clear and easy to use. Unsubscribe links should never be hidden or hard to find. A recipient should be able to easily opt-out of messages they don’t want to receive than to hit the spam button if they cannot unsubscribe. Being marked as spam or junk is hurtful to your sending reputation. This ultimately impacts email delivery to the inbox.

9. Always include a plain-text version
If you’re sending an HTML email, make sure you include a corresponding plain-text version of your message (which JangoMail can auto-generate for you if set in the message content properties). Spam filters typically look for the existence of both HTML and plain text versions and can penalize messages missing plain text content (even though almost all email is sent using HTML). Adding plain text tells spam filters you care about everyone.

10. Don’t send large emails, and avoid sending attachments
It’s best to avoid sending attachments. Instead, host your attachment file (in your JangoMail account or elsewhere) and provide it as a link to click. Spam filters distrust attachments and some types of attachments cause delivery problems. For reporting purposes, you may never know if a recipient bothered to open the attachment. We recommend providing the attachment as a link along with using click tracking.

11. Separate your sending stream
If you’re sending both mass email campaigns and transactional messages, you may want to consider having those sent out via different sending IPs.

12. Keep your clients separate
If you are sending like an agency, where you have multiple end users or clients of your own, don’t intermix their sending. Client A’s list(s) may be pristine, and Client B’s can be questionable, and the delivery issues caused by B’s sending can spill over into A’s delivery. JangoMail offers an account feature where you can create subaccounts that use separate sending IPs.

13. Pay attention to your spam score
JangoMail spam scores every campaign you send. The general rule of thumb is that a score over 5 is spam, and under 5 is not spam. This is not an absolute rule, but if there are steps you can take to lower your spam score (for example, avoid sensitive words, use SPF and DKIM, have a good mix of HTML content versus images), this is usually pretty low-hanging fruit in terms of being able to reduce your scores.

14. Use personalization
If you have a solid acquisition process, chances are you good you can also collect a recipient’s first name. Using the recipient’s name in the subject line and in the message body reinforces the connection and engagement with your recipient. If your messaging is impersonal, it’s easier for people to walk away (i.e., unsubscribe or mark you as junk) from you.

15. Send messages that look professional
First impressions (and repeated ones) can make a difference for your engagement. If your messages are rife with formatting & rendering errors, the content of your message is lost upon the recipient, and if you don’t care about how your content looks, why should they? Translation: “Yikes! This is junk looking, bye-bye.” JangoMail offers over 150 templates, plus you can design your own or purchase them from an assortment of vendors (and we can help you with formatting).

JangoMail offers tools to help including email previews, delivery tests, built-in spam scoring for campaigns, and email validation. Contact Support to learn more!