Email marketing is a potent way of engaging customers, growing sales and building brand recognition. But the best laid plans of marketers can crumble if their messages get flagged as spam and filtered out before they reach the recipient’s inbox.

Knowing about spam filters is just the start; you need to work hard to stay inside the lines at all times in order to reach prospects successfully every time.

The more you understand what’s at play, the easier you’ll find out how to succeed, so let’s reveal the inner workings of spam filters and discuss what’s needed to land in the inbox.

Why spam filters are necessary

To be clear, spam filters are not the enemy. Indeed they’re an unavoidable requirement of online life in the 21st century, with billions of spam messages sent daily.

Another important distinction to make is that spam is not the same as a marketing email. Instead, it’s a message that’s usually malicious in nature, designed to dupe people into falling for all sorts of fraudulent schemes.

So it’s really a case of marketers understanding the role that spam filters play, and making sure they don’t fall foul of them, rather than seeing this as an adversarial relationship. In fact your business is probably being protected from spam itself, in order to avoid hacks and scams.

How spam filters work

Filtering out spam from inbound messages is achieved in a number of ways. For example, network administrators can use a network sniffer to check on where emails are coming from, where they’re going to, and whether or not they originate from a legitimate source, or one which has been identified as suspicious in the past.

Spam filters can also be automated and rely on checking the spelling, grammar and keyword density of the copy included in the subject line and the body of the message to assess the likelihood that it’s spam rather than legitimate.

Detection is simplest when filters can rely on blacklists of domains and email providers to enact a blanket ban on messages from points of origin that have been flagged in the past as problematic.

What you can do to avoid spam filters

Now that you’re up to speed with the ins and outs of spam filters, let’s look at the ways you can steer clear of being caught up in their nets, such as:

Choosing the right email address

The email address you use to get in touch with prospects and existing customers matters a lot. Filters and recipients themselves will be wary of addresses that are non-specific and difficult to recognize.

The answer is to stick to the tried and tested format of having a sender name that’s personal to you, followed by a top level domain that uses the brand. So is better than, for example.

Picking a reputable provider

As mentioned, some email service providers are more lax and new senders can be blacklisted by spam filters from the get-go, so ensure that you don’t fall into this trap by choosing one which has an impeccable reputation.

Testing campaigns

There are lots of tools which let you test the quality of your marketing emails prior to sending, and the best of the bunch will look to see if spam filters will clamp down on what you’ve composed.

This saves you time and money, meaning you can tweak your copy to prevent this rather than only finding out when your campaigns generate no traction whatsoever.

Targeting relevant audiences

Your company could have its email addresses penalized if messages you send are marked as spam by recipients. This usually happens when marketing campaigns end up in the inboxes of people who aren’t in your target audience.

Avoiding this is as simple as ensuring that your mailing list is up to date and that you are as precise as possible in terms of who you send out messages to.

You also need to track bounce rates and open rates. Addresses in your mailing list which either aren’t receiving messages, or are never opening them, should be removed.

Writing effective subject lines

Another way to avoid having emails flagged as spam, and also to increase open rates, is to get the subject line spot-on.

Keeping them short, sweet, intriguing and relevant will help. Avoiding excessive punctuation is also important, because this is often associated with spam.

Eliminating spam keywords

Lastly, make certain that the words and phrases you use in your marketing emails aren’t often found in spam messages as well.

There are hundreds of examples out there, so being aware of how to write emails without triggering filters is part of becoming a good digital marketer.

TIP: A simple way to check where your current emails are landing is by using our Email Spam Checker tool.

Wrapping up

Spam filters aren’t going anywhere, so you need to learn to work with them rather than struggling against them. Once you do, your job as an email marketer will become much easier.