There is nothing more exciting than sending out your first email marketing campaign or group newsletter - and nothing more demoralising than checking the report a week later and seeing how many people never even opened your mails.
A Brief History of Email and Spam
Without a doubt, emails are regarded as one of the most personal forms of engagement in the modern scope of marketing efforts. Since all social media platforms and cloud-based activities, not to mention mobile applications, require email authentication of some sort, it is fair to assume that the world has conformed to emails as being the true form of establishing a digital identity.
While the first semblance of an email was sent on 29 October, 1969, it took a bit of time for it to become the go-to choice for computer-to-computer communication. Then, on 1 May, 1978, less than ten years after unveiling this direct form of communication, the very first spam mail was sent out to potential customers.
The response to this first blatant marketing attempt was mostly negative. While there were very few instances of email marketing for years to come, it was in the 90’s when it snuck into the works again.
With the big Y2K around the corner, a number of big players revolutionized the World Wide Web and expanded an invisible world of information, all available to our curious minds and our busy fingertips. Ripe and ready for business, spam showed its ugly face once more.
Soon after followed a horde of viruses and spam needing only a solitary click to gain access to your personal computer. All software companies instantly realised that, in order to keep this form of communication active, a series of protective measures had to be incorporated to safeguard users and to regulate traffic to their virtual mailboxes.
As liberating as it was to acknowledge emails as the new form of communication in an ever-changing world of numbers and letters, there followed a big pothole to overcome. Practically overnight it became a challenge to reach someone through the mess of information. Like well-trained soldiers protecting oil reserves, spam filters were deployed in the mid-90’s. By means of blacklists, mail servers were enabled to block mails from spam sources.
Spam Filters Explained
Fast forward to the mobile era, and you will find that email is still the best way to reach a potential customer. An email is a personal account with an actual person logging in and checking mails on the other end. It’s practically face-to-face interaction with a prospect.
Because of the abuse of this marketing approach, people have become super selective of what they expose themselves to. Users feel safest with the companies that value their privacy.
It has become a tangible service provided by servers, to sift through mails and to separate that which has relevance from that which is spam or selected as unimportant.
When it comes to spam filters, Gmail takes flag position as having the most comprehensive filters. While being the oldest and most successful products in the digital world, Gmail has had ample time to perfect its spam filters.
To put it in a nutshell, the servers track senders and their history. Add to this text filters that uses algorithms to detect words and phrases most often used in spam mails, and you understand why it’s so difficult to get into that primary inbox. With volumes exceeding 400 billion messages in a day, everyone is secretly thankful for spam filters and cyber security practices.
How To Avoid Spam Filters
Okay, you get it. Spam filters are awesome. Cheezy marketing efforts on email is bad. But you still have a newsletter to get out and it is your job to reach a prospective client with information about this particular product or service. So, what do you do?
Be a creative writer
You will have to become a better writer. The writing starts with the title. Create a unique subject title, something catchy but un-spammy. If servers are looking for spam, then try your utmost to steer clear of spam titles. “Try now” or “click here” is a bit on the nose, but something along the lines of “Relaxing on a cruise ship looks like hard work” would be completely different and it might make the recipient open the mail.
Less sales talk
Now that your creative juices are flowing, try to avoid selling words. It’s not just sleazy, but it also screams spam bots and sets off alarm bells.
Brevity and concision
This is probably the hardest thing to do. Any marketer or salesman worth his salt, is aware of how easy it is to talk yourself out of a sale by saying too much. Email communication for the purposes of selling to an individual, is exactly the same. Less is more. Plant the seed. Make them want to click through and connect with you. A click-through lead from an email campaign is pure gold.
To graphic or not to graphic?
Graphics can be a double-edged sword. In keeping with number three above, less is more. Use graphics only if you must. Even GIFs should be used with caution. Always ask yourself if it will benefit the reader of the email. When in doubt, take it out.
Use your website
Send your email campaigns from mails linked to your website. This gives it a type of authenticity. In the same vein, sending mails to “free” email accounts is as much a risk of falling into spam as it is when you are sending your campaigns from “free” accounts.
Keep it real
Do not purchase, borrow or copy any third party contact lists. Come now, you know better. Are you looking for a needle in the haystack? Or do you want business? Third party lists have already been exposed to spam, repeatedly. This means they are twice as hard to reach by the time you get the leads. Work hard for real email addresses and you should have a better contact rate.
This is not a definitive list of what to do and what not to do. There are a number of great sources available to give further guidance on the subject of avoiding spam filters. The points mentioned here are quite encompassing and falls more in the scope of basic email etiquette. It should be adequate enough to improve your email campaigns. At the very least, these points could possibly make you a better marketer.