10 Things you can do if your email campaign is going to the junk folder

6 minute read

We all hate spam and for obvious reasons. Spam filters exist to stop unwelcome content from reaching our inboxes, but what if your legitimate email campaign is being filtered as spam?

From time to time the support team at Sign-Up.to get calls from frustrated people whose email marketing campaigns are being junked before recipients ever see them. We often get asked why this happens and what can be done about it, so I’d like to shed a bit of light on the topic. I’d like to point out here that this is certainly not a guide on how to ‘cheat’ spam filters and we have a strict Anti Spam Policy here at Sign-Up.to. However there are some common factors that can influence the spam rating of your campaign even when your intentions are golden.

Firstly, understand the process. The most common method for filtering spam is the points system. Spam filters have a list of elements that they consider to be key spam criteria. Each of these elements present in your email will earn it a certain number of points. Earn enough points (the limit varies across servers) and your message will be filtered as spam.

More sophisticated filters which base their analysis on complicated statistical techniques like Bayesian analysis are becoming common. These don’t filter messages in the same way, in effect they learn based on messages they receive and user preferences, so they constantly differ in how they filter. However, applying the same basic rules will always help.

Here are some things to look out for:

1: Text/image balance
Sending an email that is too image heavy is the most common cause of campaigns going to spam. This can be a particular problem if your campaign is one big image containing hardly any text at all. You should aim for a good balance of the two.

2: Hot words
Particular words or phrases can often earn your campaign spam points. There are plenty of obvious ones such as ‘Earn extra cash’ or ‘100% free’, but also terms like ‘opportunity’ or ‘click here’ can cause problems even when used legitimately. Try altering the language used in your email.

3: Punctuation
Moderate your enthusiasm! Too many exclamation marks will definitely earn you some spam points and lots of quote marks can also be problematic. Experiment with the punctuation present in your campaign.

4: Subject line
A long subject line can sometimes earn you spam points. The language and punctuation issues are very relevant here, so keep your subject lines free of hot words and exclamation marks to ensure it doesn’t get flagged.

5: Text formatting
When you come to format the text in your email, don’t go too crazy. Using a lot of bold or brightly coloured text can earn your campaign some spam points. Making your text very big or typing all in capitals is also not recommended. Less is more on this front (and from a design point of view as well!).

6: Links
It is possible that having a large number of links in your campaign can get the attention of spam filters. If you do have a lot of links, you will need to decide if they are all strictly necessary and try taking some of them out.

7: HTML quality
Spammers are notoriously bad coders. If your HTML is sloppy then spam filters may assume that your campaign is spam. This could also be the case if you’ve used MS FrontPage or Word to code your design, so if your HTML skills are not so hot then why not use our Email Editor to create your emails? No coding knowledge is needed and you can produce some cracking results.

8: Plain text
Spammers rarely bother to do this, so if you take the time to set a plain text version of your campaign then it will stand a better chance of getting through. Using our new Email Editor, a plain text version of your campaign is automatically generated.

9: Alt text
Whilst not strictly a spam trigger, setting alternative text for your images will help when a recipient’s email client does not immediately display images. This is a very common security setting, so by defining your alt text you can let your readers know that you are including appropriate images before they see them.

10: Spam check
In some of our campaign editors there is an option to spam check your campaign. This gives you a broad run down of the content of your email and can be useful in spotting issues that may be present.

Lastly, test test test!  In reality, the only way you are going to know if your campaign will go to spam is to test it. Previewing your campaign to a range of different email clients is also great advice for making sure your design looks how it should for everybody. Check out our email design guidelines to point you in the right direction.

We hope these tips will prove useful, do let us know if you have any additional thoughts in the comments box below.