“Have you checked your Spam folder?” It’s almost become the catch-phrase of a generation!
The Early Days
In the early days of the internet, our email inboxes were flooded with all sorts of dubious offers, obvious scams, and promises of better health, enormous wealth, and too many bogus winnings to list.
Then came the spam filter, which promised to save us from missing vital conversations due to the endless junk that clogged our inboxes. While it certainly curtailed the annoyances, it also had an irritating habit of accidentally swallowing that one extremely important email you’d been waiting to receive.
Over time, Spam filters have been developed to be keener on deciding what is and what isn’t useless email content. But that hasn’t stopped nefarious digital marketers from keeping the constant push of junk heading in our direction. Therefore, as a business owner with pure intentions and a genuine concern for your customers and audience, it is important that you stay away from any potential spamming.
What Is Spam and Why is it a Danger?
When not referring to the tinned meat product, “spam” is defined as unsolicited and unwanted email content that arrives en masse to your email address.
At best, it is annoying. At worst, it can be persuasive, manipulative, and coax unwitting people into giving up their Social Security Numbers, bank account information, usually while implanting some type of malware, spyware, or virus on their computers. Needless to say, spam is something we all wish to eliminate.
As a legitimate marketer, you might feel that this has nothing to do with your current operations, and ideally, that is correct. But as spam filters become more sensitive, they are also tagging more and more emails as potential spam, which could be problematic for a brand new business owner.
Google’s Actions Against Spam
As the most popular search engine out there currently, Google wants to maintain a pristine reputation, with sites that are legitimate and have business practices that are on the up-and-up. Therefore, when a site seems to be doing something on the shady side, it’s not unusual for the primary owner of the site to receive an email from a Google Webmaster.
Essentially, these warnings are indicators that your email practices have flagged you as a spammer. These notices are to be taken seriously: it seems that once Google starts doling out manual punishments for spamming, it’s hard to convince them of your legitimacy.
So where do they get this information? It turns out, your sender reputation is publicly available. A sender score is similar to a credit score, but instead of rating your financial transactions, your business’s email transactions are rated. Most sender scores are gauged on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being absolute perfection.
Sites like senderscore.org can provide you with your score, along with feedback and recommendations for improving your email reputation before Google takes action against your site.
How Can I Avoid Being Classified as Spam?
Ensuring that you never end up with a poor sender reputation can be a bit of a dicey walk: especially at first. As you start up your new website, you’re probably sending out your first emails with a baby subscriber list of maybe a dozen addresses. Unfortunately, accounts that send out very little email and new accounts that appear out of nowhere are often flagged for spamming.
Ok, so you might think you’ll just speed it up a bit. Send a couple of offers, a newsletter, a reminder… but wait! Accounts that send too much email too frequently are also flagged for spam.
It may seem that you’re in between an actual rock and a hard place, but if you start out with a clean reputation, there are plenty of ways to keep the momentum.
Building a list: do not make this error
First, be extremely wary of buying subscriber lists. Many of the lists you can purchase contain a few problematic entries, such as spam traps and users who have not given permission for their addresses to be used. A “spam trap” is a fake email address used by administrators solely for the purpose of catching spam and taking down the perpetrator.
Those who have not given permission to receive email marketing messages may report your emails as spam. Those reports are tracked by the internet service provider (ISP), and can eventually result in action taken against you and your business for sending too many fraudulent emails.
Even though your intention was legitimate, the strikes you receive from purchasing bad subscriber lists can be reported across ISPs, putting you on a blacklist before you’ve even had a chance to get started.
Building a list: do this instead
Instead, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re operating according to authorized standards. First, cultivate your subscriber list organically. There are plenty of reasonable ways to entice viewers to share their email address with you willingly via a variety of traffic boosting techniques, landing pages, calls-to-action, and more.
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Next, make sure your emails are clear. Make it excruciatingly clear who the email is from, why this email has been sent to this particular address, the intention of the content, and have a clearly labeled “Unfollow” or “Unsubscribe” process noted within the body of the email.
This will help mitigate it being accidentally reported as spam by someone who simply didn’t recognize the sender or content.
Once you’ve gotten into the swing of things, be sure to keep your email lists clean at all times. That means paying attention to emails that bounce, and removing any inactive or failed email addresses. This practice also helps clear up a reputation tarnished by spam, as it proves that you are truly attempting to send emails only to legitimate users.
Another helpful step is to use an email sending service or software, such as Mailchimp, Sendinblue, or Constant Contact. These services lend a hand to the credibility of your communications, especially when you’re a fledgling business that has few contacts or a slow stream of emails to send.
Spam is irritating to the people who receive it, and can be detrimental to your business. While you may be tempted to reach out to your audience with every thought you have, save it!
Regulate your posts on social media, and save email communications for important information, such as special offers and updates.
Sending too much, too quickly to users will only get your emails relegated to the spam filter, where they’ll never be read, and will culminate to count against the integrity of your business. Instead, be purposeful in your communications, and when in doubt, check out your sender score to help you stay on top of your reputation.
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