Spam is considered irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent to a large number of recipients. Every country has a different definition of what spam in their country means. The most basic definition of spam is unsolicited email that is sent in bulk to a list of people in a short period of time.
Email itself is not inherently bad, and not all emails sent in bulk are marked as spam. However, if you're in sales it's important to understand laws that were passed to give individuals the right to opt out of email communication. For example, the United States has the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which requires that each individual does the following:
- Never use deceptive headers, From names, reply-to addresses, or subject lines
- Always provide an unsubscribe link that works for at least 30 days after sending.
- Include your physical mailing address, usually in your signature
When using Outreach, it is up to the individual to follow these requirements. Remember, being marked as spam can have a detrimental impact on your organization's deliverability rates.
What is a spam filter and how are they created?
As email becomes a standard method of communicating and selling, companies are working hard to ensure their teams are not bothered by emails they consider irrelevant or unwanted. They do this be creating filters that review an email before they're delivered to an inbox.
Spam filters are configured by IT administrators, and each considers a long list of variable criteria when judging an email. They’ll weigh each variable and assign a spam score, which determines whether an email will pass through the filter and land in the inbox. If the score exceeds a certain threshold, your email will get flagged as spam and go straight to the junk folder.
The criteria and variables that are considered upon receipt of an email are unique to each individual company. Some companies, such as governmental agencies and any companies that must comply with HIPAA, will have tighter restrictions than others.
Because every spam filter functions differently, there is no magic number to avoid landing in the junk folder. Below we outline the factors that contribute to your spam score, and offer a few best practices to avoid spam filters.
What factors contribute to spam score?
- Relationship with subscriber - how acquainted are you with the person you're emailing?
- Reputation of IP address and sender domain - If your emails have been continually marked as spam, your IP address and sender domain are negatively impacted, which decreases the likelihood that your emails land in the inbox.
- Quality of email subject line, teaser, and content - Using personalization is key. Outreach provides you with variables to quickly personalize your content from top to bottom. Short, but descriptive subject lines with balanced content (the ratio of images to text and links to text)
- Quality and safety of links in email
Best Practices to Avoid Spam Filters
- DON’T USE ALL CAPS IN YOUR SUBJECT LINE
- Don't use exclamation points!!!!!!!
- Avoid large attachments and certain attachment types such as .exe, .zip, .swf, etc.
- Don't use spam trigger words and phishing phrases (WIN, Free!, etc.)
- Maintain a good text to image ratio - don't use an overwhelming number of images, or huge images
- Don't buy lists of prospects. These lists have not been verified and will likely be inaccurate, which will contribute to your bounce limit. In addition, because you have not built a rapport with these individuals, they are more likely to mark you as spam.
- Don't email people who have repeatedly bounced. Hard bounces are a result of a mailbox being completely shut down. This can mean a few things, but the most common reason is that the email address no longer exists. As a result, these emails will never successfully deliver. If you have too many of these, your internet service provider (ISP) will reevaluate your email reputation, which will make it harder to get into others' inboxes. In addition, the abandoned addresses may have morphed into spam traps. Hitting even just one spam trap can cause deliverability problems.
- Send your emails from a recognizable name, or use your brand name to help with recognition. Prospects and customers are more likely to trust a personalized sender and email address (email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Include your prospect or customer name in the To: field (Clark Kent) , rather than just having the email address (email@example.com). This shows spam filters that you know the person you're emailing.
Ongoing Best Practices
- Authenticate your email with SPF, DKIM & DMARC
- Monitor your sender reputation. There are websites that will tell you if your mail server IP is listed on any popular Spam Blacklists. You can check your domain at the following resources: Sender Score, MX Toolbox, DNS Stuff
- Check the content of your emails to see how they're ranked by standard spam filters with Mail Tester
- Monitor your email engagement metrics (opens, clicks, replies, bounces, and opt outs) and have a framework to pivot your strategy on based on the trends. If you start to notice negative trends, act quickly and make adjustments. If your open rates are declining, review your subject lines. If your reply rates are suffering, update the content of your emails.
- Consider slowing down the frequency of your email deliveries based on the engagement of your emails. Send to less engaged prospects and customers emails once a week instead of every day, and then maybe once a month if they trail off. When they do engage, you can start to increase the frequency of your communication.
Outreach Safety Settings
Admin settings found under your Org's settings that can help avoid being marked as spam (screenshots below)
- Domain Level Throttling
- Ability to Disable Link Tracking
- Domain Level Safety Settings
- Hard Bounce Limits - lockout rogue users for 24 hours
- Require unsubscribe links