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There are countless ways in which your email campaigns can set off SPAM filters, and get sorted into the dreaded Junk folder of all your willing recipients. Unfortunately, avoiding SPAM filters is only one half of the battle. Your emails can be marked as SPAM by consumers – that is, your readership. If enough of your audience manually marks your incoming campaigns as SPAM, it can ruin your brand’s reputation, and land you in Junk filters for all time to come.

That’s why knowing why consumers mark emails as SPAM is important. Besides from improving your deliverability rate to the best of your ability, there are other best practice tips you should employ for your email campaigns (and their content) to avoid coming off as SPAMmy enough for your consumers to click that dreaded SPAM report button.

Let’s look at the top 5 reasons why consumers report emails as SPAM.

Your brand is unfamiliar

One of the first things people look at when an email arrives in their inbox is who the email is from. If your campaign’s sender name and address is unfamiliar to the recipient, there’s a high chance they’re going to assume your email is SPAM.

Many email marketing platforms give you the option to customise the sender name and address for campaign blast outs, but using default sender details – which are branded – is the best way to remain familiar to your recipients.

Other reasons your brand may be unfamiliar to recipients is that you may have collected subscribers on a website other than yours, or at an event. In these cases it’s important to make your subscription form as branded as possible, and make it clear exactly whose communications a subscriber is opting-in for.

You can also avoid the dreaded “do I know you?” SPAM flag by sending a welcome email that is automatically triggered by a new subscription. The welcome email can confirm the contact has just subscribed to your brand’s communications, be clear what brand you are, and ask that the contact add your sender address to their white-list or email address book.

They don’t remember opting in

If a contact doesn’t remember subscribing to your emails, they’re going to see your incoming campaigns as SPAM. There are myriad reasons why your subscribers won’t remember opting in to receive communications from your brand – the most obvious one being that they didn’t, and you’ve purchased a contact list. This is a huge no-no in the email marketing world. For one, purchasing mailing lists goes against the privacy acts of quite a few countries, and even if you were buying a list legally, it’s bad practice – as most people won’t know who your brand is, and why they’re receiving communications from you, leading to surefire SPAM flagging.

Other less obvious reasons a contact wouldn’t remember opting is is that your subscription process is rather obtuse. For example, perhaps you’ve collected opt-ins by leaving ‘subscribe to our mailing list’ checkboxes on your unrelated forms checked by default. This means that if a contact makes a purchase on your site, for example, whilst filling out their purchase details, you may have slipped in an opted-in by default ‘option’ that most people would simply overlook. Whilst this could be seen as a clever way to max out your subscriptions, it’s not smart for long term engagement. Opt-ins on non-subscription forms should be by default unchecked. You want subscribers who willfully consent to receiving communications from your brand with full awareness.

Whenever you are asking potential subscribers to opt in to your email communications, be as transparent as possible. Instead of a sneaky little checkbox saying “want to hear more from us?”, be a bit more descriptive. For example, ask “would you like to receive monthly emails from us, updating you on special offers and events?”.

The best way to avoid the problem of subscribers not recalling that they’ve opted in, is to use a dedicated subscription form that is set up as a Preference Center. Depending on the marketing automation platform you use, using a Preference Center in lieu of a subscription form may be readily accessible (it is with us, at Swift Digital). A Preference Center allows subscribers to completely customise what communications they receive from you, and how often. Your Preference Center may give options for what topics subscribers want to hear about, and may also give subscribers a chance to opt in for specific campaigns such as event invites only, or e-newsletters and surveys.

Preference Centers make the subscription process all the more memorable; because subscribers get the chance to choose exactly what they receive from your brand, meaning that whatever they receive from you in the future is expected, and even anticipated.

Your subject lines are misleading

Subject lines should be enticing in order to maximise your open rate, but that doesn’t mean you should blatantly lie about the content of your email. Email campaigns with misleading, or SPAM-my subject lines are far more likely to get flagged as SPAM by consumers.

If your subject line promises discounts, but the body of your email mentions nothing of the sort, you have actively misled your recipient, and can expect them to find your email communications not worthy of ongoing trust. Repeat this mistake more than once, and your brand may lose its email marketing reputation.

Although you should always be experimenting with ways to make your subject lines engaging, make sure you never cross the line into promising content that doesn’t exist in your campaign. Subject lines should describe your email’s content fairly and truthfully. If you make sure to avoid lying in your subject lines, you’ll avoid having consumers mark your communications as SPAM.

Your text to imagery ratio is too unbalanced

Not everyone loads the images of their emails straight off the bat. Not to mention, with slow internet service, or other email service provider issues, some of your recipients may not be able to load images in your campaigns at all. This means that if your email contains mostly images, then it’s going to appear thoroughly broken in those aforementioned situations – making it very likely that consumers will mark it as SPAM.

A good example of the kind of email campaign that’s most likely going to set off the SPAM alert siren in most consumers’ brains is the one image email. This is a campaign that’s been designed as a static image; even the text is in the image file, and not written out in the email body content. That means that for anyone who’s unable to load the images of your email, all that’s going to appear once the campaign has been opened, it a little ‘X’. If it looks like SPAM, it’s going to be marked as such.

Make sure your email campaigns are mostly text-based. Imagery can help make your campaigns visually exciting, and branded – but that doesn’t mean images should be the star of the show. Your recipients should be able to get all the information they need, as well as calls to action, from your campaign without having to load images at all. Keep that in mind.

There’s no unsubscribe link

It’s imperative that your email campaigns each include unsubscribe links. Hopefully, you’re using a Marketing Automation platform that automatically adds unsub links to all of your outgoing communications (like ours at Swift Digital) – but if you’re having to manually add your opt-out links, then make sure you never forget. If one of your emails is delivered without an opt-out option, any potential unsubscribers may mark your email as SPAM. Gmail has its own ‘unsubscribe’ link for emails now, and if one of your recipients uses this instead of your own unsub link, then Gmail will prompt them to mark the email as SPAM. This sort of thing can really snowball when all your potential unsubscribers are unable to properly opt-out, leading them down the path of flagging your brand’s comms as junk. This can eventually ruin your sender reputation.

To avoid this, make sure you’re using a Marketing Automation platform that automatically includes unsubscription links in all your outgoing communications. Alternatively, make sure that whoever is responsible for publishing emails knows they have to double – or triple – check that the campaign has a working opt-out link before broadcasting it to your mailing lists.

A lot of time and money is invested into your email marketing strategy, and it’s a shame to let that all go to waste. If your emails are continuously getting flagged as SPAM, you could ruin your brand’s reputation for the long term, and lose out on the high ROI email marketing is so famous for.

Make sure you’re not making any of the above mistakes, as they’re easy enough to spot and rectify, and you should avoid having your emails reported as SPAM by consumers. The extra benefit is that the above mistakes can really make a dent in your otherwise strong email strategies as well, so making the suggested improvements will not only help you avoid junk flagging – but will also help you improve overall engagement. Get the most out of your email marketing investment, and heed our advice!

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