You’ve Got Spam!

crafting successful email campaignsAs marketers, we know email is an important part of the mix. Email is a great tool to collect data from current customers, re-engage dormant ones, gain referrals and new customers, and make sales. If you’re new to the email game and want to get started, here are some tips.


Like everything else that’s good for you, there are no shortcuts here. If you’re just starting out and thinking, “I want this off the ground quick. Let’s go buy some email lists,” hold the phone. Now give the phone to me. You do NOT want to do that, as many sold, rented, and scraped lists contain disproportionately large numbers of bad emails that lead to high bounce rates (sad for you) and being blacklisted (bad for you).


Develop an opt-in method on your app or site. Double-opt in is best practice; that’s when you have users consciously fill in their emails to subscribe, then have them confirm this decision via an immediate follow-up email. If your content is gated and requires an email to access, some people will simply bounce and others will never interact with your following messages. The confirmation email is there to protect you from lower open rates and eventually falling prey to the spam filter as a result of those ignored emails.


Simply put, write an email someone would want to open. If your emails have low open rates, the email service providers (ESPs) that are tracking your domain’s email history will assume you are sending low-quality emails that are potentially unsolicited. Some things to keep in mind:

  • During your opt-in process, be upfront about what kind of content you’ll be sending.
  • Keep your branding consistent for your subscribers.
  • Make sure there aren’t coding errors (NEVER copy and paste it from a rich format text document); work existing templates or a designer to ensure your formatting isn’t creating a bad user experience.
  • Images and subject lines need to reflect the content and intent of the email text.
  • Be clear and keep a healthy balance between selling and engaging your subscribers.
  • Include a permissions reminder in each email to remind your subscribers that they did indeed sign up for these messages.
  • Minimize the use of attachments as much as you can. Emails with attachment sizes greater than 3MB tend not to make it past the spam filter.


If you’ve ever been blacklisted by an email server, your IP address is now dead to the world and you’ll never make it through to that ESP again. If you’re using an external service, like MailChimp, they are usually stringent about spammy content to protect themselves and will usually stop you before you even make it out of the outbox if you’re doing something wrong.


Being whitelisted pushes you through the spam reviews, automatically allowing your emails into inboxes. That Fast Pass is super valuable if you’re sending emails out from a single IP on your own. If you’re using an in-house system, you’ll have to apply to the whitelists on your own; each ESP has its own whitelist (Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, etc), so you’ll have to do a little sleuthing, but make the time to do so. Trust us. It’s worth it.


It’s so important that you’re not violating the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. The only emails that are exempt from these guidelines are purely political and religious ones. Everyone else absolutely has to follow these rules or they’ll be blacklisted or reported as abuse to SenderBase, the world’s largest email monitoring network. Make sure you register with SenderBase for the ability to review those reports against you. It’s impossible to avoid being reported ever, but do your best to avoid receiving them.

All of the following sections cover the different parts of the CAN-SPAM Act and will be marked with an asterisk!

Unsubscribe Compliance*

Your unsubscribe mechanism must be fully visible and functional. This unsubscribe mechanism must sit below the body of the main email. Any opt-out requests must be honored within 10-business days! I’ve seen some email services that use these final 10 days to ask “Are you sure?” and “How can we improve?”, which is gutsy! It might just save you from losing a subscriber…but it could be further aggravating an already fed up person. Tread lightly.

Content Compliance*

Make sure your “from” line is not misleading about who the person or company is from. Keep your subject lines relevant relative to the body content. The publisher or advertiser has to include a legitimate business address (PO boxes are acceptable in some cases). If you send any adult content, label it as such– no one wants to accidentally open NSFW content in a compromising place.

Sending Behavior Compliance*

Emails cannot be sent through an open relay or with the unsubscribe option absent. Emails cannot contain false or misleading headers and the body message should contain at least one sentence. The entire email cannot be null or blank. And finally, don’t use harvested email addresses.

At this point, you’re probably overwhelmed by the number of things to juggle while still striving to craft good email campaigns. And that’s fair. Email marketing is as much about deliverability as it is engagement. To help you out, we’ve created a checklist. Happy marketing!

Email Marketing Checklist

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