Content factors contribute to negative spam points too

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13, February 2019

Last month we were talking about a big nightmare, unsafe links in your e-mail and HTTPS as a standard. Another, maybe even bigger nightmare, is your e-mail ending up in the spam folder. ISPs are becoming more and more sophisticated and are constantly evolving to be able to give the user of the inbox the best possible experience, to provide valuable information and to sort out unwanted emails. When it comes to bulk email (e.g. newsletters, member information, etc), the ISPs are doing their best to determine the authenticity and relevance for each recipient. If your email does not live up the demands, the risk of your email turning up in the spam folder instead of the inbox is increasing.

There are many different aspects that weigh into the evaluation of an email: sender reputation, the recipient’s actions in previous emails and sender identity to name a few.

But not to forget, the actual content of an email also affects the inbox placement and the recipient’s experience with the email. In this blogpost we would like to turn to all the content managers out there and highlight some common pitfalls that you should keep in mind when creating your emails. This will help you create a better recipient experience and avoid using methods that can make you be perceive as a spammer.

It all starts with the subject line

There is no doubt that the copy of the subject line is important. It is the first thing the recipient sees, and the experience of the message is crucial for the success of your email. However, it is easy to get a little “too convincing” and expressive in the subject line. This is sometimes more harmful than helpful. Here are some pitfalls to keep in mind when writing your subject lines:

  • Think about the length: Something that is easily done is adding too many words in the subject line. Stuffing the subject line can easily come across as a bit messy, and in the worst case, the subject line becomes so long that it will be cut short in the recipient’s inbox. Try to keep it short and convincing. If your characters are more than 50 it could be a good idea to reevaluate if you can express your message in some other way.
  • Avoid words using only capital letters: We often see the use of capital letters as a method to highlight the importance of a topic. Be careful with this method, a subject line that consists of too many capital lettered words raises suspicion of the ISPs and some spam filters assign negative points for this behavior.
  • Emojis can increase interest and ad personality, but use them with moderation. Don´t forget to test and see what works for your specific recipients.
  • Think about which words you are using: if you search the web you´ll find various lists of words that could be problematic to use in email marketing. Often seen on these lists are words in correlation with sales increasement or money savings. It’s a good idea to have a look at a few of these lists and keep them in mind when writing your copy. And as always, test on limited number of recipients and evaluate the results.

For more inspiration on how to write good subject lines, see our previous blog post where we give you 12 tips to write the perfect subject line. Also keep in mind the constant technical progress, voice in email for example for sure is something to take under consideration when optimizing you subject lines.

The relationship between text and image

It can be tempting to use a lot of images in your emails, don´t you agree? The design and layout possibilities feel unlimited when you can just edit the layout you want, save as an image file and upload to your email marketing software. But the fact is that there are a lot of disadvantages that comes along with using too much image content in you emails. Especially when you use it in places that are more suited for text and layout defined by HTML.

The templates of Webpower are built on the basis of html. Do you want to insert a button, for example? Then choose the button in Webpower, which you can style yourself, instead of inserting a self-made image of a button.

One aspect is that if you have too much image content in relation to text, there is an increased risk that the ISPs perceives your email as spam. A commonly known strategy of so-called spammers is to “hide” different messages in images. That is, they add text content inside images instead of writing it out as actual text in the emails to be able to use content that may have been perceived as spam if it was written as text. This because the ISPs cannot determine the content of an image as they can with text. This strategy is well known by the ISPs and therefore the alarm bells starts to ring if an email largely consists images and almost no text.

Another aspect is that if you place a large part of your content inside of images (for example text copy and buttons) recipients that have the image blocking function turned on in their inbox will not be able to get an overview of the content in your email. If you use actual text and a layout based on HTML, the email message will be readable even for those who have image blocking in their inbox. Make sure to find a good mix of written and image content in your emails for the best results.

Be aware of font settings

Having good readability in your emails will of course give your recipients a better experience, but this is also something that can affect how your email is perceived by the ISPs. For example, think about the contrast between the background color and the color of your text, or the size of the text. If you have a very small font size and if the font color has to little contrast towards the background the receiving email client may think that you are trying to hide someone. This type of behavior could cause spam points by some ISPs. Therefore, be sure to use fonts settings in a clear and consistent way for a nice recipient experience and no spam points.

Email layout, less is more

It is tempting to try and create spectacular emails with advanced design, don´t you think? It is so easy with today’s technology and the email marketing software’s freedom of layout using drag and drop editors. Of course, we advise you to take advantage of the technological development and the opportunities given, be creative! But keep in mind that email design does not provide the same freedom as a regular website. E-mail clients are still very limited in what they can handle compared to web browsers. The freedom to easily build your own layout for each email makes it easier to make mistakes, which may not be visible in your email client, but in another’s. Keep in mind that all of your recipients are not using the same ISP as you. You can use Litmus to check if the email breaks. More advanced layout will make the email break (or look odd).  It can therefore be smart to still think Less is more when comes to email layout.

Think about the length of the email

For both technical and readability reasons, it´s a good idea to think about the amount of content in your emails. Too long emails may be cut off in the recipient’s inbox, and instead a link with the text “click here to read the entire message” (or similar) will appear. If this is the case for your emails, it is a strong indicator that you should review the scope of the content and evaluate if it is necessary to have all information in the email instead of in a Flow or on a landing pages?

More content, mainly images, also equals longer loading times. This is something that will affect the recipients experience in a negative way, no one likes to wait for large downloads that use up mobile data. Another aspect is that the speed of you send out also will be reduced if your emails are too large. Our recommendation is that instead of filling an email with lots of articles or having very long articles, highlight a few well selected powerful articles. Or why not use dynamic content so that each unique recipient only receives those items that matches his/her interests or needs? After all, relevance is the key to a successful email.

True identity of the sender

Last but not least: it must be clear who the sender of an email is. You  must list your true identity and contact information, including a valid physical or postal address, in every email message you send.

Want to know more about how to optimize your emails?

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Ewald Kessler

Deliverability & Abuse Management +31 85 773 99 90