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Email spam is a $20 billion per year problem in America, says a 2012 study from Google and Microsoft. The researchers looked at how spam clogs bandwidth, productivity, and requires research, development, and time to handle. Because of this enormous investment, your email service provider (ESP) is monitoring its customers’ mass emailing behavior. There are measures you can take to ensure that your ESP knows you are complying with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, and even gain some assistance in keeping your emails out of your customers’ spam traps.
It all comes down to your IP address’s reputation — the unique address assigned to your business computers.
- You are permitted — and encouraged — to apply to be placed on your ESP’s internal white list, which will allow your emails to be sent without going through your ESP’s spam checkers first. (Think of it like boarding a plane without having to go through security.)
- The algorithm for how IP reputation is measured is not public information. However, behaviors that count against you include frequent customer spam complaints and high bounce rates. So keep your email simple and accessible to read, make opt-in procedures transparent, and make unsubscribing easy with an unsubscribe link on every email.
- Your ESP tracks your recipients’ behavior, so your reputation can be tarnished if your open rates dip very low. This is considered a sign that you are sending too much unsolicited or low quality emails.
The best way to build a good reputation with your ESP is to avoid spam complaints. Send high quality emails on a regular schedule that contain information that offers solutions or provides products customers want. Don’t buy email lists. Instead, build your email list the slow and steady way from customers who opt-in from your store, events, Facebook or Twitter pages, or after a purchase.
Test your emails before you send them so you know your customers see the email you designed. Incorrectly loading, poorly formatted, or unprofessional looking emails are very likely to be marked as spam.
Put a person in the “From:” field (even if it’s a dummy account, but make sure it’s answered by a real person!) so customers know that the email hasn’t been sent by a spambot.
The truth is, that it’s easier for a customer to flag email spam than to open and find the unsubscribe link, especially if the email has become annoying. If your emails are graphic intensive, sent too frequently, or aren’t relevant to the subscribers’ lives anymore, they may mark them as spam to make them go away. So update your email list regularly and look for inactive emails, bounces, and emails that have been floated, ie, abandoned by the first user and snapped up by a completely different person. Very low activity users who haven’t opened an email in months are users who may mark you as spam soon; draft a low activity email for these users, and if they still don’t respond, it may be time to weed your list.