Email marketing: Avoid the spam box with these do’s and don’ts

Every day scammers send 156 million phishing emails globally. Falling victim to one of these scams can cost you, or your business thousands of dollars. To help keep emails safe, hosts are building more and more sophisticated spam filters, which can save your bottom line, but also puts up a serious road block to your email marketing efforts.

All you may be trying to do is keep in touch with your clients, but little did you know that a few small errors might be sending your emails right into your customers’ spam folders.

Did you know, you have a “sender reputation” to protect? Certain factors will affect it, just like a credit score. Below are a few examples of do’s and don’ts to avoid a dwindling sender score and being tagged as a spammer.

The don’ts

1) Don’t forget to keep your list up to date

Email bouncebacks

A hard bounce is caused by an invalid, cancelled or non-existent email address. Bounce rates are one of the key factors Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) use to determine an email sender’s score. When you start sending too many emails that fall into spam, your reputation will dwindle, and your emails will automatically go to the spam box.

Re-engage inactive or infrequently active subscribers

Inactivity will affect your spam rating as well. Keep track of your inactive (inactive means that emails are being received but not opened) and infrequently active subscribers, and develop re-engagement campaigns for contacts who have stopped engaging with your messages.

2) Don’t buy or rent an email list

Even though buying or renting a list is not illegal, it’s definitely not part of ethical practices. Sure, email list providers will say that the people on their lists have opted-in to receiving email correspondence, but that doesn’t mean they agreed to receive your correspondence. You have no idea how many times these email addresses have been used, and if they are even still active. Which means that you might get a few hard bounces. Not to mention maybe even getting complaints which also affects your score. And it goes even further, not only will this affect your deliverability score, if you are reported, you could be fined a significant amount of money. To give you a better idea, since the law has taken affect, one company in particular has been fined a little over a million dollars.

As a Canadian business owner it’s your responsibility to know if you are operating within the parameters of the Canadian Anti-Spam law (CASL). If you are using a U.S. based email marketing platform you could be at risk of not being in compliance with the law, because the Canadian, and American anti-spam laws have different rules.

The main difference is that the American Anti-Spam law has adopted an opt-out model, while Canada has adopted an opt-in model. Under an opt-out model, businesses can send promotional emails unless the recipient states otherwise, or “opts out” of receiving them with the famous unsubscribe link.

Under an opt-in model, which is what we have here in Canada, the recipient must affirmatively give the business permission to send promotions, newsletters etc.  Yes the opt-in model makes it a little harder to build a mailing list, but it’s not impossible.  With the right tools, and the right information you will still be able to build a nice quality mailing list.

 3) Don’t scrape websites for email addresses

Scraping websites for email addresses is the equivalent of a telemarketer making a cold call. And we all know how much people LOVE those. Don’t email people you haven’t connected with through either an enquiry, or at a networking event. Your time would be better invested on building a list of people that will actually be happy to hear from you. Think quality, not quantity.

4) Don’t overlook the importance of the subject line

Don’t use all caps anywhere in your email or subject line

IT’S NOT NICE TO YELL AT PEOPLE! Using all caps in your subject line may seem spammer-like, because they frequently use them. It may get a negative reaction. Using catchy, polished  language may get a better reaction.

Don’t use exclamation points!!!!!

Exclamation points make your subject line and/or email look unprofessional and spammy, and can dilute the message.

Don’t use spam trigger words

One of easiest ways to avoid being tagged as a spammer is by carefully crafting your subject line. A good rule of thumb is this: If it sounds too salesy, it’s probably a spam trigger word. Think “free, guarantee, no obligation, etc.” (google spam trigger words for more examples).

Instead of using trigger words, be creative in describing what the email actually contains. Think something informative and fun. Something that will entice your readers to want to read what’s inside.

5) Don’t use weird fonts, too many images and broken links


Don’t use red, invisible or irregular fonts. Same goes for using invisible text, such as a white font on top of a white background. These are common tricks spammers use, so it will be an instant red flag for spam filters.

Don’t use too many images

Using one large image as your entire email, or too many images in general, tends to end up in recipients’ spam folders. The text to image ratio should be higher.

Double check your links
Be weary of broken links. If your email contains broken links it may also be a spam trigger.

The DO’s

 1) Do use double opt-in

The double opt-in is when new subscribers receive a follow-up email with a confirmation link ensuring that the email address actually belongs to them. When using double opt-in, your email lists will be naturally be more qualified, which will make them more engaged. Furthermore you’ll be able to provide proof of consent which is required by the CASL.

2) Do ask your subscribers to add you to their address book

Spam filters are more aggressive than ever, sometimes even emails people want in their inbox still end up in spam. When subscribers add you to their address book, spam filters will back off.

3) Do include a clear unsubscribe link and a physical mailing address in your email footer

Allowing people to unsubscribe is important for the compliance of the CASL. Also it’s great for list hygiene because, again, anyone receiving your emails should actually want to receive them. Not doing this may get you reported.

4) Do offer both an HTML and a plain text version of your emails

Plain text emails are simply emails without the formatting, images and colors. Cyberimpact allows you to easily create plain-text versions within the email editor. Most spammers don’t take the time to do this so it will make your email look more legit. Plus it will increase your delivery rate because believe not, not everyone has the technology to receive those fancy images on their devices.


Cyberimpact is a simple and efficient email marketing solution designed to help small business owners in Canada reach their full potential. Think of Cyberimpact as a partner who will help you achieve your business goals, while maintaining good email marketing practices Try it now, it’s free for CFIB members!

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