Improving Your Email Open Rates Starts With the Spam Filter

Written by Laura Roeder

On July 27, 2017

Here’s a scary thought:

How many emails do you think you get every single day?

You’ve got your coworkers. Your friends. Your great uncle Frank with his forwarded political conspiracy theories. (Chill out, Frank!)

Point is, email is overwhelming these days – and most people’s inboxes are so full that they tend to just declare Email Bankruptcy in the quest for Inbox Zero.

(Which means the odds of your emails being read – or even opened – aren’t always in your favor.)

If you want to avoid the dreaded spam folder and increase the likelihood of both landing in the inbox and getting opened, you need to make sure your emails are the kind your readers are actually excited to receive.

So, how do you do that, exactly?

Avoid the spam folder

Landing in the spam folder is an email marketer’s worst nightmare.

(Well, either that, or the one where you’re falling for a very long time.)

And while avoiding it used to be as simple as, say, not using certain trigger words in your subject line, it’s a lot more complex these days.

Now, your likelihood of landing in the spam folder can be influenced by things like:

  • Email formatting and HTML
  • Your IP address
  • The address in your “From” header
  • Your opt-out/unsubscribe options
  • Affiliate marketing links

For example, Gmail recommends using a different sender address for different types of emails, and keeping those addresses consistent over time.

(You might notice that our weekly newsletter and our new feature update emails come from different addresses!)

Another key is making it easy to unsubscribe from your email list. It might sound counterproductive, but it actually makes it less likely for you to be flagged as spam – by both the people on your list and email providers like Gmail.

The actual content of your emails makes a big difference, too – for example, inundating your subscribers with affiliate marketing links can be a major problem. In fact, if other people spam their subscribers with affiliate links to your site, that can actually affect your own deliverability rates – so if you run an affiliate program, you have to keep an eye on how ethically other people promote it!

(Pro tip: the email experts over at MailChimp – our own email tool of choice – have put together a fantastic guide to these and other technical details.)

Worried that even with all of your newfound knowledge, you might hit that dreaded spam folder anyway? Try out this spam filter test!

Audit your inbox

Let’s take a tour of your inbox, shall we? 

(Seriously, go open your inbox. We’ll wait.)

What are the emails that stand out as ones you want to read? What makes you want to open them? The subject line, the sender, the expectation of quality content based on past emails? Take some mental (or actual) notes on the winners!

Now, take those emails you love and compare them to the emails you’re not so keen on opening. 

What do the unopened emails that you banished to the Trash folder have in common?

Are they from people or businesses that email a little too often? Are there common words, styles, or phrases in the subject lines?

An email might pass all the test of the automated spam filters we discussed earlier, but it also has to pass the human test. Knowing what works and doesn’t work for you will likely give you some insight into the minds (and inboxes) of your subscribers!

Focus on what’s inside

Once you land your email in the inbox with an irresistible subject line, you’ve reached one of the most important parts: the actual email content.

Compelling email content doesn’t just score you a short-term win, like driving readers to your blog – it also means convincing readers to open your next email.

(Because you know that you’ve stopped opening emails from certain places because you got burned by boring content one too many times.)

Now, there’s good news and bad news, and they’re actually the same thing:

There’s no universally right or wrong way to write an amazing email.

Some people will say write shorter emails, some will say write longer ones. Some say make them as plain as possible, others swear by branded templates.

Our best advice is to experiment, and to stick with what works for you – but here are some other things you should keep in mind as you go!

  • Be useful. Promo after promo after promo gets old, but if your emails regularly provide useful information, you’ll earn a reputation with your readers – and that means more opens overall.
  • Get personal. While putting a first name in a subject line might be a popular marketing trick these days, that’s not the kind of personal we’re talking about. Instead, try writing an email to your list the same way you’d write an email to a friend – respectful, but not too stuffy. Engage your readers with content that’s not only informative, but enjoyable to read!
  • Limit distractions. The world is full of distractions – your emails shouldn’t be. A mega-cluttered or confusing layout can get in the way of effective messaging, and might not display properly on mobile. Take a look at your email in different forms before you send, and make sure it’s easily readable!

What do all these things have in common?

They focus on your audience’s experience first.

Getting your emails into the hands of your intended readers – or their inboxes – isn’t a question of luck. It’s a matter of approaching things from their perspective, and sending them the types of content they’re actually looking for!

So – when you look at your own inbox, what do you find?

What are the differences between emails you love to open, and ones that go straight to the trash?

Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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