Avoid the Spam Folder: How Marketers Can Save Outbound Emails from the Dreaded Fate

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Email is dying. Email is not dying. Regardless of where you stand in the ongoing debate, one thing is certain: Unsolicited emails are alive and well. Commonly known as spam emails, junk messages about how to get rich quick, find the perfect partner, etc., continue to invade consumers' inboxes. Approximately 15 percent of the emails that the average person receives are spam emails, according to a recent report by technology research firm The Radicati Group.

To help consumers avoid unwanted messages, email providers have set up spam folders that filter out unsolicited messages. Senders who become labeled as spammers can be blacklisted and blocked from sending more emails. In addition, the federal government passed the CAN-SPAM Act in 2004, requiring consumer emails to contain an unsubscribe option, among other mandates.

As the war between spammers and email recipients rages on, marketers are taking careful steps to make sure their legitimate emails do not get blocked by a spam filter or wind up on a blacklist. Read on to make sure that you are on top of the rules for avoiding the dreaded spam folder.

Compared to newer and flashier channels, such as mobile and social media, email has become the workhorse of marketing tools. Despite the fact that email has appeared to reach a plateau in functionality, the number of people using it is on the rise.

The total number of worldwide email accounts is expected to increase from 3.3 billion in 2012 to more than 4.3 billion by the end of 2016, reports The Radicati Group. In addition, Forrester Research has predicted investments in email marketing will grow from about $1.7 billion in 2012 to nearly $2.5 billion by 2016. The increased spending is attributed to businesses upgrading their email analytics and launching interactive programs.

Even though more people are expected to open email accounts, when it comes to building subscriber lists, it is common for companies to supplement their lists with addresses purchased from third parties. The reason companies do so is "because emails are cheap and easy to send," explains Chris Selland, senior vice president of corporate development at venture capital and equity firm Hale Global. "Growing a list organically is hard because we all get so much email that people are reluctant to sign up for email lists. Hence the temptation to buy email lists," he notes.

Just because it is easy to purchase email addresses does not mean it is risk-free. "If you're just buying names and blasting emails," Selland adds, "your chances of being blacklisted are very high."

SENDER BEWARE

Domain Name Service Blacklists are lists of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that alert email servers as to which IP addresses have been linked to spam activities and should be blocked from delivering messages.

An IP address is a unique series of numbers that identifies the server from which emails are sent. Email servers access dozens of blacklists, which use a wide variety of criteria for pulling in IP addresses. The triggers include sending thousands of emails from a brand-new address (spammers are known for moving from one IP address to another), sending numerous emails that remain unopened, or sending emails to an inactive address. Sometimes all it takes is one person tagging an email as spam in order to be blacklisted.

Spam filter rules change frequently, explains Tara Thomas, vice president of marketing at Certain, Inc., a SaaS event management platform provider. Therefore it is "important to keep in mind ... which spam filters your audience is most likely using [email providers like Gmail, AOL, and Yahoo! each have their own filter], and to regularly test and monitor your email results in order to pass the most current criteria," she advises.

If your IP address winds up on a blacklist, your emails will bounce back, usually with instructions on how to get further information about the block. …