Email Deliverability Downfalls: Three Ways to Look Like a Spammer

Organizations large and small use email to market their goods and services. As a consumer, chances are you have promotional emails in your inbox right now as you read these words. As a marketer, chances are you’ve recently sent or you’re planning to send a promotional email. Email marketing is that commonplace. And that’s because of email works when it gets delivered to a recipient who wants to get it, that is.  

There are plenty of reasons to use email marketing. It offers the highest ROI compared to other marketing channels. People spend more when they get an email offer. People prefer email to other communication channels—even Millennials. And it can reach a lot of people. Predictions are the number of worldwide email users will increase to over 2.9 billion by the end of 2019

But that’s all numbers and theory if your emails are not getting delivered, opened and acted upon. And that takes us to the recipients and the power they have to decide the final fate of your email once it reaches the inbox. Even if you’re adhering to all the email deliverability best practices you’re aware of, it could be for naught. Even if you’ve taken every possible step to maximize your deliverability rate, you might not get the results you hope for. And why? Because at the very end of all your effort sits the recipient of your email—and they decide whether or not your email is worth opening, ignoring or flagging as spam.

Spam Is Widespread

Consumers are right to be wary of spam. There is a lot of it. Spam made up 48.16 percent of email traffic worldwide as of March 2018, which is significantly lower when compared to the high of 71 percent in May 2014, but still high at almost half of all email…and it’s still high enough to make consumers wary, and therefore quick to label emails as spam. 

How much is really spam? That’s hard to say because spam is defined by the person getting the email. Spam doesn’t have to be about buying cheap land in Costa Rica or that Nigerian prince with millions of dollars he can’t access (or this impressive new spin on the Nigerian millions). Spam can be any unwanted email, and sadly, too many businesses continue to add names to their email lists when they shouldn’t, meaning people continue to get an email they do not want. In addition, businesses send out repetitive emails, causing list fatigue and spam complaints. Or they send them too often. 

The top five reasons for unsubscribing from emails in 2016 were: 

  • Getting too many emails in general: 26 percent 
  • Emails are irrelevant: 21 percent
  • Getting too many emails from that particular sender: 19 percent
  • The emails are always selling: 19 percent
  • The content is boring or repetitive: 17 percent

Recipients will flag an email as spam for all those same reasons. Research shows 43 percent of consumers regularly mark emails as spam, often instead of unsubscribing. They simply don’t want to get the emails any longer and junking those emails is faster and easier than clicking on an unsubscribe button and going through that process—but more on that later.

How the Spam Label Damages Your Deliverability Rate

Emails don’t need to meet a set of criteria to be considered spam by the recipient. To the person on the receiving end, spam simply emails they don’t want to get. It could even be a legitimate email sent by a company they’ve done business with. They might have even signed up to get emails. But for whatever reason, they don’t want to get them any longer. That’s the perception you’re dealing with—and fighting against because of the damage this can do. 

You don’t want recipients to consider your emails spam because their seemingly insignificant action hurts your overall deliverability rate. The more spam complaints you get, the lower your sender reputation. The lower your sender reputation, the higher the chance that you’ll be blacklisted, blocked by spam filters and labeled a spammer. Goodbye, deliverability! 

And it’s already a challenge to get your emails delivered. According to ReturnPath’s 2017 Deliverability Benchmark Report, one in five emails is not getting to the inbox, meaning only 80 percent are: an 80 percent IPR. Why risk decreasing the already limited deliverability rate you are trying so hard to achieve?

How Not to Be Spam

You need to try not to be perceived as spam but that’s easier said than done. Since it’s your recipient who ultimately decides whether your email message is spam or not, you need to take their perception into account. You also need to add to your list of email deliverability best practices to overcome that challenge by addressing your list, cadence, and content.

Have a good list: If you’re building an email list focused on quality over quantity, you’re off to a good start because the people you’re emailing will want to hear from you. They’ve said “yes” by subscribing to your list or signing up for your emails. Keep that focus on quality, practice regular list hygiene, and you’ll decrease the chances of being labeled spam. 

Have a good cadence: Your cadence is the frequency with which you send emails, for example, daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. Ideally, you’ll offer subscribers a preference center where they can tell you how often they want to get emails from you. If you don’t have that, you can test to see which cadence works best. You probably won’t have a frequency that everyone likes, but you can test to see which cadence gets the best results and stick with that. Remember, getting too many emails is one of the main reasons people leave a list. 

Deliver great content: Finally, to not be spam, deliver excellent content—preferably content your subscribers won’t get anywhere else. If you continually send out the same kind of messages to your subscribers, they will tire of your emails. If your content is typically boring or sales-y, they will have little reason to open your emails let alone engage with them. Irrelevant content, sales-y content, and boring content are three of the top five reasons people leave a list. On the other hand, if you sent them content that is useful and engaging, they will want to see your emails in their inboxes and they most definitely won’t see them as spam.

Make Unsubscribing Easy

Even if you adhere to all three of these additional email deliverability best practices, however, you will have people who want to leave your list. It just happens. People lose interest or go through a life change or for some other reason want to stop hearing from you. It’s okay. Let them go. But make it easy for them to do so or else they might report you as spam instead. Make your unsubscribe link obvious. And once it’s clicked on, make it as simple as clicking on a button to unsubscribe. The more confusing or time-consuming it is, the more likely you are to get spam complaints rather than unsubscribes—even if you’re not spamming!

Take Your Email Deliverability Knowledge Up a Notch

For even better email deliverability results, consider furthering your education with the Simplilearn Digital Marketing Certified Associate program. The Digital Marketing Certified Associate (DMCA) course was designed by industry leaders and it covers a wide range of topics with the most up-to-date content, including email marketing, but also psychology of search, keyword targeting, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, mobile marketing, triggered email campaigns, social media engagement monitoring, and much more. You can choose a self-learning option or an instructor-led one, and you’ll get plenty of hands-on experience while learning.

You face a lot of competition in the inbox, plus you’re up against the perceptions of the spam-weary consumers. The more you know about email specifically and digital marketing in general, the better prepared you’ll be to win your way into the inbox and stay there, with emails that are anticipated and engaged with. 

About the Author

Nikita DuggalNikita Duggal

Nikita Duggal is a passionate digital nomad who's working with Simplilearn as a Content Writer. She's a major in English language and literature, a word connoisseur who loves writing about raging technologies, digital marketing, and career conundrums.

View More
  • Disclaimer
  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.