Few would argue that a finely-tuned message is key to the success of an email marketing campaign. At the same time, the styling and delivery of the message can be equally, if not more, important than the message itself. The way your email appears to both people and spam filters can make or break your campaigns.
Unfortunately, the preferences of users and spam filters are directly opposed in some cases. The only way to ensure that your email gets delivered and received well is to create email content with both sets of preferences in mind. For your convenience, here are our set of email content do’s and don’ts.
- Proofread Your Content – This one should be self-explanatory. Spam filters key in on typos and sentences that don’t make sense as signs of spam. For human recipients, errors look unprofessional and careless.
- Balance Text and Images – Spam filters can’t read images. They get suspicious that image-heavy emails are trying to pull one over on them. On the other hand, quality graphics appeal to humans. Large blocks of text do not. Overly text-heavy emails are uninviting and can cause important information to get buried. The solution is to use an appropriate ratio of text and image content. We recommend about 35% image area to 65% text area.
- Use the Right Friendly From – The value that populates the email’s “display-name” field, commonly known as a friendly from, is a text label that appears before an email address. The purpose of a friendly from is to describe the sender beyond their email address. 43% of email recipients will mark an email as spam based on this value. Your friendly from value should be something immediately recognizable, like your company name or website.
- Personalize – Personalization can both encourage a recipient to open your email and please the spam filter. An instance or two of the contact’s first name in the body and/or subject line can go a long way. There’s some debate as to whether too much personalization, especially in the subject line, can trigger spam filters, so the best course is to test with your list.
- Tidy Up Your Code – Poor, excess, and redundant code can trigger some spam filters. Clean, professional code will help your email to look best in all email clients. Issues can occur on the backend when users paste text from other sources (like Microsoft Word) into their HTML template or CMS. Make sure the unnecessary additives from such activities are removed before sending.
- Write in Capital Letters – Writing in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS is the textual equivalent of shouting. Just as you wouldn’t shout your message at a prospect in person, you shouldn’t be shouting at them through their inbox. Strings of capital letters are typically associated with spam, by both humans and filters.
- Use Unnecessary Punctuation/Special Characters – No matter how much you think that fifth exclamation point helps to drive home your message, don’t do it. Overused punctuation, specifically exclamation points, vies with writing in capital letters for the title of most distracting and annoying textual practice. The same goes for special characters (at signs, pound signs, dollar signs, percent signs, etc.). Both excess punctuation and special characters are tried and true triggers for spam filters. Your email may need to contain information about your special 25% discount, but limiting yourself to one or two instances of a percent sign can go a long way in keeping you out of the spam folder.
- Use Many Different Text Formats – The use of several different fonts, very large text, excess use of boldness/italics, and multicolored text not only look poor within emails, but they contribute to your spam score. Your email should have a uniformed style. In general, we recommend using one family of fonts, one to two font colors, and only slightly increased sizing for headers and titles.
- Overlink – Obviously, emails need to have links. Spam filters take issue with a large number of hyperlinks and excessively long link text. Not to mention, overusing hyperlinks takes viewer attention away from the truly important links. In most cases, your email should only have one to two hyperlinks per paragraph. Give your links short and descriptive names, like “Visit Our Shop” or “Read More”, rather than uninformative and spammy ones, like “Click Here”.
- Disguise Text – Though it might be visually pleasing, white text over a graphical background or text over a similarly colored background, can be a spam trigger. Spammers often use hidden text (white on white, tiny text size, rendered invisible, etc.) to trick spam filters with information not meant to be seen by the recipient. Text and background colors without significant contrast can be mistaken for intentionally hidden text by spam filters.
Getting appealing emails to your recipients takes an interesting combination of common sense and conscious effort. Hopefully, this set of best practices will help to jog your memory as you design your next email. If you found these do’s and don’ts valuable, take a look at our full listof email best practices (coming soon).
Let us know what you think:
- What elements are hard to balance for visual appeal and spam prevention?
- How do you stay out of the spam filter?
- Which of our “do’s” do you practice? / Are you guilty of any of our “don’ts”?