Rules to Avoid Spam Filters when Email Marketing

How much time have you spent wondering and trying to figure out WHY your emails are ending up in the SPAM folder?

There’s gotta be a rule book or something that spells out spam rules for email marketing!

Well, my virtual friend, wonder no more.

I’m guiding you through the steps you need to know in order to get your emails OUT of the SPAM folder and INto the inbox.

Your subscribers SUBSCRIBED to your emails for a reason. Make sure they’re getting your offers and juicy content so that they will become your biggest fans.

So where do we start with getting your emails out of the SPAM folder?

The why. It always starts with the why.  So we’ll start at the beginning as we cover rules and email marketing best practices to avoid spam folders.

In spam rules for email marketing, we’ll cover your:

  • Sender Reputation
  • Opt-Ins
  • Hard Bounces
  • Engagement
  • Email Domain
  • Sender IP
  • Inactive Contacts

Check your reputation.

Yes, a SENDER reputation (you must like me for me- take it, T-Swift!). Shocker, I know.

Just to be clear, there are A LOT of factors that go into getting your emails out of the SPAM folder and into the Inbox. Some we have control over, some we do not.

The area we can really key in on is Sender Reputation. We have control over that one. Having a healthy sender reputation opens doors to prospects’ and customers’ inboxes.

Sender Reputation: Everything you do online is tracked (including where you’re sending your emails from i.e. the IP address your emails are coming from).

Like all things in this digital life, the IP address you send your emails from is tracked.

Email clients like gmail, Outlook, Yahoo and their ilk are watching how their users are interacting with your emails. They look at Open rates. They look at SPAM complaints.  They run a spam check and assign an email spam score.

They have algorithms they are constantly adjusting to make sure the emails that end up in the Inbox are what their users want.

What that means for you: Make sure your reputation stays squeaky clean. How?

By default, most Email Service Providers require you to include an unsubscribe link in the footer of your emails.

That’s because:

  1. A) It’s the law.
  2. B) You would rather have someone unsubscribe from your emails rather than mark them as SPAM. Giving them the option to opt out helps your sender reputation.

If people don’t want your emails anymore, don’t make it hard for them to opt-out.

Don’t hide the unsubscribe link buried in a bunch of disclaimer text.

If they can’t easily figure out how to stop receiving emails from you, their other option is to mark you as SPAM.

Which would you prefer? An unsubscribe or a ding to your sender reputation?


So how do you protect your reputation? Let’s start with how to avoid hurting it. Yes, you want people to SAY they WANT your emails.

ALWAYS have an Unsubscribe Link and don’t make it hard to find.  And check your email for spam score.


Avoid Getting Marked as SPAM with Contact Opt-In

The next rule for email marketing best practices to avoid spam?

Have your contacts opt-in- This term refers to permission-based marketing.

Otherwise known as: did your email subscriber ASK to receive the promotional emails you are sending to them?

And not like a winky, “Hey we met at a thing” or “I bought something from you” or “I listed my email address on my LinkedIn profile” so that means “I want to receive every sales, promotional, newsletter, update, puppy video, Happy Pie Day email from you.”

Opting-In means explicit consent. (Because we all know consent is sexy).

It means that someone checked a box or filled out a form that says something to the effect of “Yes, please send more promotional information about your brand.”

Why does this matter?

Because if people didn’t explicitly SAY they want to receive promotional emails from you, then why would they want to GET promotional emails from you?

How many times have you gotten a promotional/sales email from someone who you didn’t give permission to send you those types of emails?

What was your reaction? Delight? Joy? Relief?

I’m gonna guess… no.

It was probably more like, “What the??”

If there was an unsubscribe at the bottom of that email, you probably hit it. If not, you probably hit the SPAM button.

How spot-on am I here? Are you getting spooked out? I thought so.

If people aren’t expecting an email from you, and they didn’t give you permission to email you, then what are they going to do?

Mark you as SPAM.

Again, that is tracked back to your IP and therefore, sender reputation. Your sender email spam score takes a hit when you get marked as SPAM. 

The bottom line here: Send emails to people who actually let you know they WANT them.

Check your Hard Bounces

Very technical, no?

This must be some new dance craze on TikTok that I’m not familiar with.

What is a hard bounce anyway? It’s when an email address cannot be delivered to.

So the email address either doesn’t exist or deliveries to that email address are being blocked for some reason.

Why does your sender reputation get dinged for hard bounces?

A lot of hard bounces within a short period of time indicates that those email addresses have been scraped from somewhere.

I mean if you think about it, if you are sending campaigns regularly to your list, you’ll get a few hard bounces here and there as people change their email addresses. That’s naturally going to happen.

Getting a significant number of hard bounces means you either have fake email addresses in your system or outdated email addresses. Either way, there’s something fishy going on with your email list and that’s tracked your IP.

Check your bounce rates, and clean them up so you can avoid spam filters in your email marketing


Check your engagement

If you have a VERY low open rate (like under 5%), you’re going to raise some red flags with your IP.

Again, this tells email clients that people are not interested in your email campaigns which can suggest that you aren’t using healthy opt-in practices.

And what happens when people don’t opt-in?

You guessed it!

So another reminder to check your engagement and check your email spam score.

Sending From Your Own Domain

If you are using an Email Service Provider (i.e. Mailchimp), you are typically defaulted to having your emails sent through their shared server.

This means you are sharing an IP address with other companies and organizations who are also using that Email Service Provider.

If that’s the case, you don’t know what practices those other accounts are using to send emails. They may be sending emails to people who didn’t ask to receive them. If that’s the case, then they might not be utilizing their own email marketing best practices to avoid spam and getting sent STRAIGHT to SPAM.

Not a good look.

That’s why you’ll want to send from your own domain.

You can create a sub-account (example:, and then authenticate it with your Email Service Provider.

Each Email Service Provider has its own steps to take to do this. If you’re not sure what to do just Google “Domain authentication <insert ESP name here> “

You should be able to find the documentation.

If this is WAY above your head, talk to your web developer. They’ll know what to do.

Sending your emails from an email address with your domain helps with authority building and makes your emails look a little safer.

Keep Your IP Warm


An often overlooked-but-easy to implement email marketing best practice to avoid spam?

Email often and consistently.

Since part of your sender reputation is based off of your level of engagement that your contacts take with your brand, then sending regularly is a must.

You have to GIVE your subscribers a chance to interact with you.

That means sending an email at least once per month, ideally once per week. But hey, we all have to start somewhere.

If you don’t have a dedicated email content calendar, now’s the time to create one.

Email often and regularly.


Clean Your List out of Inactive Contacts


How many of your contacts haven’t opened any emails since they joined your list?

How many of your contacts haven’t opened any emails in over a year?

Not sure? Now’s the time to check it out.

If a chunk of your contact list isn’t opening your emails, then they’re dragging your engagement rate down.

I KNOW it’s hard letting go of those hard won subscribers, but it’s for the greater good.

Do it for the people who REALLY want to see your emails but aren’t getting them because they are getting lost in the SPAM folder.

Clean up your list and clean up your email spam score.


There you have it. MORE than enough email marketing best practice to avoid spam tips to get you going rescuing your emails from SPAM.

Now just to be clear, an AMAZING email deliverability rate is 99%. That’s what top brands who have the resources to dedicate to this have.

That means that at least 1% of their emails are going to SPAM, so there’s always going to be that chance.

BUT staying on top of these practices will keep your list humming along and helping you reach your goals.

Need Some Help With Getting Contacts to Opt-In?

Check out the FREE GUIDE: Supercharge Your Lead Magnet

“Best” Practices For Using Images in Email

“Best” Practices For Using Images in Email

When you’re not sure how to fully leverage images in your email campaigns, you can get stuck scratching your head longer than it takes to design the entire email.
I get it. The back end email world can get complicated quickly, and you want to make sure your emails are not only eye-catching, but readable.
I hesitate to use the term “best practices” because every audience and technology differs. Instead, I put together the top lessons learned over my career for you to keep in mind.

1. Sizing

Most Email Service Providers (i.e. Mailchimp) have a set width they constrain the entire body of your email to.
That sizing can vary between 600 and 700px. Check your email service provider to see what their default is.
If in doubt, design all of your images 700px wide. Your Email Service Provide will auto-adjust.

2. Mobile Responsiveness.

We know that over half of emails are read on mobile devices.
When you’re thinking about inserting imagines into your email campaigns, always think about how it will look on mobile.
That might mean making your emails longer so that they render better on a portrait sized screen.

3. Text On Images

a) Accessibility
When you’re thinking about putting text on images, you can’t forget about how to keep your overall digital marketing strategy accessible.
People who rely on text-to-speech readers on their computers and mobile devices rely on there actually being text that their technology can read to them.
They can’t read the text that is embedded in your image.
That’s why it’s imperative to include “alt-text” on each image. This option is available in every Email Service Provider.
There will be a box in your image settings that is called “alt text” that lets you type out the text on the image.
b) Mobile Responsive
If you put tiny text in an image that is designed for desktop, and shrink it down to mobile, you’ll want to check out how it reads on mobile.
I see this all too often. Text placed on an image that looks okay on desktop, but is barely legible on mobile.
Make sure your font sizes are at least 28px if you plan on doing this.
c) Disabled Images
 Some email clients like Outlook and gmail will auto-disable images from unknown senders.
That means if ALL of your content is in images, these subscribers will have to go the extra step of enabling images in order to see your content.
We know as marketers, that every additional step we ask a user to take, is a place we could potentially lose them.
Having alt-text will help this OR limiting your use of images with text placed on them.
Here’s what an email looks like if it’s all image with text on it and it has not been optimized for mobile or alt-text

4. Image-to-Text-Ratio

So maybe having your entire email ALL images isn’t the greatest strategy for some. If you keep all of the above in mind, you can probably get away with it.

I’ve heard that having an all image email can get your email marked as SPAM. I have not seen that to be true.

Some recommend to keep your images to 20% of the entire email campaign because of this.

My recommendation is to sprinkle images throughout your campaign. If you’re strapped for resources, include a nice header image with the title of your content and then place everything else as text and buttons in the email.

Plus, if your email is mostly text, it is much easier to make sure it is mobile responsive across devices, browsers and email clients.

Wrapping up, here’s what you need to remember about including images in your campaigns.
  1. Visual appeal of an email is important, but don’t let beautiful design trump usability.
  2. If you’re using a lot of images, make sure they are mobile responsive and have alt-text.
  3. Break up your images and include text with them to make sure they are legible across devices.


As a marketer, you’re a leader. You are LEADING and GUIDING your subscribers to convert.

If it’s not clear what’s in it for your subscriber, they’ll stop reading. They’ll ignore your emails. They’ll eventually unsubscribe.

Let’s walk through a real-life example.

I received this email from a tech company about a new product partnership they were launching.



Here’s where it misses the mark:

  • The value is buried. What’s in it for the subscriber? The lead sentence starts with “Today I want to share the story of Ryan…” The headline needs to make it clear what the reader is going to GET from the email, not what the author wants to do.
  • The action is buried. Take a look at the email again. What does the sender want you to do in the email? Somewhere there’s a hyperlink to learn more about Ryan’s story. Somewhere there’s a hyperlink that invites you to “get your own mobile app.” How long did it take for you to find that information? The reader should be able to skim the email and know what you want them to do almost immediately.
  • The offer is buried.  The ultimate goal of this email is clearly to sign up for the mobile app. But it takes a close read to get that information. Plus, they offer a 21 day risk-free trial. That is offered as an after-thought instead of made clearly.


I couldn’t help myself, so I redesigned their email.
See a redesigned email user experience:

What’s Improved:

  • The value is in the headline. Readers need to know what’s in it for them immediately. Why should they care? Why should they read on? Reaching learners everywhere is definitely a benefit. Lead with that!
  • The text layout is easier to read. Breaking up sections of text makes it seem easier to read. It’s not a big blob of copy that feels overwhelming to read. Who’s got that kind of time???
  • Devoted space for the offer.  Instead of the offer being buried amidst text, this email has a specific call out for it. When someone scrolls the email, they’ll immediately notice the change in the section and stop scrolling to learn more.


Now, how can YOU improve your email user experience?

RECYCLE EMAIL CAMPAIGN – your time saving secret weapon

The only people who read and remember every word of your email campaigns are your mom and grandpa.

That’s why the most underrated emailmarketing strategy is to REPEAT YOUR EMAILS.


Let’s say you have a 25% open rate on your emails. (A decent open rate).

That means 75% of your audience didn’t even open your email to read it.

Of the 25% who DID open your email, not everyone read the ENTIRE email.

And EVEN IF THEY DID READ your email, did they RETAIN the information?

I’m gonna take a guess here and say NOPE.

RECYCLE your content and your email campaigns.

Not only does it lighten your workload, but it can take multiple times to see something before your audience ABSORBS the information and then takes ACTION.

What does that look like?

Repeat your offers in every single email you send. Don’t expect everyone to remember what you sell.

Repeat your CONTENT a few times a year. Yes, that can mean sending out THE SAME EXACT EMAIL every few months. (Freshen up the subject line and no one will know the difference).

Stop re-inventing the wheel every time you send out an email campaign. Give yourself a break and recycle an old email.

Email marketing Campaign Brief: Why You Need One

As we all know, coming up with creative for marketing campaigns is only half the battle.

The other half: executing an email marketing campaign.

Between five million links that go in an email, the right list, segment, and send date and time, there are too many pieces to keep track of.

On top of that, if you’re collaborating with multiple stakeholders (designers, copywriters, etc.) and have to get final sign-off from someone, you’ve got a mess on your hands.


How do you keep track of it all? An email marketing campaign brief.


What is an email marketing campaign brief?

A marketing campaign brief is like order form for a piece of marketing content.

It has everything you need to “order up” in one beautiful document that can be handed off between collaborators so they know what they need to do.

Take that and apply it specifically to email marketing campaigns and you have ONE PLACE where everyone goes in order to get their instructions for the campaign.

An email marketing campaign brief typically includes:

  • An overview of the campaign. The overview should answer these questions: What is the purpose of the campaign? What are you trying to accomplish? Is there anything unique about it that stakeholders need to take into consideration?
  • Goals and metrics. Documenting your goals and the primary metrics you want to look at to assess success will help you align everyone on your team (plus leadership) on what it is you’re actually doing. And let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t exactly know what we’re doing (and colleagues two steps removed from the process certainly won’t know what you’re doing either).
  • Copywriting direction. What messaging does the copywriter need to consider? Is there a particular style or theme you want them to use? Be as specific as possible.
  • Design direction. What graphics do you need from the designer? What dimensions are they? Is there design inspiration you can give them so they know what you’re looking for? Do you have stock or product photography you want them to use?
  • Email publishing details. Things like date and time and list/segment.


Why you need an email marketing campaign brief

Your Team Won’t Have to Bug You As Much

Whether you’re working with one collaborator or 10, you need to be able to communicate what you’ll need in order to deploy your email.

When someone asks what they need to do for a specific email campaign, all you have to do is point to your email marketing campaign brief.


Your Emails Will Get Out Faster

One more unnecessary meeting is the last thing anyone wants. If they can be avoided, you and your team will have a few more moments for some deep breathing.

Incessant back and forth to try and figure out the directions for a project slows it down. When you have all of the details in one place, you’ve essentially built the manual on how to build an email marketing campaign.

That’s what an email marketing campaign brief does. Write it all down in one doc to speed up the process.


Your Email Campaigns Will Start Hitting Goals

Determining your goals for any given campaign can be its own challenge.

Documenting it helps it become crystal clear on what you’re trying to accomplish for everyone on your team.

It also pre-empts to occasional relentless questioning of “Why did you do it this way?”

If you can’t articulate why you planned an email campaign, key stakeholders won’t know why you did it either.

Plus, once you know your goals, you’ll be able to focus in on the appropriate metrics to report out on.

Your Creative Team Will Love You

Creatives aren’t mindreaders. (Shocking, I know).

If you’ve ever worked with a designer or copywriter who kept delivering the wrong thing, it could have been that just weren’t good at their job.

It also could have been that you weren’t able to articulate exactly what you were looking for.

Articulating parameters for creative projects is a hard task, but an email marketing campaign brief can allow you to link to inspiration, design assets, and other notes that will help get things written and designed in line with your vision.


How To Create an Email Marketing Campaign Brief

Your options for developing your own email marketing campaign brief are:

  1. Google some email marketing campaign brief templates.
  2. Draft up your own email marketing campaign brief and tweak it as you go.
  3. Download the version I’ve used to plan and execute literally thousands of email campaign briefs.

If option three is more your speed, go ahead and download it!

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