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

[bravepop id="341970" align="center"]