What Causes Cold Emails to Land in Spam & How to Avoid it for Higher Deliverability.

Why is it that cold emails have a high chance of landing in spam?

Whenever your emails land in the spam and junk folders, it means:

  • they were not viewed
  • they were not opened
  • the links were not clinked and
  • No revenue

This has seemingly gone downhill quickly, but there is no reason to worry.

By the end of this article, your email deliverability rates will certainly be increased, and avoid landing in junk and spam folders. 

Below are the common types of spam:

  • Commercial advertisement: it could be spam or legitimate advertisement from newsletters you have already subscribed to.
  • Antivirus warning: This creates clickbait so that people click the link and scan their device for the virus. Once you have clinked the link, hackers gain access to your system.
  • Email Spoofing: uses fake emails from a particular organization that mimics a legitimate message from the corporate.
  • Sweepstakes winners: informs you of having won a price that you should claim if you click the link provided.
  • Money scam: is a fabricated story about a need for money towards a certain cause, emergency, or even similar event. Perhaps you are aware of the “Nigerian prince” scheme.

Emails that arrive in Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, and other email clients pass by spam-check which is done through spam filters.

Spam Filter

These are systems that determine whether an email reaches the recipient’s inbox or spam folder.

Spam filters process incoming emails in order to ensure spam emails do not reach the user’s inbox.

They detect virus-infected, unsolicited, and unwanted emails also called spam emails.  

A commercial advert for instance could be an authentic business offer, but lands in the spam folder due to various reasons.

One reason is that the subject line used by the business for the email has a spammy character or words. 

Hence, you should know the difference between spam and phishing. 

A spam email means a bulk email targeting a large audience to promote a particular product or service. It is also a scheme of making money, though not as ‘advanced’ as phishing.

Phishing happens when someone disguises themselves as a real brand or even an organization with a good reputation and tries to access people’s sensitive information such as:

  • Bank Account details
  • Social security numbers
  • Apple ID
  • Credit card details

3 Reasons Why Your Emails Land in Spam

If you send your cold emails and most of them land in spam folders, it means your spam score remains high.

A spam algorithm is what would give your cold email campaign initiative a score that determines whether it goes to the spam folder or inbox.

I will assist you to know the 3 reasons why your emails could be landing in spam. 

  • Your Email marketing process

The spam scoring algorithm for every email client is never public but works on basis of spam filters.

Your marketing process via cold email affects the deliverability. For instance, sending bulk emails that lack personalization increases the risk of landing in the spam folder.

It also happens when you buy cold email lists and send them without recipients’ consent.

The way you manage your process of emails marketing determines your deliverability of cold emails and is one reason why your emails could be landing in spam folders.

  • Your subscribers’ behavior

2 signals define your subscribers’ behavior

  • Positive signals
  • Negative signals

Let’s discuss each one of this

Positive signals

Open: Subscribers open your campaign emails often and clink the links you sent. This ensures your emails will mostly land in the inbox.

Reply: If your subscribers frequently get in touch by replying to your cold emails, it helps improve the overall reputation particularly with email providers.

Add to address book: It happens when your subscribers add your cold email address into their address book.It means they value your emails and this ensures your domain will always deliver them to their inbox.

Not Spam: When recipients move your cold emails from the spam folder or mark them as “not spam”, it becomes a strong and positive signal.For email providers, it means their campaigns are relevant and worthy of reaching the target audience’s inbox. 

Move to folder: if your cold emails are often moved to different folders of the subscriber’s inbox, it means the subscribers value your emails and there is a higher possibility of continuing to deliver them to their inbox.

Negative Signals

Move to junk: This is a strong negative signal that means your email campaigns are not worth being delivered into the recipient’s inboxes.

Delete without open: After a short view of the sender and the subject line, your subscribers delete your campaign message. This increases the chances that your future campaign messages will land in the spam folder.

Email Engagement and Sender Reputation (domain history): You need to note that if your cold emails are consistently having a poor engagement, for example, higher bounce rate, filters might adapt resulting in future emails getting into spam folders.

When the sender and recipient email address is the same, a warning message would be displayed above the email.

Hint: You can use different personal email address to preview email sending.

Corporate email domains have spam filters which are stricter than filters for free email clients.

Let’s assume the email address of the sender you set through Rubedo email software is your email address and you have sent that message to yourself.

The impression created is that the email you sent came from your own email client.

However, it’s possible that email clients would detect the sending server is not theirs but external.

  • The reputation of the sending server IP addresses of your email software

This is the third major factor in your email deliverability. The same way we have to motivate our users in order to protect their email addresses and the reputation of the domain is the same thing we do at Rubedo.

We have to constantly monitor our own credibility, examine the potential deliverability risks while implementing new technologies that will assist maintain our server’s efficiency. 

Must-Apply Tips to Help Your Cold Email Campaign Not Land in Spam.

Spam filters remove unwanted cold emails out of contacts’ inboxes but valuable emails can unintentionally be swept away.

To ensure emails do not land in junk or spam folders, below are the must-apply tips

Set your DKIM records

After signing up for new email software, make it a top priority to set up your DKIM record before embarking on any campaign.

DKIM or Domain Keys Identified Mail is the email authentication technique that would allow the receiver to check whether an email was actually sent or authorized by the domain’s owner.

Using non-techie language, this is done if the email is given an encrypted secure but not visible digital signature.

The receiver or the receiving system such as Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook, etc. determines whether an email was signed using a valid DKIM signature during the delivery of your email. 

DKIM signature is not visible to the end-users and validation is done on the server level. It means your subscribers cannot see the digital signature.

Implementation of the DKIM standard improves your cold email deliverability and prevents them from landing in the junk or spam folder.

After you have set up the DKIM records, your next priority should be SPF.

Set Your SPF records

SPF or Sender Policy Framework refers to an authentication scheme for authorizing certain servers so that they can send emails through your domain’s name.

SPF records are used for preventing spammers from spoofing your domain as well as minimizing the chances that your email will land into the spam folder or bounce.

Hence, SPF records can increase your open rates significantly.

  • Warm Up Your SMTP

Warm doesn’t mean just sending a low volume of emails even though this is one of the ways. It means that having configured your email correctly, you start sending in low numbers but at the same time you are receiving feedback. As such, I would propose automating the process. A tool like Rubedo Warm-Up can help one to hack this right.

Perhaps you have come across many articles that discuss sending thousands of emails daily. Always remember your history should be the rule. There is no need of feeling ashamed of sending 20, 50, 100 emails per day, particularly if yours is email cold outreach: cold leads would be eager not to open your emails and can easily mark your email as spam.

Situations are different for cold-emailing, sending newsletters, or even sending many transactional emails such as automated emails-email confirmation, billing receipts.

If you have not been using your email IP and domain for a while, start by sending 50 emails on day 1, this would most probably land the emails in spam, leading to a bad IP reputation score. Whether a new email account or static one for at least 30 days, it should be warmed up.

Personalize your emails

It increases your subscriber’s engagement with your emails while improving the contact’s experience with the brand.  

Unlike mass addressing and repeated typical starts, personalized and uniquely written email gains user’s trust and that of email clients.

If you display your human nature, show your Name, Company Address, Phone number, LinkedIn profile, and a link to your company calendar it could easily land your email in the recipient’s inbox.

Test your email subject lines

I would recommend that you test your emails in tools that understand the email subject line to ensure:

  • No use of spammy phrases
  • No addition of spammy characters
  • The subject line is not likely to be flagged by spam filters

Most likely, it would receive a zero score because of spammy characters and phrases.

It is possible to include spammy words in the subject line without realizing they were spammy in the first place.

For this reason, I would advise that you test your subject line before you send it.

This can be done by having your subject line written in the tester, where it’s scored, then you are provided with a high-performing template for the subject line that can be applied.

Rephrase template content

One advantage associated with the use of ESPs (email service providers) is pre-built email templates.

It helps save time that you could otherwise be used in designing cold emails campaign or writing copies.

However, pre-built templates for emails are too generic and are easy to flag as spam by spam filters.

Even when your marketing software offers the best email copies, I would recommend that you rephrase the content to your own unique style.

Personalizing your email campaigns helps avoid the use of generic templates that could interfere with email deliverability. This is a capability that Rubedo System offers

Use a real reply to address

Email clients determine whether your reply-to email is a real email address or not. You need to establish if you had received any response from any previous emails. 

Many people would not bother replying to spammers to emails they do not care about.

Hence, receiving responses is obviously a positive signal that people consider your emails legitimate and care about them.

Hint:  Avoid emails such as noreply@yourcompany.com because to subscribers it means you are not interested in their views and opinion.

Be aware of spammy phrases

In the email’s subject line and body, there are spam-trigger phrases, words, and characters that would cause it to head to spam or junk folder.

A single instance does not mean the email would be filtered, but the more widespread such characters, phrases, and words appear throughout the campaign, the more the risk of landing in spam folders.

Below are some spammy phrases that you should always avoid:

  • Act now

  • $$
  • Click here
  • Urgent
  • 100%
  • Free gift
  • Prize
  • Cheap
  • No fees
  • Pure profit
  • Risk-free

Keep the Content and subject line short

An email client would start routing your emails into the junk folders if they realize your contacts are not reading the emails.

The solution lies in keeping your cold emails consistent in order to grab your contacts’ attention and show them value so that they could clink on your CTA.

Avoid using too many images

Ensure your image to text ratio is kept low, avoid the use of one, big image because it’s a trigger of spam filter. Also, it’s unresponsive.

Image-only cold emails are used by spammers in order to avoid phrase detecting. 

Yet, some advanced spam filters can detect the content of an image, becoming a highly rated signal in spam scoring.

You should design your email newsletter in a way that ensures a balance of images, copy, and CTA. This increases your click rate.

Hint: Crop or optimize your images where possible but do not insert an image that has long text.

Include an “Unsubscribe” Link

Your email campaigns must be accompanied by unsubscribe link and you need not get frustrated if someone clicks on it.

You may need to provide your contacts accompanied by various options for your clients to update their preferences rather than unsubscribe from all your lists.

Failure to provide unsubscribe links is a violation of CAN-SPAM, GDPR, and CASL compliance laws that may attract rather expensive fines.

Miss out obscure fonts

Obscure fonts are unreadable and serve one evil objective of getting your emails to the junk and spam folders.

The best option is to stick to those fonts that are known to work across platforms such as Arial, Georgia, Verdana, and Times New Roman.

Keep away from link shortener apps

The use of link shortener apps makes your website URL less recognizable.

Link shorteners are used by spammers to hide malicious links, triggers spam filters, and may disable the links, which means subscribers will not be redirected to your page.

Hint: Use CTA buttons or hyperlinks in redirecting subscribers to your website.   

You should always send newsletters from your business domain

Sending marketing emails from the free domains increases the risk of your newsletters being sent straight to the junk or spam folder.  

It is well known and is okay to send emails to your colleagues and friends from domains such as @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, etc.

However, the use of email marketing software’s servers when sending emails from free email addresses reduces the chances of landing in the inbox.

Again, we need to be honest… your contacts cannot trust an email sender who lacks a business domain.

Tip: Make use of reliable and clear names such as “info@”, “newsletter@”, “myname@”, or “contact@”

Segment your emails

If your content is not targeted enough to meet the interest of your subscribers, most of your emails will be marked as spam or the majority would unsubscribe your campaign messages.

Hence, your email clients will most likely put you out of your inbox and into the promotions tab and worse still, wide up in the spam or junk folder.

This includes your entire list of contacts who like hearing and getting your messages and not those who flagged you as spammer only.

The solution lies in segmenting your contacts in line with their interests in order to send the right message to the right persons.

Conclusion; The HCA Framework

In conclusion, you need to do spam in ISP’s eyes since your account should always act like a human. Nevertheless, sending many emails daily may not meet this requirement. You need to note there is no checklist because spam filter rules are often customized, changing, and obscure… we need to analyze the situation further.

To ensure my email accounts “act normal” and emails do not land in spam, I advise my clients to consider three key parameters; the HCA Framework:

• History of their IP/domain

• Content of their emails

• Activity of their account.