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When the concept of email marketing first arrived on the scene, the computer using public opened every email they received with hubris and without fear. Today, an estimated 95% of all email sent is spam and/or potentially harmful to a computer. The days of being able to open our email with impunity is long gone. Still, email marketing remains one of the most lucrative forms of ecommerce marketing today. Check out this video for a good look at how email works… What Happens When You Hit Send on your Email?

Email Marketing is…

  • Inexpensive compared to other forms of marketing and advertising
  • Easily tracked and analyzed to an Amazing degree
  • An opportunity for an impressive ROI (Return on Investment)

In 2003, both the European Union and the US congress enacted policy regulating electronic communications. (The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations and the Can-Spam Act) Since then, companies (And individuals) are prohibited from using personal email addresses for the purpose of marketing without consent. A whole slew of rules and regulations have since been added that, if printed, would wipe out a good-sized forest.  In today’s world of email marketing, there are strict rules to follow and even an honest marketer can be inadvertently blacklisted.
(See Specifically: Directive PEC Article 13)

Other Forms of Spam Detection

Individual ISPs have also introduced Spam filters designed to catch and report spam email and prevent it from arriving in our inboxes. These intelligent programs, like SpamAssassin by Apache, follow a strict set of protocols to recognize and seek out spam regardless of how well it is disguised. As a result, mistakes are made with alarming frequency. Once your marketing email is flagged and you are blacklisted, even by mistake, it is extremely difficult to reverse.

When your legitimate marketing email is flagged as spam and/or deleted as spam, it is called a False Positive. There is a scoring system in place and the higher you score, the more likely it is that your email will be labeled as spam. If you score too high, your good address can be blacklisted. There are steps that you can take to help prevent false positives and keep your score as low as possible.

Email Marketing Tips that help you achieve a low score

  • Servers and Spam Filters are blind when it comes to images. Unless you tell them what the image is, they can become confused and accidentally label your marketing email as spam. Using Alt Tags will help you to avoid this mistake. When an Alt Tag is added to your image, it tells the server and spam filter what the image is and allows it to go through unmolested.
  • ISPs such as Verizon and Google use various methods to ensure that you are sending email from a trusted domain. For this reason, it is important that you authenticate your email so that you can be easily identified. Your email marketing software will have a setting for authentication. Make sure you set it to “Enable Authentication” or other setting depending upon your marketing tool.
  • Personalizing your domain name makes you more readily identifiable and less likely to be placed into spam by the recipient. Many people will not open an unrecognized URL. Domain names used by email service providers are by default and do not reflect you or your company name.
  • Never include a statement proclaiming that you email is not spam. Most anti-spam programs take this as a sure sign that you are spam.
  • Avoid the kind of pushy sales language that spammers use. Certain phrases and key words are looked for by anti-spam programs to help them identify spam. Avoid words that are all caps.
  • Never assume that just because someone makes a purchase on your ecommerce website, that person wants to be included on your mailing list. Give them the option to subscribe and leave it alone.
  • Never send auto responder email to your email contact list. Imported contacts added to a subscribers list is just bad form.

Email Marketing Best Practices that help get your emails seen

  • It is always a good idea to use a double opt-in when signing up recipients. This serves two purposes. It ensures your recipients did not sign up by mistake and it helps them to remember that they signed up in the first place.
  • Avoid using too many images. One image per paragraph is the norm.
  • Use videos (One is enough) that provide more information on your topic.
  • Always include a clear and easy to find “Unsubscribe” link. Never send email to anyone who has unsubscribed.
  • Be personal in your content. Do not offer “Too good to be true” statements. Your subscribers will appreciate honest, easy to understand content that speaks to them as neighbors and friends.
  • Those on your subscriber list that do not respond to your email marketing for a long period of time should receive an email confirming their continued desire for your marketing email or newsletter.
  • Use clear and interesting subject lines that are not misleading. Always make sure the subject matches your content. Test your subject line here.
  • Try to stick to one offer at a time. Too many offers in one email may confuse your subscribers or come off as pushy.
  • Be thorough, providing as much pertinent information as possible to avoid confusion or disappointment. Leaving the price or a deadline out of an offer or contest could come back to bite you.
  • Use a clear hook in the first few sentences. Your subscribers may not continue to read if the intent of the email is not made known in the first paragraph.
  • Consider telling the customer what they will receive, not what you offer. People visualize themselves with the product if you use this type of terminology.
  • Format your email so that there appears to be plenty of space. Use short paragraphs that are double-spaced. (Remember, one image per paragraph looks neat and uncluttered)
  • Why lose subscribers who simply will not make a purchase online? Include a toll free phone number prominently in your email.
  • For existing customers or recipients, include interesting and informative content and give the sales pitch a rest. They will appreciate it.
  • If you have unique knowledge about individual customers in your database, use it to make your emails more personable every now and then. Choose one or two subscribers from your list and really personalize a contact once in a while.

Test and Follow the Rules

As with any other type of marketing, testing your design and style is an important part of optimization. Test everything from the font to the color of your Call to Action button. Follow the rules and do not do anything that would cause your email to be mistaken for spam. If you make it a point to have fun with your email marketing campaign, you and your subscribers should have a profitable experience.

Tools That Make the Difference


Working from inside your email provider (Like Gmail and others) Scope is a free tool from the hardworking marketers at Litmus. (You don’t even have to register to use it) Well thought out and easy to use, simply open your email, hit the Scope button, and you are presenting with a wealth of information.  You get a beautiful web-based rendering with desktop and plain text, mobile, and HTML Source Code views.


More than just an auto responder, MailChimp’s geeks have filled it with cool tools like the HTML to Plain Text Converter (Code named Beaker) and the Subject Line Researcher Project. Think Google’s Keyword Tool only designed with email marketers in mind. Check these and all the other cool tools out at MailChimp.

Have Fun with Email Marketing

Email marketing is considered one of the best marketing strategies around when it comes to a fun and inexpensive way to affect your ROI in a very positive way. The trick to success is to test everything, follow all the rules, and have a good time along the way. While it can be daunting at times… the more you enjoy email marketing, the more your growing list of subscribers will enjoy it as well. Let that joy shine through and watch them respond!

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Daniel Mattei
Daniel Mattei (@mattedt) is a web Marketing Coordinator at Dynamic Search and a filmmaker and founder of Shotlight Productions. He lives with his wife, Grace, and Pomeranian, Couscous in Phoenix, Arizona.