Email Sand Traps: How To Keep Your Messages From Being Blocked

Spam folders are storage spaces for unwanted emails.  

Email bounces are like letters marked "Return to sender" -- and a hard bounce is worse because it is permanent. 

This may sound discouraging. But those outcomes can be avoided by putting your emails through a nuanced, pre-send process, according to How to Improve Email Deliverability and Optimize Each Send, a paper by Litmus and Salesforce.  

Here are some effective tricks: 

IP Warming

This is is the practice of “slowly sending emails from a new IP address or domain name and gradually increasing send volume over time until you’ve “proven” yourself as a legitimate sender.  

It sounds a little sneaky at first. But what you are really doing is ingratiating yourself with the ISPs. First, allow a period of four to eight weeks. Send a limited number of emails to start—use your new domain or IP in emails to maybe 1% of your list, doubling the total each week. 



Send messages  with the highest open- and click-to-open rates. 

List Validation

It also pays to validate your list, making sure that every person on it wants to be there. This requires that you:

  • Confirm that all subscribers are opted-in. 
  • Set proper expectations about what you will be sending, and how often. 
  • Note where and when a subscriber has opted in. 
  • Check in with subscribers you have not heard from, and give them a chance to opt out.

One last admonition: Never purchase outside list. 

Test Your Emails 

It’s easy to end up in the spam folder. Check these elements first: 

  • Broken links—Send an email to yourself, and make sure the links are working.  
  • Rendering—Look at your email on multiple email clicnts, including Outlook, Apple Mail and Gmail, and on smartphones, tablets and laptops.  
  • Spam Filters—Run your email through the common ones. Most providers will give your email a deliverability score for each ISP.  

Getting Around Apple MPP

Then there’s the problem of Apple Mail Privacy Protection. As widely reported, this records every email as an open, so you’ll probably see inflated opens and a lower CTOR. There is a way around it—by driving and monitoring engagement. 

First, ask what and where are your calls-to-action? What is the goal of the email?

Then, encourage true interaction with clickable elements like polls, thumbs, up/thumbs down signals and gamification. Finally, measure click-through rates. 

And don’t forget: opens aren’t recorded at all in a spam folder. A sudden dip even in inflated opens would signal you’re hitting the spam folder.  

Set up Your Infrastructure

Confirm your authentication and infrastructure. That means using these tools to verify the identity of senders:

  • Sender Policy Framework—This allows ISPs to double-check that an incoming email from a specific domain has actually been sent from that domain.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)—This shows your email is associated with your domain.  
  • DMARC (Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance—This combats phishing and can help you identify abusive senders impersonating you. 

The full report can be accessed here

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