how to keep your email newsletter from ending up in spam

You’ve heard about the black list of doom, how do you keep yourself off?

If you’ve started your email newsletter, probably you’ve also heard a lot of things about how not to end up in spam, or (more importantly) how to keep yourself from being blacklisted. This sounds like a scary prospect, and it’s good that you want to avoid it. Fortunately, the rules are super easy, so we’ve taken a moment to lay them out for you.

Ask Permission

This is the first (and maybe only) rule for staying in the clear for most email marketing services. If you’re using one of these services to send out email to a mailing list, they will ask you if you have permission to be sending these emails. You have permission if:

  • They have filled out a form asking to be on your list
  • They have ticked a checkbox on a form saying “yes, send me stuff”
  • They have email you asking to be on the list
  • In any other verifiable way told you that they want to be on your list

They have not given you permission if:

  • You know them personally and assume that they’d want to hear from you
  • You really did your research and you are super sure they want to hear from you
  • They gave you permission for a different newsletter (but not the one you’re about to send them)
  • They have not actually expressly told you that you have permission

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? It is, but sometimes people give you permission, and then they forget, or maybe a few months go by before you get around to emailing them and by then the permission they gave you has expired.

A surprising number of people will flag emails as spam even when they gave permission simply because they don’t want them anymore and don’t realize the consequences of flagging for spam. So here are a couple other bonus things you can do to make sure people on your email list stay happy with you.

State clearly what your subscribers are signing up for

Let’s say you have a form on your website which says “subscribe here to receive our weekly newsletter in which we’ll keep you up to date about upcoming events and volunteering opportunities.” Great. Excellent. Perfect. Keep that form. But then: only send those emails. Don’t start using that same mailing list to promote your fundraising drive. Don’t start emailing them every day when they only asked to hear from you once a week. That’s not what they signed up for. Respect that.

Make unsubscribing easy

If you don’t want to end up in spam, make sure that it’s easy to unsubscribe from your list. Don’t make the unsubscribe button super teeny-tiny, don’t call it something other than “unsubscribe,” don’t make them fill out a 3000-question survey about why they don’t want to hear from you anymore before they’re allowed to unsubscribe.

This doesn’t mean you have to make the button huge, orange, and flashy. Put it in a 11pt, bold, dark-grey font and leave it be. People who are looking for it will be able to find it, and that’s the point. If they don’t want to hear from you, let them go.

The bottom line is: you only ever want to be sending emails to people who want to receive emails from you. So make sure they’ve asked to hear from you, make sure you give them what you said you would, and make it easy for them to walk away when they want. Not so hard, right?
Awesome. Then go forth and send that newsletter.

Published 06/23/16 by Laura Lynch