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Are you sending spam and don’t know it?

 In Email Marketing, Optimization

The term “Spam” in reference to internet messages was added to the New Oxford English Dictionary in 1998. It’s defined as, “Irrelevant or unsolicited messages sent over the Internet, typically to a large number of users, for the purposes of advertising, phishing, spreading malware, etc.” Since that time, spammers have gotten more creative and crafty, creating email messages that still attempt to deceive its recipients. We can all agree spam messages are very annoying and even make us angry.

So we know you are not a spammer, but what about those contacts who have been removed from your lists because they complained that one of your email campaigns was spam? these spam complaints are bad as they impact your sending reputation and your inbox placement. Did you know the recommended threshold for complaints is not to exceed 0.03% of the total emails sent. That’s right – 0.03%.  Go check your email stats to see what percentage of spam complaints your campaigns get on average. Got it? Ok, now, could you unknowingly be sending spam?!

Don’t freak out. Let’s look at the top 5 key points that make an email spam, starting with the biggest red flags, and what you can do to de-spam your campaigns. A spam email has:

 1. Poor grammar / mistakes: This is probably the most obvious way to tell that an email is spam.

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What you can do: If you’re composing an email to an audience whose main language is not one you’re fluent in, have someone else who is fluent in that language proofread your email. Be sure to check your work carefully.

2. Content that only includes a call to action without any information about what’s in it for the recipient or the offer in the email doesn’t match where the link sends you to.

What you can do: If you’re mailing to a new audience that isn’t familiar with your brand, include links in the header or footer that point people to your website and social media pages. Focus on one, main call to action but don’t forget to offer information about your company or yourself. Including an offer? Make sure your contacts are sent directly to a page where they can redeem that offer. Do not make them hunt for it, plus they probably won’t even try.

3. Weird looking links. Just by looking at the URL, your readers should be able to match the domain in your links to the branding of the email, including the from name, from address and imagery / logos.

What you can do: Don’t send your contacts to another company’s website. Keep them all in your universe – you want your site to benefit from the email traffic.

4. From name & from address that do not make any sense in relation to each other or even separately.

  • From name: Depending on your inbox settings, you may really have to dig to see the actual from address. That’s why spammers often use a fake first and last name to make you think you’re getting a message from a colleague or an acquaintance. What you can do: When possible, steer clear of using a person’s name in the from name if your recipients don’t know you by name.
  • From address: What you can do: A DMARC compliant from address includes a domain that isn’t your main website’s domain. One benefit of having an alternate domain for email marketing is so that you protect the reputation of your website from any mistakes made in your email marketing. This creates an added challenge to establish trust in your recipients if your from address doesn’t match your website exactly. Some big brands use subdomains for email marketing. We recommend using: or, etc. This is still better than spammers who will use a domain with combination of incoherent letters & numbers and a domain you’ve never seen before.

5. A generic salutation. Many legitimate businesses still use salutations like “Valued Customer,” so do spammers. Effective, targeted email marketing should avoid these outdated salutations.

What you can do: If you don’t have the contact’s name in your data, don’t substitute it with an archaic, generic salutation. Get creative or leave out the salutation altogether.

By identifying what makes an email spam, we can take these key points and ensure our own email isn’t winding up in junk folders or getting blocked all together.

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