From an email sender perspective, spam email is any email message that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) filters into a spam folder instead of the recipient’s inbox. At SendGrid, we are very serious about email deliverability. We live and breathe it each day. Similar to how Google keeps adjusting its search algorithm to provide the best results, we must also regularly adjust to ensure your non-spam email gets delivered. In this post, we offer advice to help you make sure that your emails get delivered. Of course, the very best advice we can offer is to use SendGrid. For additional information, check out our Tips & Tricks to Stay Out of the Spam Folder Guide. 1. Be Compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act If you are sending “any electronic mail message, the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” then you must comply with the following 7 main requirements (or face penalties up to $16,000): Don’t use false or misleading header information Don’t use deceptive subject lines Identify the message as an ad Tell recipients where you’re located Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future email from you Honor opt-out requests promptly Monitor what others are doing on your behalf If your email contains only transactional emails or relationship content, then you are exempt from these rules; however, you must still not include false or misleading routing information. If you’re interested in learning more about CAN-SPAM, check out tips from our Chief Legal Counsel in his post, 5 CAN-SPAM Myths & Best Practices: From a Lawyer’s POV. 2. Avoid Spam Trigger Words and Phishing Phrases A lot of spam emails are “sneaky” spam emails because the sender doesn’t intend to spam a recipient but still get’s caught in the spam folder–usually because of the use of certain spam trigger words. Unfortunately, there is no complete list of spam trigger words. Further, it is not always the case that your email will end up in the spam filter simply by using a so-called trigger word. A spam filter is trying to remove commercial advertisements and promotions. So generally, words that are common in such emails should be avoided or used sparingly. Phishing emails are designed to steal your identity by getting you to click on a fraudulent link. The most common method is for the email to be disguised as a legitimate email from a service you trust, such as your bank or a website you frequent. Thus, you want to avoid using phrases that are common to phishing attacks. 3. Include a Text Version of Your Email if You Are Sending HTML Emails This is a common, and easily preventable, cause for landing in the spam folder. Not only is this a good practice for avoiding a spam filter, but it also covers you in the case where the recipient cannot view HTML emails. 4. Use Permission Marketing Techniques Seth Godin coined the phrase “Permission Marketing,” and offers his thoughts here. There you will find sound advice on the ideas behind getting your customers or potential customers to give you the permission to email. Take it a step further at the point of subscription and ask to be placed on their whitelist. 5. Use Spam Checkers Before Sending Your Emails Before sending emails out to your entire list, it’s worth the time to utilize a spam checking service. SpamAssassin is a great place to start. If you prefer to avoid downloading any software, you can send email to the IsNotSpam.com service and they will also check a few other items important to email deliverability. Alternatively, ProgrammersHeaven.com uses a form-based solution to test your emails. 6. Get Off Blacklists If your email server is on a blacklist, it becomes extremely difficult to reliably send email, especially to new people on your lists. The first step is to check if your email server is on a blacklist, following are a few free services: Free Email Blacklist Lookup Email Blacklist Check Spam Database Lookup If you find that you are on a blacklist, you will need to follow up with the website that has added you to their blacklist. That information is provided by the tools listed above. 7. Maintain a Good Text to Image Ratio It is usually best to not include images at all; however, if you must include images, here are some tips: Do not send any image-only emails We suggest that for every graphic, include at least two lines of text Optimize your images the best you can Use well-formed HTML for email 8. Avoid Spam Traps Spam traps are email addresses that are flagged by ISPs as being no longer used by a human, so it then stands to reason that there could have been no opt-in. To avoid including a spam trap email in your mailing list, use an opt-in process and do not buy lists from email brokers. 9. Avoid Large Attachments and Certain Attachment Types In general, .jpg, .gif, .png and .pdf attachments are safe to send, provided you include some content in the email as well. However, executable attachments such as .exe, .zip, .swf, etc. should be avoided entirely. Generally, you should not send attachments to people on your list who are not expecting them. If you need to email a large attachment or an attachment type that usually can be flagged as spam or trigger virus scanners, we recommend a service such as DropBox.com. If the attachment contains sensitive data, you may consider using your company’s secure FTP server. 10. Make Sure Your DKIM, SPF, Sender-ID, and Domain Keys Are Set Up Properly You will want to make sure your email server supports these protocols (DKIM, SPF, Sender-ID, and Domain Keys) and that they are properly implemented. This alphabet soup helps ISPs determine the authenticity of your email from a technical perspective. To make sure yours are set up properly try using IsNotSpam.com’s checking service. If you want to dig deeper, here are the definitions: DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) Sender Policy Framework (SPF) Sender-ID Domain Keys Bonus Tip: Use an Email Delivery Service If this whole process seems daunting and you would rather just focus on your company, we understand! Providing the best email deliverability is the reason we exist. You can send email through SMTP relay or through our Web API. If you’re just not sure, try us out for free. Do you have any spam avoidance tips? Join the conversation with us on Twitter or on Facebook. We love feedback!