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Email deliverability: combating the spam folder

Spam folder placement is a harsh reality of any email marketing program. Even the cleanest and most effective senders will have to combat spam placement from time-to-time. Sending reputations with ISPs and mailbox providers are volatile, and even a slight prominence in spam complaints from your supporters can result in an extended stay in the email trash can.

But there are additional steps you can be taking to identify this as early as possible and act on it effectively when you do recognise the telltale signs of spam placement…

Seed list monitoring

Setting up seed lists is the most effective way to assess your inbox placement with ISPs and mailbox providers. At their simplest, seed lists are made by creating new mailboxes for major providers (such as Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook.com and alike), then adding these to your subscriber list and recording where delivery to these mailboxes ends up (be it the primary/secondary inboxes, or indeed spam folders).

You can take more advanced steps with this method such as adding multiple accounts for one provider, and setting each mailbox to different levels of engagement (e.g. opening and clicking all emails in one mailbox, but then leaving another mailbox without any engagement at all). Assessing whether this results in more spam placement for engaged mailboxes over inactive ones can then help to inform you on better sending practices to your different email segments.

Whichever way you use them, these seed addresses will help to provide an early warning system for the signs of spam placement. If one of your seeds ends up in spam, it’s a strong sign your supporters are seeing this too. You’ll then be able to address your deliverability practices with this provider more closely and effectively to reduce the impact of the problem.

Whitelisting your delivery

When your supporters whitelist your delivery it’s the clearest green flag to a provider for better inbox placement. You can either request that recipients move your emails from promotional folders to their primary inboxes (featured with Gmail and Outlook.com, for example), and also request that supporters add your sender address to their contacts list. Either action informs the provider that you are a primary sender for that recipient, and if enough of your supporters are doing the same thing then your inbox placement rates are certain to improve overall.

A great time to ask supporters to do this is with your welcome emails, where engagement rates are at their highest. You could also try adding the ask to emails that are being sent to specific providers where you’ve seen spam placement in your seed lists – it might just help to move you out of spam and into the inbox over time.

Remove inactive supporters from your subscriber lists

In recent years the large webmail providers have become increasingly strict on emails that are sent to inactive mailboxes on their domains. This has never been more apparent than with Yahoo’s disabled mailbox policy in March 2019, so it’s always good practice to make sure that supporters that aren’t reading your emails anymore are eliminated from your sending. This will help to retain good reputations with mailbox providers in the long-term, and significantly reduce your overall spam placement rates.

Engaging Networks provides an Email Engagement Scoring system to help you assess levels of inactivity from your supporters over time, and effectively remove disengaged supporters from your subscriber lists using these metrics. It’s important to stay on top of these potentially harmful inactive groups, as while they may increase your delivery volumes, they’re also very likely to decrease your inbox placement and overall engagement significantly.

Updated on June 6, 2019

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