Going to the Spam Can

Hostway Tech Team - April 01, 2010

By Monique Martin

You work hard to craft email messages that are appealing to your customers and beneficial to your business. But the spammers have made it harder and harder to get your message through. Everyone’s inbox is swamped with spam, spoofs and phishing attempts. Many users have taken a “shoot first and don’t ask questions later” attitude when it comes to spam. They liberally and, sometimes mistakenly, hit the “report spam” button. Your email baby is thrown out with the dirty spam water. It’s frustrating, but there are some things you can do.

Marked as Spam

When a user reports your email as spam, Gmail and Yahoo! are notified. They scan the message and note what, if anything, was spammy about it. If enough people also report it, they’ll block the sender. Unfortunately, that means you.

As an email marketer, you might not be notified. If you do learn that you’ve been marked as spam, you can contact both Gmail and Yahoo! through their Bulk Sender Contact Forms: Gmail’s form and Yahoo!’s form.

Best Practices

The best way to ensure that your email doesn’t end up in the spam can is to follow these best practices.

  • Ask your customers to add your email address to their contacts list.
  • Be consistent. Use the same IP address and the same “from:” email address to send out all your marketing emails. Do not use the “from:” address as the “to:” address. This is a trick often employed by spammers.
  • Don’t use purchased lists.
  • Make sure all your recipients have subscribed to your emails and have confirmed the subscription.
  • Unsubscribe users whose emails repeatedly bounce.
  • Offer the opportunity to unsubscribe in each email. Some people report emails as spam as a shortcut to unsubscribing. Give them obvious and easy alternatives.
  • Honor all unsubscribe requests immediately.
  • Make sure your subject lines are relevant to the content of the email.
  • Set up accounts with Yahoo! and Google and send test emails to them to see how they’re handled.


Another important step you can take to help keep your email in the inbox and not in the spam can is authentication. Publish an SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record. One of the many tests ISPs use to filter out spam is an SPF check. If you have published an SPF record, you’ve made a record of what IP addresses can legitimately send email with the domain in your return-path field.

You should also make sure you sign your emails with DKIM or DomainKeys. Both of these use encryption technology to ensure that an email isn’t a spoof and has been sent by the domain it claims to be from. Every email you send is “signed” and can be verified as legitimate.

Take steps now to prevent your messages from appearing as spam. It’s a whole lot easier to stay out of the spam can than it is to climb your way out of it.

About the Author

Monique Martin served as Chief Operating Officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.

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