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Hey! Where's That Email?

Posted on 23rd February 2018

Recently, one of our customers had an issue with sending mail out. Their customers would come back to them over the phone angered that they still hadn't received that invoice or quote.

We did some digging for them and found that whenever they sent us an email, it was going straight into spam! We use Mimecast for our protection, so we were alerted that email was on hold. Using Mimecast, we could also see why the email was flagged in that way and here's some of our top tips to stop it happening to you!

Trigger Words

When spam protection services like Mimecast analyse your emails, they're looking for a number of things that could identify it as spam. One of the simplest and most common is trigger words that are often found in spam emails. Having 2 or 3 of these words and phrases won't hurt, but the more you include, the more it's flagged incorrectly.

Most spam protection services are clever enough now to analyse the context of these words - so use sparingly, but in the right way.

These words and phrases change all the time (depending on long-term analysis), but here's a few of the common ones:

  1. 100%
  2. Act Now
  3. Apply Now
  4. Cancel
  5. Click here
  6. Free
  7. Investment
  8. Limited
  9. No catch
  10. Opportunity
  11. Spam
  12. This isn't junk
  13. Win/Winner/Winning

Formatting & Content

Yes, this matters too. If you're using lots of exclamation marks - stop right now. One will suffice, or even better not at all. Sending emails with lots of text in Capital letters won't help your chances either. Keep the emails clean, well written and informative.

This also relates to the content you link to. If you're going to link to a website - make sure it's reputable and ideally keep them to a minimum. If you're sending attachments, stop that right now. This is a big no-no, especially if from an unknown sender. We always advise our customers to never open anything they're not expecting, so it will not only flag as spam but if it does get through chances are it will be ignored.

Double-check your spelling! Write up your email in Outlook or Word first, to ensure words are spelt correctly and any obvious grammatical mistakes can be picked up on. Although modern browsers offer spell checking, they don't generally check grammar.

Marketing Systems

One of the more common mistakes, is sending out mass emails from Outlook or direct from your email provider. Often, this sends out emails with a huge amount of addresses in the "To" or "Bcc" field, which looks mighty suspicious to a spam checker.

We recommend using a powerful CRM or Marketing system like MailChimp or HubSpot to send out your emails. They're reputable and they have the technologies in place so that emails are processed individually for each contact - much less suspicious.

Don't forget you can use a spam checker, to see if your emails may get flagged. We recommend something like ISnotSPAM.com

Technical Stuff

DNS Records

SPF

The SPF record is essentially an open standard to publicly state which servers can send email on your behalf. For example, you may receive an email from support@apple.com but it's actually being sent from not-real@hackers.xyz. The sending server of this email won't match the SPF record that apple.com has set up, then a spam email can be easily identified.

Essentially, you want a list of all systems that can send mail on your behalf in the SPF. See this blog post for more on SPF records.

DKIM

DKIM stands for DomainKeys Identified Mail and is very similar to how the SPF record works. It attaches a public key to your domain and this is used as a signature when sending mail. The sending mail server must have the private key or there will be a DKIM mis-match.

DMARC

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance. Sorry that's a bit of a mouthful, but this is the standard you want to reach. DMARC enables the message sender to say "Hey! We're covered by SPF and/or DKIM"
It's applied as a policy and gives clear instructions on what to do if an email doesn't meet this standard. It can also go back to the sender with a handy DMARC report stating whether it's a PASS or FAIL.

In this instance for our customer, it was just finding the right balance of SPF and DKIM to reach that DMARC PASS validation and once they did - no more spam issues!

Additional Tips

If you're in the process of getting the above set up, it's worth just checking through the below list of reasons that emails get flagged as spam. You'll be surprised how many companies are guilty of at least one of these!

  • Your IP address has been used for spam (are you using a marketing system? Make sure it's reputable)
  • Email subjects are mis-leading
  • You didn't include your physical, business address
  • No "Unsubscribe" link

In short, you can never 100% stop your emails from going to spam or junk. Many companies use lots of different methods to detect this sort of email (all with slight variations on the rules) and these standards change all the time.

If in doubt, get in touch and we can help!