How do I prevent my e-mails from being labeled as spam?

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B-to-b marketers struggling for growth in today’s economy know they need to get maximum results for their e-mail marketing efforts, but too many do not understand the critical role deliverability plays in the process of turning prospects into revenue-driving customers. All the creativity and planning that goes into a lead-nurturing campaign is meaningless if your e-mails don’t reach their intended inboxes. Every undelivered e-mail is a lost lead, and the money you spent to acquire that lead is wasted.

ISPs today use your “reputation” to determine which e-mails get delivered. Gone are the days when your e-mails were filtered on content and keywords alone. In fact, according to Return Path (a Marketo partner), more than 80% of delivery problems today are caused by the sender’s e-mail reputation.

There isn’t just one magic bullet for managing your reputation and getting to the inbox. The technology used by your e-mail service provider certainly matters, since managing delivery rate and processing bounces properly can make a big impact. But there are also quite a few other factors that you can—and should—pay attention to. Here are five best practices:

  1. Maintain a clean list by handling bounces properly and scrubbing your list regularly. Scrubbing includes removing duplicates, suppressing distribution accounts (e.g., [email protected] or [email protected]) and removing inactive addresses, those without any opens or clicks in the last 12 months.
  2. Ensure your prospects will remember giving permission to e-mail them. E-mail recipients complain about e-mails they don’t recognize. A confirmed opt-in process can be helpful because it makes recipients less likely to forget that they asked to receive your messages. This also means being very careful about how you contact leads you purchase or e-mail addresses you append to existing data.
  3. Use a form of e-mail authentication, such as DomainKeys (Domain Keys Identified Mail), SPF (Sender Policy Framework) or Sender-ID. These help to authenticate your messages with ISPs, letting them know your e-mails come from you and are not phishing or spoofing attempts, which in turn can improve deliverability.
  4. Avoid spam complaints by using reasonable mailing frequency and ensuring relevant e-mails. Using customer behaviors to trigger e-mails, as opposed to sending batch blasts, can dramatically improve relevancy.
  5. Make sure your e-mails look right in multiple e-mail clients. A poorly rendered e-mail is more likely to trigger a complaint.
Phil Fernandez is the CEO and founder of Marketo (, a provider of b-to-b marketing automation software.
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