Lead Generation and Growth Hacking Blog

how to avoid being marked as spam


Not many people know where word „spam“ comes from, but they use it daily, not only for their emails, but for situations where they feel someone is contacting them repeatedly, oversharing/overposting on social networks or posting uninteresting content and being boring. 

It actually comes from famous 1970 Monty Phyton sketch about two customers in a greasy spoon cafe realising that everything on the menu includes Spam, canned precooked meat. The word was repeated unnecessarily in sketch so many times it symbolised the amounts of useless email that marketers were sending sometime in the late nineties. Because life imitates art, the word quickly caught on and even got it’s own folder (and filter) in the email programs. Awwww.

That exact word and folder is the salesperson’s biggest nightmare (right after friend zone and life of your parents), because it means that all your efforts of market research, collecting contacts and fine-tuning your email was worthless.

We know how to keep you and your emails out of those folders.

All the factors that influence your chances of being marked as spam (Source: Sendgrid)

Make Sure You’re Not Blacklisted

In case your server gets blacklisted, there is nothing that will keep you out of the Spam folder. 

There are services such as Free Email Blacklist Lookup, Email Blacklist Check and Spam Database Lookup, that can help you check whether your server is on the Spam list.

If you discover that you’ve been blacklisted, contact your server provider ASAP and ask them to be whitelisted again.

Include unsubscribe link

Just like you collected your contacts’ emails by allowing them to opt-in and received permission to contact them, you have to include an option for them to opt-out and then remove them as soon as they unsubscribe. Not only is this one of the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act, but not giving them this option will leave them with only one choice – to label you as Spam.

Get enough contacts to label you as Spam and there you are on the blacklist, unable to do any prospecting.

Don’t buy email lists

There are countless dangers awaiting for you when buying random scraped email lists, but let us mention just a few. First of all, you have no idea who exactly are the people in the list. Maybe they don’t need what you’re selling. Maybe they switched jobs. Maybe those emails don’t even exist anymore. Maybe some of those emails are spam traps.

All serious email distribution software, which is extremely helpful in prospecting, will even ban you from using their platform if you are marked as spam, because then they are marked as spam as well.

Get carefully curated email lists

Sending your email to hundreds or thousands of prospects from dubious email lists that may or may not need your services is more likely to mark you as spam.

Creating lead lists which completely coincide with your company’s account based targeting and its sales goals will hardly make you as spam. You will simply be an employee of a certain company offering your services or products to someone who could benefit from them.

If you need any help with account based selling and outbound lead generation, an agency like Market Republic may be able to help.

How buying carefully curated lists can benefit your business (Source: LinkedIn)

Avoid words indicating selling and sales cliches

Spam filters nowadays are so strict that even the things you subscribed to and want to be notified about end up in the Spam folder. Even though there is no complete list of words that will mark you as spam, the words the spam filters „hate“ the most are sales and money related (free, cash, bonus, discount, etc), so it’s up to you to be clever enough and find a way to avoid saying that you’re selling something. Trying to fool the filter by changing the spelling of the sales words (eg. W!N, $ave) is a very bad and already tested idea from the nineties. 

Caps lock, exclamation marks, unimaginative CTAs such as „Click Here“ and typos will fly your email right into the spam folder, without your recipient even marking them as such. Thank the filters, again.

Truth be told, if you’re writing your emails like that – that’s where they probably belong anyway.

Reading each and every email is time consuming, no matter how short it is. This is why you need to make sure it’s written well enough for someone to dedicate their time to it.

Your prospects will take the time to read it only if it addresses their issues, pain points and goals. You just have to make sure that you talk about benefits of your product/service and focus on how they help your prospects solve their problems. 

That’s it, no further thinking about it and brainstorming about topics. 

Approaching your prospects like a human offering help will not only keep you out of the spam folder, but will ensure that your emails are opened, read and even replied to. Give your contacts what they need and they’ll respond.

Pay attention to formatting

Formatting of the body of your email is something that spam filters are also very sensitive about. Everything that looks out of the ordinary such as too much paragraph spacing, different font colors, photos and anything else that you wouldn’t send in professional email communication is more likely to be marked as spam.

This is why you should always opt for a plain text format without when writing cold sales emails and use email automation tools that support simple text format.

Think about your subject line

If your subject line is too salesy, it will either go directly into spam or be marked as one. 

Subject line is one of the most crucial parts of your email prospecting, it needs to be short and to the point.

Don’t even think about lying and adding the fake „Re:“ and „Fwd:“ to trick your recipients that you were previously communicating  with them. Prospects will receive something that is not true and does not comply with the body of the email.


Test your emails

Sending your prospects emails with useless content that is in no way related to their job or their goals and issues will surely take you down the path of spam.

Make sure that what you’re sending and offering fits their needs (almost) perfectly and that they actually see your proposal as a solution to their problem.

Numerous spam testing tools such as MailingCheck.com, SpamAssasin, IsNotSpam.com and ProgrammersHeaven.com can help you determine whether your email would classify as spam or not. 

Another test is sending your email to a selected number of prospects, tracking whether these emails get marked as spam and trying to figure out what it is that made them end up in spam folder (subject, body, CTA).

Shorten your signature

Forget those cheesy „Live. Laugh. Love.“ sayings in your signature. The only things you need are – your name, company you come from, address, email and phone number. 

Most spammers never leave their contact information which also gets them in the spam folder, which is why adding one makes you look like a serious professional who is reaching out to his fellow man.

And let’s not forget all the ways you can make it easy for your prospects to contact you via signature by adding a link to your webpage or getting the call right from the phone number below your name.

What’s more, you are obligated by law to include your contact details in the email in the signature, more precisely your company’s physical address.  

Spam traps 

For those that are not familiar with spam traps, spam traps are email addresses  of nonexistent users especially created by anti-spam organizations, security companies or corporate email servers  to catch spammers. Those are the email addresses that don’t receive or send email, so they never opted-in or permitted to be contacted and just by sending your offer to them you can be marked as a spammer. 

Just as expected, you’re most likely to find them lurking in the email lists you bought from an unknown or dubious source.

Top 10 email senders who were caught in spam traps (Source: The Windows Club)

Break down your large lists

One of the first indicators of spam is the number of emails you’re sending at once. Make sure you divide your list so that there are less emails per hour, for example, if you send more than 500 emails in one day Google will mark you as spam. That way you’ll enable your email server to drip the emails slowly and get less spam complaints at once.


Keep in mind that criteria in the Spam filters change daily so you can never be completely sure you didn’t end up in the infamous folder.

However, steer clear from spammy words and habits, offer sincere human help (with a little bit of sales, but, oh well) and your chances of ending up in Spam will be minimal.

If you still need help keeping those emails out of the Spam folder – contact us.  




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