When sending emails, it is important to know who your audience is and to get a feel for what they are looking to see. Much the same, it is important to understand what constitutes acceptable content, and what practices can be considered as prohibited or otherwise scrutinized.
This article will provide an overview on email content.
Email marketing is the lynchpin of any content marketing strategy, but an email that ends up in a recipient's spam folder might result in losing a potential lead.
To understand what is considered spam email, it is important to understand the distinctions in emails. There are several types of emails, and spam emails are the direct result of a few types. The email types at play here are bulk emails and unsolicited emails.
Bulk emails are emails that are sent as part of a larger collection of messages. For the most part, bulk emails are fine.
Unsolicited emails are emails the recipient has not granted verifiable permission for. Sending unsolicited emails is somewhat of a gamble, as not every recipient is willing to read or otherwise engage with these emails. Unsolicited emails have a greater chance of being bounced or unsubscribed from.
When an email is both unsolicited and sent in bulk, it is considered spam email. Spam emails are never okay. Again, unsolicited bulk email is spam, and spam is bad. Therefore, unsolicited bulk email is bad content distribution.
Regarding Spam and Purchased Lists
SharpSpring does not permit senders to use purchased, rented, scraped, or stolen lists. Emails sent from purchased lists are considered spam by the email community. Spam is an issue that ISPs are focusing on. These thresholds are a result of ISPs dictating to ESPs what mail can and cannot be delivered to their customers.
To that end, email stats say a great deal about your email list practices, as well as the content within your emails. If SharpSpring continues to see poor statistics and/or purchased lists being used, SharpSpring be forced to limit or deactivate the account. Moreover, senders may be terminated if a mutually agreeable improvement plan on how to move away from purchased lists cannot be developed.
Acceptable Email Content
To produce emails that are acceptable by SharpSpring's Terms of Service and contain good email content, adhere to these practices:
CAN-SPAM Act Compliance
Above all else, you must comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. The CAN-SPAM Act requires you to offer an opt-out link to future emails in every email you send. In addition, there are seven other requirements that must be met. These requirements are listed below:
- You cannot use false or misleading header information.
- You are not allowed to use deceptive subject lines.
- If your email is an advertisement, then the email must make it clear that the email is indeed an advertisement.
- You must tell the email recipients where you are located.
- You must present a clear opt-out link in every email message you send.
- You must comply with the recipient's request if they choose to opt-out—and you must do it quickly. Under the law, you have up to 10 days to honor the request.
- You must monitor what others are doing on your behalf.
Keeping Content Simple
Good content starts a conversation with the reader. It draws them in, engages them, and leaves an impression. Emails need a conversational vocabulary and tone. Overly technical content can be too much for the average reader to process, much less care for, and drive away potential leads.
More importantly, when communicating with the reader, you never want to talk at them—or, worse still, talk down to them. Creating content that speaks to a reader is important. Keeping a conversational, inviting tone helps to create that atmosphere. In much the same way, do not come on too strong. Readers can be overwhelmed by a sales pitch. Throwing everything at the reader all at once could, among other things, make them uncomfortable.
Educate Your Audience
Leads come from all walks of life. The majority may not know a single thing about marketing or the industry that you are promoting. As such, keep emails light on industry keywords and buzzwords. When sending content, be sure to provide details about what it is you do, even in passing. Giving out information about your business establishes a sense of identity and promotes trust. Recipients are more likely to open mail from senders they know and trust.
Personalized marketing is important. Targeting specific interests will engage potential leads. Keep an eye on what page visitors are looking at. Use page visits to match email content. Use form information to collect interests, and send information based on those interests.
When sending emails, it is important to use an email address that matches the name of the person who is sending the email. It is also a good idea to send an email with the recipient’s name included in the email. You can do this with SharpSpring's mail merge tag feature.
Include Images and Text
Do not send image-only emails. Aside from being clipped, these emails will most likely be sent to the spam folder. Emails should have a low image-to-text ratio—something close to a 20%/80% visual split. Or, put another way, every email you send should have at least two lines of text for every image that appears in the email.
Images in the email should relate to the email content in some meaningful way. Images that do not can clash with the idea the email is trying to convey and create confusion or otherwise disconnect with a user.
The text in the email should be written in a normal style. Using all caps, excessive punctuation (such as multiple exclamation points), or slang is both unprofessional and can lead to recipients disregarding your email.
No Large Attachments
Attachments can be a great supplement to an email. However, they should only be a supplement. Large attachments can intimidate potential leads, so send one or two small attachments. However, you should never send an email with just an attachment and no content in the body. Those emails will most likely enter the recipient's spam folder.
SharpSpring allows you to upload several different file types as attachments. SharpSpring supports the following file types:
File Types Supported by SharpSpring
The safest file types to send are .GIF, .JPG, .PDF, and .PNG. While SharpSpring supports their attachment, .ZIP files should never be included as attachments in an email.
Sending Good Emails
Good email content begins and ends with preparation and planning. To send good email content, consider the following:
- It is in your best interest to authenticate your email with DKIM and SPF. Both are important, as authenticating emails with DKIM and SPF helps to maximize email reputation and deliverability.
- Add a permission reminder. This is a simple-yet-friendly reminder for the recipient on why they are receiving the email. It puts their guard down, so they are less likely to unsubscribe or report the email as spam.
- Remove role addresses (such as email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com). These are known to cause issues with spam complaints and unsubscribes.
- Periodically reconfirm lists to make sure the recipients still wish to receive email.
- Remove any purchased lists from distribution.
- Make sure the email content is relevant to the recipients. Engaging content is what recipients enjoy most.
Prohibited and Scrutinized Content
Even when adhering to best practices for content, there are whole categories of content that are never fine to send. Prohibited content—and even scrutinized content—can run afoul of the Terms of Service.
Sending prohibited content puts your account at risk for termination. Prohibited content includes, but is not limited to:
- Content that intentionally violates CAN-SPAM, CASL, or any other anti-SPAM law
- Content that promotes illegal activities, products, or services
- Content or sending frequencies that harass a recipient
- Promoting the sale, exchange, mining, or brokering of cryptocurrency
- Sections for User Content and Objectionable Content, Defamation of the SharpSpring Terms of Service
- Using the service on behalf of, or in connection with, any persons or firms listed in the Spamhaus Register of Known Spam Operations
- Selling lists of email addresses or software used for harvesting addresses from any source, including—but not limited to—LinkedIn, Facebook, or other websites
Some content is not strictly prohibited, but certain industries are known for having a long history of sending spam. Those industries are still known for poor list collection methods and abusive practices.
Therefore, SharpSpring subjects certain content to higher standards and reserves the right to refuse sending, when warranted, in order protect the platform for the good of all other senders. As always, it is important that you are following email best practices and keeping your email statistics within acceptable limits.
Scrutinized content includes, but is not limited to:
- Gambling services
- Payday loans and other predatory loan services
- Credit repair services
- Escort and other adult services
- Pharmaceutical sales or promotion
- "Get rich quick" schemes or multi-level marketing
- Cryptocurrency training materials and news
- Sale of social media influence (such as followers, likes, and shares)
- Affiliate marketing
There are other things to consider when trying to keep emails out of the spam folder.
Online tools that can check the content in your email and determine if the email has the chance of ending up in the recipient's spam folder are often referred to as spam checkers.
There are two types of spam checkers:
- Spam checkers that require you to submit the email on the spam checker website itself
- Spam checkers that require you to send the email to an actual email address and get a score
Acceptable Email Rates
In general, SharpSpring expects senders to have email statistics within acceptable thresholds, as defined by Internet service providers (ISPs). Spam complaint, bounce, and unsubscribe rates need to be within an acceptable range. Depending on the ISP, anything above the acceptable rate will have consequences.
It is important to understand that SharpSpring's email stat thresholds are based on industry standards. Other email service provider platforms (ESPs) such as Hubspot, MailChimp, and SendGrid all follow the same guidelines.
Acceptable rates for sent emails are as follows:
- Spam Complaints: Should not exceed 0.08%
- Bounces: Should be below 1%
- Unsubscribes: Should be below 1%