Every week in our newsletter FWD: Thinking, we give subscribers the opportunity to ask our team of email experts a question. Recently, we’ve heard a few questions about the spam filter, like the below submission: “Our emails are getting lost in people’s spam filters. How do we combat that?” – Heather, FWD: Thinking subscriber So we asked our Director of Deliverability Karen Balle to share her advice. Balle is an expert on the science of how internet service providers (like Gmail and Yahoo!) choose which emails go to spam and which emails reach the inbox. Her advice isn’t to avoid certain words in your subject line. Or to use plain-text emails. It’s much more straightforward.

How to avoid the spam filter: Send content your subscribers want.

Buying your email list or sending your subscribers unwanted content is a great way to go directly to email marketing jail, a.k.a. the spam folder. Instead, send emails your subscribers will open and click and not mark as spam. “The path to good deliverability is sending wanted content to people who have asked for that content to be sent via email,” Balle said. How do you send content your subscribers can’t wait to get? Use this proven, 4-point checklist.

Step 1: Email people who opted in to receive messages from you.

Ignore this and your emails will likely take a one-way trip to the spam folder, including messages for subscribers who actually did opt in. This means that buying your email list or manually adding people to your list without their permission is off limits. These tactics will tank your email reputation, which means that internet service providers will be less likely to deliver your emails. (Plus, it’s illegal.)

Step 2: Set expectations on your sign up form.

Your subscribers shouldn’t be surprised by the emails they get from you. If they are, they might mark them as spam. To avoid surprises, clearly explain on your sign up form what type of content you include in your emails and how often you send messages. For example, Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs, describes the type of content she sends and how frequently she emails her audience on the landing page for her newsletter TotalAnnarchy.

Step 3. Send valuable emails.

One of the biggest factors in whether or not your emails reach the inbox is positive subscriber engagement. “Good deliverability relies on high subscriber interaction, low complaints, and low bounces,” Balle says. To get your subscribers to consistently engage (open, read, and click!), your email content must be valuable to them. You can add value to your emails by including educational content in them, like blog posts or videos, or even showing subscribers how your product or service will improve their life. If your emails solve subscribers’ problems and pain points, they’ll open them every time!

Step 4. Ask your subscribers for ideas.

Not sure what your subscribers will find valuable? Simply ask them! Send a survey in your welcome email or ask them to reply to your welcome email and share what they’d like to learn. You can use these ideas to craft valuable content your subscribers will love to receive. And that can increase your email engagement and your chances of reaching the inbox.