When you create great content, you’re not only working on engaging your subscribers with your current campaign, but you’re continuing a dialogue that started from the time they signed up.

Strong and continued subscriber engagement isn’t just a great stat for marketing meetings – it is an identifiable and important metric for email deliverability.

The spike in engagement you see from your awesome new campaign isn’t just a short-term win – you are showing ISPs and receiving inboxes that people want your emails and consequently, to not send them to the junk folder. Working to avoid spam filters with your content in today’s email is also working to build a sending reputation that will help avoid spam filters in the future.

Refine your content and carefully target your emails and you stand a better chance of first reaching the inbox, and then seeing good levels of engagement when you get there. Get this wrong, and you can see your emails flagged as spam unnecessarily and even turn off your most engaged subscribers with irrelevant content.

In this post, we’ll look at how your content affects your email deliverability and provide some insight into how you can improve your content strategy to maximize engagement and see a better ROI from your email marketing.

Content vs spam filters

Perhaps you have a great sending reputation but then decide to try a new email design with very little text and a new subject line that flags spam filters with an overabundance of spam keywords. The negative effects of that decision can stick with you beyond that single send and affect your sending reputation.

Alternatively, your engagement rates may be slowly declining though you haven’t changed a thing – perhaps it’s time to identify what content your subscribers want and better target your various demographics with more relevant, dynamic content.

All that said, before your email even reaches the inbox, it has to pass through various spam filters put in place by ISPs to protect recipients from spam.

Remember: Your sending reputation is one of the most important factors in email deliverability and one of your most valuable assets. Understanding that your content choices, the quality of your lists and the results of your campaigns all factor into your sending reputation is the first step towards improving your email deliverability.

The single best thing you can do to avoid spam filters when it comes to content is to not look like spam. As obvious as this may seem, there may be some design or content decisions you make that will unwittingly flag those filters.

Best practices for content and deliverability

Use a reputable email service provider

Building better content and refining your emails to improve open rates and avoid spam filters shouldn’t need a team of developers and lengthy design work – now, it doesn’t.

With the all-new Campaign Monitor, you can create and modify your emails to best reflect your brand, efficiently target your audience and ensure great performance on mobile devices – all without using any HTML or CSS.

By using our drag-and-drop email builder, you can take the pain out of implementing your vision and focus on nailing the fundamentals.

We believe that responsive, beautiful design that is dynamic, personalized, and easy to build is the future of email marketing.

use a reputable ESP for solid email deliverability

Balance your text and images

Some of the best performing campaigns use strong hero imagery to great effect and the key here is balance – use strong images, but also ensure your email has enough context to deliver your message even without them. Use of alt text (the text that is shown when images are turned off) is always recommended.

Remember: There is no magic ratio that is going to guarantee delivery. The most important factor is to carefully balance your content with the possibility that images may not be displayed by default.

As with text/image ratio, this is another area that does not have a hard and fast rule that will work for all receiving inboxes. Spammers often send emails with just a few lines of text and numerous links.

Beyond the obvious issue of being filtered as spam, this is also a matter of content strategy and ensuring that you provide value in your emails. If your emails contain very little or irrelevant content and your recipients consider it low value, they will be less likely to open subsequent campaigns.

Contextualize the links you are sending to and provide meaningful, engaging content in the body of the email. Most importantly, balance the number of links you have in your email with quality content.

Of course, you should always check every link before sending your campaign. Including a link to a spam or malware infected site is another way to get fast-tracked to the spam folder.

Be wary of URL shorteners

The use of URL shorteners is something you should avoid in your email campaigns. Even if the URLs you are linking to are legitimate, the widespread abuse of URL shorteners to transmit spam has made them red flags for many ISPs. Instead, provide clickable hyperlinks on keywords in your copy or on images.

Similarly, don’t use full URL links as text in the body of your email. Not only are long URLs potentially ugly but they can get your emails flagged as spam.

Tighten up your content

Avoid spammy words and phrases like “WINNER!” or “100% Free”. Also, be careful when using special characters ($%#), avoid overuse of punctuation and always proofread your copy for spelling mistakes.

As discussed previously, half the battle when trying to avoiding the spam filter is to avoid looking like a spammer – taking the time to double check your copy and fine tune your word usage can keep you on point.

Content, lists and sending reputation

One of the key takeaways when thinking of content in the larger deliverability puzzle is this – don’t think of your email content, email lists and sender reputation as separate, disconnected islands. Instead, think of them as all being part of the landscape of deliverability.

The quality of one of those parts cannot compensate for the lack of quality in another. Best in class content that is sent to a junk list is going to see low open rates and other deliverability issues. Conversely, even the best opt-in list will see poor engagement and open rates if the content being sent is not relevant.

Your email content will not only affect the campaigns you are sending today, but also those that you plan to send in the coming weeks and months. Get this wrong and you may see dwindling open rates and reputational damage that can be hard to repair

Changes you can make to improve email deliverability

Make it easy for people to unsubscribe

People who don’t want your emails should not have to struggle to unsubscribe from your list. Making the process more complicated than one-click, or hiding your unsubscribe link will only generate spam complaints that will negatively impact your sending reputation.

Giving people control over their emails by providing a clear unsubscribe option is paramount in ensuring your campaign doesn’t get unnecessary complaints.

Highlight your brand

Don’t bury your brand behind generic images or walls of text. Use strong imagery and your brand voice to add value to your content. People signed up to receive emails from your company and brand. Make sure your emails communicate and reflect your brand message at every opportunity.

Add a permission reminder

Most of your subscribers will receive a large number of emails every day. In a crowded inbox environment, it can be difficult for a recipient to keep track of all their email subscriptions and where they gave their permission to receive your emails.

It’s always helpful to clearly let your subscribers know how and where they subscribed and also let them know why they should remain on your list.

Placed in the header or footer, permission reminder messages can be a great way to clearly communicate why your subscribers are receiving the email and to let them know you value their subscription. Remember to include a prompt to unsubscribe if they no longer want your emails – these kind of messages are also great at reducing spam complaints.

Use segments, personalization, and dynamic content to ensure relevancy

So your email reaches the inbox and is opened by Jane. Job done? Not quite. Your email is promoting an event in Los Angeles and contains a 50% off voucher for in-store purchases but your data tells you that Jane lives in London and only shops online. Not a win for you, and not a win for Jane!

Sending every email campaign to every subscriber on your list is likely to alienate some of your subscribers, become unsustainable for your sending reputation in the long run and also bloat your marketing costs.

Use segments and dynamic content to ensure that Jane sees relevant content that she is much more likely to engage with. By personalizing your emails based on location, name and even your recipient’s birthday, you can give your campaigns a bespoke feel that can see huge improvements in engagement.

Quality, hyper-targeted content is not only better for your ROI but also for your recipients – knowing that the email they receive is near tailor-made and will be relevant is a recipe for greater engagement and customer retention.

Wrap up

Your email content is how you demonstrate continued value to your recipients and keep the promises you made when they signed up. By following some of the above email deliverability tips and fine tuning your content, you should see improvements in the success of your email campaigns.