🕒 July 19, 2022       🗩 Cameron Taylor

In the last blog, we discussed what exactly a spam email is. We defined spam as unsolicited communication typically delivered through email. We also covered how Email Service Providers (ESPs) try to prevent spam from reaching their users. Their methods can sometimes prevent legitimate email communications with customers, by moving emails to spam or blocking the senders IP or domain. Therefore, marketers need to be aware of the characteristics of spam and ESPs responses to them. Now that we’ve confirmed this information, what are the next steps?  

Spam Proofing

“Spam Proofing” your email is the next logical course of action, but how do you so? As a reputable email marketer, you utilize a mailing list consisting of subscribers who have opted in either in person or digitally to receive communications from your organization. You design content that relates to the services your organization offers and this content meets your subscribers’ expectations for the brand. This should mean that your campaigns would be safe from the dreaded spam folder or from being blocked, but that is not always the case. 

Email service providers don’t “read” your emails so much as they scan them for certain characteristics associated with spam. This means that while the message, offer, and content could be legitimate, if it is presented in a way that makes ESPs leery you could end up in the spam folder anyway. This makes it imperative to not only tailor your content and mailing to your subscribers, but to ESPs as well.

1. Have an 80/20 text to image ratio in your campaigns

Image spam sometimes uses computer-generated text stored in a JPEG file in the body of the email to try to avoid text-based spam filters. ESPs are aware of this technique and tend to mark image heavy emails as spam. Image heavy campaigns also take longer to load. This can negatively affect the subscribers experience creating another reason for ESPs to remove it. To distinguish your campaign from spam, create layouts using the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your email should be text with no more than twenty percent being images. Images should be an aesthetic addition rather than the main driver of a campaign. Campaigns should also have a fully text version of the email. Not only will this improve your status with ESPs, but it allows easy access to your subscriber base who might be visually impaired and require reading software. This brings us to our second good practice.  

2. Create text versions and add alt tags 

Taking steps to improve your campaigns accessibility not only creates a better subscriber experience by making it easier to engage with, but it will also improve your reputation. ESPs look for campaigns that have text versions and alt tags on images and buttons to distinguish good senders from spam senders. Some providers will block a send entirely if there isn’t a text version available. EmailIQ provides an HTML to text feature that allows you to convert your email content to text.   

3. Subscriber Engagement 

An audience’s engagement with an email is one of the strongest indicators to ESPs of whether an email is spam or not. Emails with high click and open rates tells the ESPs that the campaign is welcomed by the subscriber. Making your campaign clickable should be one of your highest priorities when trying to avoid the spam folder. Utilize unique, topical, and specific subject lines that inform your subscriber about what the email will have inside. Avoid using vague language or subject lines that repeat campaign to campaign with no distinctions. Instead of “Claim your Free Gift!”, add specifics like date, location, company name and even the recipient’s name to make it more interesting. Improve click-to-open rates by making all images clickable with links. Add hyperlinks to phone numbers so subscribers can be transferred directly to their systems dialer without having to copy paste. Finally, create clear accessible call-to-action (CTA) buttons for every campaign deployed. Even if it only directs back to your company’s homepage, having a call to action will improve your click-to-open ratio. The CTA should be a distinct button rather than just a hyperlink, with engaging verbiage that is relevant to the campaign.  

Understanding how spam works can improve the quality of your emails as well as your reputation amongst Email Service Providers. Taking the extra steps to make sure your content meets industry best practices can increase your ability to reach your customers.


As a reputable email marketer, you utilize best practices like using an opted mailing list and brand appropriate content to engage with your customers. This may not be enough to prevent Email Service Providers from sending your campaign to the spam folder. Creating content with 80/20 text to image ratios, text versions and alt tags, and promoting subscriber engagement can help distinguish your campaigns from spam. Understanding how spam works can improve the quality of your emails as well as your reputation.  

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