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9 Tips to Improve Email Deliverability and Avoid Spam or Promotions Folder

9 Tips to Improve Email Deliverability and Avoid Spam or Promotions Folder

There’s one thing inherently difficult about email outreach…


Hitting the spam folder, or even the promotions folder, can keep your emails from being seen.

If you want to improve email deliverability and avoid being tagged as the “s” word, this article is for you!

How to Improve Email Deliverability and Avoid SPAM

There are a lot of different ways to avoid the spam folder. Most of them fall back on one simple rule:

Be genuine and provide value.

Nothing will get your emails deleted or marked as spam faster than by lying or appearing shady.

Now, here are 9 tips to maximize email deliverability:

1. Verify your emails before you send

One of the biggest reasons emails are sent to spam is from lots of kickbacks. Sending to a bunch of duds hurts your chances of getting in the primary inbox.

To avoid that, just run your list through an email verification tool before you hit send. You can also use a tool like Find That Lead or Voila Norbert to find and enrich emails as you acquire them.

Find That Lea's email address verifier

Pro Tip: Find That Lead actually has a prospector tool that can help you uncover new leads. They use LinkedIn to provide the filters and the contacts. Their email verification system works off a percentage that it’s a genuine email. They go like this:

Increase email deliverability by sending to verified emails.

With this method, even if you buy a list, you can still ensure you’re only sending to real email addresses. (Although I still don’t recommend buying a list.)

2. Stick to CAN-SPAM compliance

The CAN-SPAM Act is a law set by the Federal Trade Commission to protect consumers from unwanted or harmful emails.

It’s easy to avoid for simple email outreach campaigns, but it’s still important to consider. Basically, to be CAN-SPAM compliant, you should:

  • Avoid false or misleading information (like claiming an unrealistic benefit)
  • Avoid overuse of words like “sale”, “free”, “promotion”, etc.
  • Avoid using too many “!”s in your emails
  • Be open and honest about your intentions (remember the one simple rule!)
  • Avoid using too many images (preferably none)

As you can see, it’s simple advice. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Simply using a little common sense in your outreach goes a long way.

3. Focus on value first and building relationships

What’s the one thing everyone on this planet has in common?

We all have needs, desires, and goals.

(Even if they’re not written down or actively being pursued.)

If you help people feel good, they’ll help you. Call it reciprocity or whatever you will – it’s just human nature to help those we like.

There are a lot of different ways you can make people feel good:

  • Comment on their blogs with something insightful
  • Share and compliment their work
  • Help them get in touch with someone in your network
  • Send them a handwritten letter or gift
  • Refer a client to them

The list goes on, but let me give you a practical example…

Dan Shure is the founder of Evolving SEO and host of the Experts on the Wire podcast. In a recent interview episode with Liston Witherhill, Dan revealed he has a secret passion for making music. He also shared that he made the intro music for his podcast himself, and admitted that the quickest way to get his attention is to compliment his music.

So if you want to have Dan help you share your article, contribute to something, or bring you on as a guest, you should compliment his music. (Note to Dan: Sorry if you get lots of compliments on your music now! People will have to find another way to your heart.)

But here’s my point:

Everyone has passions. They’re not always work – sometimes it’s a hobby, their family, their car, or something else entirely. Do a little research on their site and social media before you send your emails and you’re almost sure to get a response.

4. Use proven email templates to increase engagement

Cold email outreach is an art… but also a science.

With A/B testing, copywriting, and tons of emails sent, we’ve found proven email templates for nearly every situation. Because they’re tested and proven, it increases your chance of getting engagement (i.e. opens, clicks, replies, whitelisting, etc.).

Since engagement is the most important factor in determining whether or not an email is sent to the spam folder, using these templates will naturally increase your deliverability.

Pro Tip: If you sign up for MailShake for your email outreach needs, we provide you with even more tested and proven email templates.

5. Testing, testing, 1-2-3

Using templates is fantastic, but they can only take you so far. Every industry and person is different. If you want to maximize deliverability, you need to keep testing for yourself.

Some things you can test are:

  • The subject line
  • Body copy
  • The call to action
  • Email signatures
  • Adding an image vs. no image

For extra details on these ideas and more, check out these 9 email template tweaks you can test today.

Pro Tip: You can test all of these things from within the MailShake dashboard. The easiest way is to send one version to a small segment of your list – perhaps 50 to 200, depending on the size – and another version to another small segment. Whichever one gets better results is the winner that you send to the rest of the list.

6. Create an SPF record and DKIM for your domain

A Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and a DKIM make you more trustworthy in the eyes of receiving email servers.

By setting up SPF with your email provider, it allows email servers to cross check your domain name against your associated IP address to make sure you’re legitimate.

A DKIM, on the other hand, is a digital signature to outgoing message headers using the DKIM standard. In English, it’s basically another way to verify that your email is really being sent from you, and not a hacker or third party.

Both of these things boost your deliverability. They’re not hard to set up, so there’s no reason not to do so.

7. Check to see if you’re on any blacklists

Just like getting whitelisted is the holy grail of email marketing, getting blacklisted is email hell.

Being on a blacklist will keep your emails from ever reaching someone’s inbox. You’ll be lucky to even make it to their spam folder – you probably won’t make it anywhere.

To check if you’re on any blacklists, you can use a free tool like MX Tool Box. It will show check you against over 100 blacklists:

Checking if your email is on any blacklists to avoid the spam folder

If you ARE on any blacklists, don’t panic. While it takes time, there are actions you can take to get off an email blacklist.

8. If you have a strong brand, leverage it in your “from” name

Building a reputable brand is no easy task. It can take years.

If you’ve put in the effort and a fair amount of people know your brand name, add it in the “from” field for your email sends.

For example, Nathan from CoSchedule does this with his emails:

Custom email from field with company branding

You may have also seen “Kevan from Buffer” or “Dave Asprey | Bulletproof”. Basically, these people have built brand awareness that increases the chance they’ll get opened and responded to.

Even if you don’t have a strong brand (yet), you should still pay attention to the from field. Use your name or company name, if possible. And never send from crazy addresses like Instead, use an email account through your website.

It increases your chance even further if you create a G suite account, as gmail is a trusted email provider. (As are Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail.)

9. General parting advice for increasing deliverability

There are a lot of other little things you can do to avoid the spam folder. Rather than giving them each their own tip section, I just compiled them here for quick reference:

  • Don’t include attachments in your emails (duh).
  • Don’t send too many emails at one time – instead, drip them out over a few hours or even a few days. (MailShake does this automatically for you.)
  • Follow up! I’ve found that half or more of my responses came from the first or second follow-up. People are busy; email rarely ever has their full attention.
  • Add a strong email signature in case your lead want to get familiar with you and your content before they reply. This also helps drive traffic to your latest posts.
  • Use some power words to improve your writing and email opens.
  • Don’t continually push out hundreds of emails per day. Give your account a break, or open a separate account if you really must send that many.
  • Try to get whitelisted if you can. That’s not to say you should ask your leads to whitelist you – just provide value to increase the chances they’ll do it on their own.
  • Check your sender reputation with Sender Score. If you’re sending emails from your site’s email address, it can show you if you have any bad standings.

Checking your email provider's sender score


Avoiding the spam and promotions folder boils down to one simple rule:

Be genuine and provide value.

If you follow that, ensure you’re CAN-SPAM compliant, and verify your emails, you shouldn’t have a problem. Everything else is just increasing engagement and staying on the email servers’ good side.

For more tips on reducing spam concerns and hitting Google’s quotas, follow these steps.

If you found this article helpful, share it so we can fight spam and increase everyone’s email deliverability.

Happy outreaching!

Header image by Farrel Nobel on Unsplash