With an estimated 3,700 Million email users Worldwide, easily accessing email on mobile devices, email marketing remains a highly effective tool in the marketer’s toolbox. Sadly though, it also remains a preferred way for unscrupulous ‘business’ behaviour or outright malicious attacks to reach a very wide audience and have a devastating impact.

Even when hacking events and security breaches are headline news I’d be willing to bet most of us have guiltily clicked on an email we weren’t expecting, even when we know we shouldn’t. Hackers know how easily seduced we can be by an intriguing subject line or the promise of a great deal, as much as advertisers and marketers do. It’s no surprise that 99% of email scams are specifically designed to exploit human weaknesses (June 2017 report by Proof Point).

Of all global email traffic (almost 270 billion messages per day), a massive proportion (almost 57%) is spam, according to figures reported in March 2017 by Statista. As a result, a whole industry has evolved, dedicated to providing protection and stopping any incoming nasties in their tracks – sophisticated firewalls, spam filters and anti-virus software designed to try to keep up with latest malware developments. Unfortunately, due to these security measures, an estimated 21% of legitimate, wanted email worldwide will also never hit intended inboxes, let alone be opened or acted on.

So, how does a legitimate business make sure their message is getting to the people they want it to be seen by, without falling foul of spam filters, security settings or user suspicion?

If you ask yourself the following questions, you might avoid your email message or newsletter falling into the category of undelivered, unopened or ‘unbelieved’ (depending who you ask, that is a word).

Will my email get to the intended inbox?

-          Do you know the state of your domain reputation? ISPs will either deliver your mail, route it to junk folders or block it outright, based on whether they think you are a good sender, and this is affected by how recipients have interacted with your email in the past

-          Make sure the address you are sending from has not already been blacklisted, spoofed or blocked – analytical tools will show you where your sent messages haven’t got past the gatekeeper

-          Make sure your recipient data is correct, especially if you have a large recipient list – ISP software can easily identify nonsense email addresses and flag you as a potential spammer, spoiling subsequent attempts to contact your intended customers

-          Make sure the email content and any attachments you are sending are economical on file size – some mailboxes have size restrictions

-          Make sure you are not inadvertently forwarding files that contain a virus – these will likely be locked away in quarantine by antivirus software

-          If you need to send a link, ensure it’s to a reputable website and don’t use a link shortener – spammers use link shorteners to redirect the clicker to untrustworthy sites and this could be a short cut to being blocked

-          Only send to recipients who have opted in to receiving email

Will my email get opened?

-          Send it at the right time – receiving an email in the middle of the night could suggest it’s coming from another time zone and therefore not relevant to the receiver

-          Make sure the subject is relevant to the receiver – if it’s not targeted, it’s probably a waste of time and effort

-          Make sure your reputation is in good shape – if you have a history, or perceived history, of sending irrelevant mail, work to correct this before throwing good after bad

-          Make sure it is sufficiently different to anything else landing in the recipient’s inbox so that it doesn’t get overlooked – if it looks like spam, it could get sent straight to the junk mailbox, never to be seen again

-          Where possible, personalise your email greeting – BUT, if you haven’t got a name, make sure you are not sending out “Dear [         ],” as this will be appreciated by precisely [          ]

Can I make sure my email doesn’t get reported as spam?

-          Ensure the content relates to the subject line, otherwise the recipient will feel misled after they have opened it

-          Make sure the message clearly states who you are and why you’re contacting them

-          Images draw attention, but you do need to include text too - remember that some security settings can prevent embedded images from appearing – an email that appears to have no content will get deleted

-          Give the recipient an opportunity to unsubscribe – easily – and when someone does unsubscribe, do not continue to email them

-          Be careful how often you are sending mail – “too much” mail is difficult to quantify but start by thinking about how often you’d like to be receiving the message

When it works, it’s effective. There is no question that regular, relevant communication with subscribers supports the conversion of recipients into customers. Checking email analysis tools for bounce rates, open rates and click rates will allow you to monitor how effective your email marketing is, and highlight any areas that may be preventing your message getting out to the people you want to connect with.