Wondering which email marketing platform is *the one* for you? Take our free quiz now

7 ways to avoid looking like spam mail

You’re just starting to dip your toes into the realm of email marketing – you’re excited. But hang on a sec. What if the people receiving your emails think you’re annoying or view your emails as spam mail? 

This is a common worry many business owners have. And hey, I get it! No one wants to come across like they’re spam mail. 

Here are seven quick tips to avoid being perceived as spam mail by your mailing list.

1. Don’t send emails without permission (or with assumed permission)


Just because someone has bought a product or service from you? That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re keen to receive marketing emails from you.

I can think of many one-off purchases I’ve made (particularly when I’m buying a gift for someone) and then I’ve started receiving that business’s marketing emails as a result (even though I have no further interest in their products or services). Talk about annoying. 

Equally, don’t buy mailing lists and don’t take publicly available email addresses e.g. hello@stairwaymarketing.com.au and add them to your mailing list. More often than not this is not only illegal, but it’s a huge risk to your sending ability. 

2. Make it easy to unsubscribe


Don’t try to hide your unsubscribe link. Plenty of senders put their unsubscribe links in tini tiny font about 600 scrolls down the page. Don’t. Most inbox providers make it extremely easy to mark an email as spam because they want to know if senders are behaving poorly.

Remember having someone unsubscribe is absolutely preferable to having them mark you as spam. So make it just as easy for them to choose this option. 

3. Clean your email list regularly


Have you heard of spam traps before? Spam traps are email marketing’s undercover police. 

A spam trap looks like a real email address but it doesn’t belong to a real person and it can’t be used for any kind of communication.

As they’re not real people, spam trap email addresses can’t opt-in to receive marketing emails so the only way one could end up on your list is if you’re not maintaining a healthy list or you’re not abiding by the rules of permission-based email marketing. 

These trap email addresses are placed on the Internet where people or robots harvesting email addresses illegitimately will find them.

Some spam traps are recycled email addresses – that is, email addresses that were once in use by a real person but have since been deactivated. And this is why regularly cleaning your email list is so important. 

Because you could’ve obtained consent to send marketing emails to a particular email address but if that email address is no longer active and is now being used as a spam trap, you’ll look like a spammer.

So how should you be keeping your mailing list clean? 

At least annually, if not bi-annually, regularly remove (or stop sending to) inactive subscribers and bounced email addresses. It’s a quick process that’s more than worth the effort.

If you’re not sure how to detect inactive subscribers or bounced email addresses within your database, shoot me an email at hello@stairwaymarketing.com.au so I can point you in the right direction. 

4. Use double opt-in


If someone subscribes using an email address that contains a typo, or they submit a deliberately fake email address — for example, when someone is required to supply an email address but they don’t want to be emailed — you run the risk of it being a spam trap email address, just out of pure coincidence.

By requiring subscribers to verify their address, you can ensure your list is never contaminated with an invalid address that, at best, will bounce, and at worst is a spam trap.

It is worth noting that high bounce rates also have negative consequences for your sending ability, so bounces are also something you should be actively trying to avoid. 

Most email service providers have double opt-in emails that you should be able to set up in a couple of minutes but if you get stuck I’m here to help.

5. Don’t use clickbait-y subject lines


If you open up your spam folder right now, you’ll see what I mean. Here are a few examples that are in my spam folder at the moment:

  • 🚨Urgent: NEW PRODUCTS 40% OFF – Use Code YES40
  • CHEEKY FLASH SALE 💸


In the past there were specific lists of “spam triggers” to avoid in your marketing emails – things like dollar signs, the words “free” or “win”, lots of capitalisation, or excessive use of exclamation marks – but spam filters are now much more sophisticated. 

So instead of focusing on specific words to avoid, it’s best to think more holistically and ensure that you don’t write subject lines that sound like spam.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to writing a good subject line but here are some basics to consider:

  • Focus on your audience – what do they want to hear from you? What value will they get from opening your email?
  • Keep your goals in mind – yes, you need to focus on the reader, but don’t forget what you want to accomplish with your email. Keep the email’s purpose firmly in mind.
  • Use curiosity, scarcity, and social proof to your advantage. Hinting at the contents of your email, creating urgency, and using customer statistics or ratings can yield promising results.
  • Keep it short and sharp! Research shows the ideal subject line length is between 41 and 50 characters.

6. Email your subscribers regularly!


As the research I shared in this blog made clear, your subscribers want to hear from you. 

Not only can emailing your subscribers regularly help you meet their expectations but it also helps to reduce your chances of being flagged as spam. 

If you only send an email every couple of months, your subscribers are more likely to forget who you are or why they subscribed in the first place. And if this happens, they’re more likely to unsubscribe or mark your email as spam when they do finally hear from you.

7. Use an email platform with a consistently healthy sending reputation


This is a bit of a tricky one, as the sending reputation of email platforms can fluctuate. 

In general, though, some email platforms perform consistently better than others when it comes to landing in the inbox. 

Research from Email Tool Tester shows MailerLite and ActiveCampaign as consistently high performers. Aweber and Hubspot on the other hand, seem to be seeing some consistent issues.

Unless your platform is plagued by consistently poor results I wouldn’t recommend switching based on this measurement alone. But I would recommend keeping tabs on your platform’s performance, with analysis typically conducted every six months. 

To recap, if you want to avoid being spammy in your email marketing you should:

  • Never send without permission – don’t buy email lists and don’t search for email addresses on the internet
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe – because having someone unsubscribe is absolutely better than having them flag you as spend
  • Clean your list regularly so you’re not sending to inactive or bounced emails
  • Use a double opt-in – to minimise your chances of sending to fake emails or emails with typos
  • Avoid clickbait-y subject lines 
  • Email your subscribers regularly – so they’re more likely to remember who you are and why they subscribed
  • Use an email platform with a consistently healthy sending reputation – to give yourself the best chance of landing in your subscriber’s inbox


Ready to reap the rewards of a profitable and engaged mailing list? Check out our email marketing services now.

You might also enjoy

our signature services

email marketing strategies

email marketing

Grow your mailing list and convert more subscribers into adoring customers. Start nailing your timing and sharing content your audience actually cares about.

marketing strategies for small business

content strategy

End the marketing mayhem by demystifying the what, where, when and how of your content creation. Your customers (and your bottom line) will thank you for it.

marketing copywriter

copy and blog writing

It’s time to find your signature sauce and share it around, so that the words you use become a serious money maker for your business.