7 Crucial Steps To Avoiding The Spam Folder

By Dan Mattson
7 Crucial Steps To Avoiding The Spam Folder


Avoiding the Spam folder is a bit of a juggling act, trying to balance out ‘best practices’ without sacrificing the message you’re trying to convey to your audience.

That’s why I put together a list of things you can do right now that will significantly improve your chances of reaching your subscribers’ inboxes (while also avoiding that pesky Promotions tab in Gmail).

1. Keep Your Lists Clean

It may sound counterintuitive, but your primary goal shouldn’t be to have a BIG list - it should be to have a CLEAN list.

That means only keeping subscribers who actually want to hear from you. So if someone hasn’t opened any of your emails in the last 60 days, it might be time to say goodbye.

Or at very least, send them a ‘re-engagement’ email to let them know they’re about to be removed. If they open it, great! They’re now considered an active subscriber. 

If they don’t open it within 7 days, remove them (or export them…. I’ll explain more in a moment)

2. Build And Maintain Your Relationship

Most people think of this as being tedious, but it doesn’t have to be.

Just make sure you follow these general guidelines:

  • ALWAYS welcome people to your brand. Tell them who you are, and what they can expect from you
  • Don’t make the focus of every email a promotion. It’s okay to have an affiliate link in every email, but make sure you’re speaking to your audience, and not just shoving offers in their face
  • Keep them updated. If you haven’t spoken to your list for a few weeks, that’s okay. When you email next, let them know what you’ve been up to, and what they can expect moving forward
  • Ask for feedback. This can be in the form of a direct reply back to your email, or to a survey containing multiple choice questions. Maybe even add a section at the end where they can express their thoughts/opinions/desires.

If you have subscribers that haven’t opened your emails in 60 days, and haven’t responded to your ‘re-engagement’ emails, it’s time to remove them. 

But rather than just deleting them, you could export them first, and import them into a completely separate autoresponder service (eg. If your main list is on Aweber, import into a cheap MailChimp account).

Then call this your “Junk Bucket”. You can email promotions to this list, without too much focus on the relationship. 

At worst, they’ll continue to be unresponsive. At best, you could squeeze a few sales out of subscribers that were considered dead previously.

3. Craft Your Emails Carefully

There’s a million things you can do to create the perfectly deliverable email… but it’ll most likely look like junk your audience won’t want to read.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t maximize your deliverability while also spreading the message you want heard.

Start by ensuring you don’t cram too many links into your email. Keep it to a maximum of 3 wherever possible.

Next (this is important for Gmail especially), make sure you modify the standard footer added to your emails by your autoresponder. 

For example, change “Unsubscribe from this mailing list” to “Unsubscribe”, and send yourself a test email to check for improvement.

The reason this is effective is because email providers like Gmail look at phrases like “mailing list”, and often end up classifying an email as promotional as a result. 

Finally, ensure the overall tone of your email is personal. Write as though your speaking to one person, rather than a crowd. Not only will this resonate well with the complex sorting algorithms, but it’ll also make your subscribers feel a personal connection to you and your brand.

4. Use Images Sparingly

One of the biggest ‘promo’ flags for email providers is the use of images in emails. 

If you have just one image, there’s a fair chance you’ll be sent to the Promotions tab.

Use two images, and you can pretty much guarantee it’ll be seen as a promotion.

More than three images? You’re probably going straight to the Spam folder, which is also a big black mark against your future chances of reaching the Inbox.

If you’re going to use any images at all, it’s extremely important that you test the effect it has… which we’ll get to shortly…

5. Avoid Signature-Cramming

Don’t be one of those people who crams their life story into their email sign-offs. 

Keep it short and sweet. If you’ve welcomed your subscribers well, and built a great relationship with them, there’s no need to continually educated them on boring details in every email.

It’s filler junk, and can affect the way inbox algorithms handle your messages.

6. Format Your Emails

Some email services like are really good at automatically formatting your emails to fit on any device.

Then there are other services which are terrible at it, and require special attention.

There’s nothing worse than
reading an
email that has been formatted like this. Your eyes don’t know
to look, and it breaks everything up to
the point where it’s very incoherent.

Worse is when you have lines that go 20 words per line in a small font.

People are so lazy, they can't be bothered scrolling their eyes back and forth, so they are even LESS likely to read those lines.

If you want to ensure your emails will look good on any device, you can use a free service like Text Formatter located here:


It’ll keep your lines to a max with of 58 characters (or whatever you set it too), and your subscribers will love you for it!

7. Test Test Test!

The most important recommendation I can give, is to TEST your emails.

Don’t just test some. And don’t just test once.

Test multiple times, to multiple email services (Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo/etc), and keep fine-tuning until you can see your emails are starting to land where they below.

If you’re constantly landing in Spam or the Promotions tab, retry the 6 points above, and test again.

If it’s still not happening, look at your email as though you’re a subscriber, and be ultra critical. 

Are you making unrealistic promises? Are you talking about “making lots of money?” 

Tweak a few sentences, test again, and you’ll often find even just the smallest change can have a dramatic effect.

Finally, if you want to skip all the tedious manual testing, you could use a paid service like Glock Apps.

They’ll give you a list of email addresses to import into your autoresponder. 

Then before sending your campaign, simply run a test to the list of emails they provide, and check your results.

As well as seeing stats update live showing email placement results, you’ll also have access to a list of suggestions tailored specifically to you

You can see in the example below, the IP address I was using (which I’ve blurred for privacy) was blacklisted from Outlook. Which means all emails to Hotmail, Outlook and Live were being sent straight to Spam. 

Ultimately, I moved to a different autoresponder, because the one I was using had a poor reputation.


Ensuring your emails land in the Inbox is one of the most important aspects when it comes to your relationship with your leads and customers, and is often responsible for the success (or failure) of many businesses - both online and offline!

If you’re not receiving the kind of results you’re after from your email campaigns, it might be time to take a step back and assess exactly what’s going on.

And if you’re new to email marketing, use these tips to get yourself off to a fantastic start, and instantly put yourself ahead of your competitors who are too lazy to perform basic checks!


Bonus: I've set up a link where all Affilorama visitors can get free access to my premium email training called "Autoresponder Emails That Convert" (value: $147).

Simply head over to: https://marketingwithdan.com/autoresponder-emails-that-convert/ to get access 


Burak 7 years ago
Thank you verymuch. Usefull post
Dan Mattson 7 years ago
Glad you got something out of it Burak :)

Caleb 7 years ago
That junk list idea is on point although I do remember a time when I had a sale from a guy who's been on my list for over a year. We just will never know everything that could be going on in a person's life coupled with the right message and offer combination.

I noticed you didn't speak on the actual from email address we use, surely this has an extreme impact right?
Dan Mattson 7 years ago
Yes you're absolutely right about the timing. However, although you may still get sales from "cold" subscribers, there's also a chance you're burning your deliverability with all the unopens.

I'd much rather cut 20% of my list that have become cold, and forgo the potential sale or two, than to hang on to them and sacrifice the odds of reaching the inboxes of warmer subscribers. (Plus you may get those same sales from the junk list anyway, without sabotaging your main).

The 'from' email address is definitely important too - however it really depends on the service your emailing to. For example, hotmail/live/outlook all hate email addresses that contain support@ and often prefer things like names ([email protected]).

But then there are other services that prefer support@... it really comes down to testing, and also taking into consideration which service the majority of your list uses (usually gmail).

So if your emails aren't delivering to gmail at 100%, you can be quite certain you're missing out on a lot of opens. That's usually a red flag that it's time to do some deep analysis, and in some cases, move to a completely different service :)

Thanks for the comment!

Eunice 7 years ago
Hi there Dan,

Love your blog - Quick learning, to the point and simple for a non-geek like me to implement. All the best!
Dan Mattson 7 years ago
Thanks for the kind words Eunice, glad you're enjoying it :)

opal61 7 years ago
Thanks Dan
Dan Mattson 7 years ago
My pleasure opal61 :)
David 7 years ago
This is a very informative post, I will delisted dead emails a a.s.a.p. to keep my list clean!
Dan Mattson 7 years ago
Great to hear David! I'm sure it'll make a difference :)
Anita 7 years ago
Great post. Thank you so much! I believe this will help me tremendously, and I surely appreciate your sharing this information.
Anita York 7 years ago
This is a great post. Thank you so much! I believe this information will help me tremendously in my email marketing and I appreciate your sharing it.
tommy robinson 7 years ago
thanks dan
Richard Campbell 7 years ago
Very useful informative post, thanks
marlanketepo 7 years ago
Thanks for sharing
Michael McKay 6 years ago
I enjoyed this article and printed it off for my training files.

I went to your link that no longer works for your Bonus offer:

"Autoresponder Emails That Convert" (value: $147).

If you are still offering that I am interested.
Thank you,