Spamalot 3 :: Best Practices


In the last episodes of Spamalot, we found out about the CAN-SPAM Act, and discussed some general rules for not getting falsely labeled spam. Today we’ll jump right into a bit more detail about how to run a successful campaign.

So we know how to avoid being legally labeled spam and we’ve discussed how to make sure that you’re not only not legally spam, but that your legitimate marketing emails are not being falsely labeled spam by filters.

That’s great, but it doesn’t really get you that much closer to having your emails opened and their valuable links clicked.

Today, we present best practices for successful spam-free email marketing, broken into 4 broad categories.


  1. Most people decide whether or not they’re going to open and read a marketing email based on whether they know, like, and trust the sender. And on what they can see in the preview pane. In other words, whether you get labeled spam or not, your recipients are still going to decide whether or not your emails are valuable without even opening them.This is an excellent reason to cultivate your own email lists rather than buying one from a third party. The better acquainted you are with your list, the more likely they are to open and respond to your email campaign.
  2. State your offer in the subject line. Compelling subject lines are another way recipients decide whether or not to open your email.
  3. Make sure the landing page to which you link from the email is similar in verbiage and voice to the email (similar headlines, Call to Action language, etc). This brand voice consistency will pay off in sales and in relationship building.
  4. Avoid spam filter trigger words like these. These are some of the words most commonly used by spam marketers.
  5. Perform a 5-second test. Send your email to a colleague. If it takes them more than 5 seconds to know what your Call to Action is, revise your email and retest it. Rinse. Repeat.


Most email servers prevent spam by determining whether too many emails are being sent from a given address in too short a span of time (at GoDaddy, it’s 1000 emails a day, others draw the line at 5 – 10 emails/minute). So make sure you’re not throwing thousands of emails at hundreds of recipients you don’t know. This goes back to a point we discussed in Part 2 – keep your solicitation list relatively small.


  1. Keep your email under 650 pixels wide so readers don’t have to scroll horizontally as well as vertically.
  2. Put your logo in the upper left hand side of the email, where eye-tracking studies demonstrate your readers start scanning.
  3. Remember that your emails will increasingly be viewed on mobile devices as well as PCs.

The List

  1. Get permission to send emails to your recipients. And remember, not opting out is not the same thing as granting permission. Ask your customers for permission to take the next step, such as by eNewsletter signup forms. In Great Britain, an explicit opt in is a requirement for email marketers.
  2. List Rental is a widely recognized alternative to list buying. A good rental list provider for Business to Consumer email marketing cultivates lists from single sources (like a magazine’s subscription list, or association’s membership roster), and maintains their lists regularly. For a fee the owner (provider) of the lists transmits the marketer’s offer. The marketer never sees the list.

Here’s a primer on the characteristics of good and bad rental lists.

Truth and Consequences

Here’s why it’s so important to avoid being labeled a spam marketer: you’re going to suffer both short term and long term consequences.

In the short term, your emails will be ignored at best, and filtered at worst. In the long run, getting labeled as a spammer will harm your brand. All the good will you’ve built up over years and years of making great products and providing great service will be wiped away and your reputation will be destroyed.

That said, email marketing is still a very, very lucrative channel, and you can engage in it without harming your integrity if you know what you’re doing. And the knowing what you’re doing is easier said than done, as we’ve discovered throughout this miniseries. If you don’t have the expertise on your staff, or the time and resources to train someone, hiring a firm to assist in putting together your email marketing campaign could pay off in spades.



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