Need help? Chat now!

Hostwinds Blog

Search results for:

Email Marketing Deliverability: The Top Do’s and Don’ts in 2017 Featured Image

Email Marketing Deliverability: The Top Do’s and Don’ts in 2017

by: Hostwinds Team  /  April 6, 2017

No matter how much time you spend crafting the perfect email copy, beautifully designed templates and perfected headlines demand high open rates. It won't matter if your emails never even make it into your subscribers' inbox. So how do you improve inboxing and deliverability and prevent your emails from getting the dreaded spam slam? That's precisely what this post will help you do.

Whitelist certificates and enterprise-level email services

First and foremost, there are two essential things you should think about if you're having problems with email going to spam: Whitelisting and where you're sending your email from. Suppose you're serious about your email marketing. In that case, it's highly recommended to pay to get whitelisted or to use a professional enterprise email platform. Which one is best for you depends on your needs and budget.

Enterprise-level email is effective AND cheap.

Our Enterprise Email starts at only $5/month, which provides MailChannels filtering (filters outbound bulk and SPAM to ensure you're never seen as a spammer), SPF/DKIM/rDNS already configured, and virgin IP space (clean IPs no one else has ever used). All our server IPs are actively and aggressively monitored to ensure you're never trying to send email from a blacklisted IP.

Whitelist certificates are effective but not necessarily affordable for all.

Then there are whitelist certificates that you can apply for and purchase. These are also a great idea, but it's typically much more expensive. Also, keep in mind that it'll still be your responsibility to ensure you're sending from adequately configured. Authenticated servers, you're maintaining low spam rates and sender complaints, and that you aren't on any of the many blacklists.

The most well-known whitelist certificate provider, Return Path, charges a minimum of $400 for the application fee alone. And the lowest tier (except for non-profits) runs $1,375/year.

If you're interested in worry-free Enterprise Email, use our 24/7 live chat for more information. Speak directly with a rep because you won't find this offer anywhere on our site!

Now let's look at what you should and shouldn't be doing overall to get the best return on your email marketing and ensure high deliverability.

The who – Your list

Before we even get into what you should or shouldn't be doing with your actual emails, let's look at who you're sending to. This can dramatically affect if or how often your emails are making to the intended recipients.

Just let repeated bouncers go.

If you have people on your mailing list that emails have repeatedly been bounced back from, just cut your losses and remove them. Don't take it personally. Heck, sometimes those bounces are simply due to expired email addresses or ones that have been closed.

Continually having hard bounces looks bad to ISPs and is a big factor of how credible they think you are. If you have lots of hard bounces, then there's a good chance that ISPs are going to stop allowing any of your emails to get through.

Only use a list you've created.

There are plenty of places today that you can legally buy or rent mailing lists from. That may sound convenient, but do they really want to receive mail from you just because they've opted in somewhere at some point in time to receive emails? Very doubtful. So it's not very likely they're going to be receptive to your message. But, likely, they'll immediately trash it or mark it as spam… both of which are bad and can lead to your company's bad reputation with ISPs and email providers. Not to mention that it's probably against the TOS if you're using an email marketing platform.

Don't go scraping the internet for email addresses, either. That's a terrible practice to get into and often illegal, thanks to the CAN-SPAM Act.

Bottom line: Only mail to people on a list that you create, filled with those who have indicated they would like to receive email communications specifically from you. Preferable by using a double opt-in.

The email

Now you're set up and know there aren't any problems with where you're sending from (either an enterprise email service or your own servers that have been whitelisted), and you're mailing to a list that you know contains only people. Who is interested in hearing from you… So let's talk about the actual emails.

The from – sending email address

Don't use no-reply: The address that your emails are coming from matters. If you're sending emails from a, then it's time to look at the calendar and realize you're trying to market to people in 2017. The age of personalization, user experience, and open communication. Using a no-reply return address is a big put-off. People want to know they can connect with you when and how they want.

Today consumers have to Tweet to reach businesses and get a personal reply. Well, businesses that are doing it right. If they don't get a reply in a respectable amount of time, you can be pretty sure they're not going to be buying. And to top it off, they'll probably let everyone and their brother know about it too.

Don't be weird: Don't use some odd, weird-looking, unpronounceable email address for sending from either. People are overrun with spam and even emails they've opted to receive, and it's unlikely they're going to open something from some odd-sounding email they don't recognize.

Don't be anonymous: Don't send your emails with a from address account being Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. This should be pretty straightforward, but it's simply more professional and credible-looking to send from your business domain, not some free third-party email service.

Bottom line: Make your email address something easily recognizable and personable. Use an email address with a real name attached to it instead of just your company name.

Subject line

You can spend as much money on developing the best email possible. Still, if you have a poorly written subject line, it won't matter. No one is going to see that beautiful masterpiece of an email that you've created.

Catchy but not misleading: The subject line needs to catch their attention and provoke them to want to read more. But it should also not be misleading. If you use a subject line that isn't true to the contents of your email, you not only will lose their attention, but they very well might unsubscribe for being misled. No one has time for that.

Words to stay away from certain types of words can indeed trigger spam filters. But it's not that cut and dry. Just because your subject line has a term known to draw attention from spam filters doesn't mean your email will end up in the spam folder.

Spam filters today are more intelligent than several years ago. They'll look at your email as a whole, and certain elements, words, and trends may rack up spam points. Once your email hits a certain number of points, then and only then does it usually become instantly spam-boxed.

Different spam filters from other companies have different thresholds to how many "points" will put you in the spam box, too. So there are no definitive criteria. But just for information's sake, here's an extensive list of spam-type words that HubSpot published in 2012.

Don't yell: NO ONE WANTS TO LOOK AT EMAIL SUBJECTS IN ALL CAPS. It's hard to read. It isn't enjoyable. Enough said.

Skip exclamation points: Again. Annoying. Don't use exclamation marks to try to stand out!!!!!!!! See? It's lazy. It's much better to make your point with the right words and emotion than a bunch of exclamation marks.

Don't "RE:" them: This is misleading, and pretty it's pretty obvious. Anything in my email that has this gets trashed immediately unless I know it's from someone I emailed, and they're replying. You probably do the same thing.

Pre-in-browser header: You know that little bit of text you see, kind of like a preview of the email before you even open the email? So many people overlook this, even though it can be essential. This is the perfect place to entice them even further to opening your email to find out what else is in there. And it's too often

completely ignored. See Marketing Experiment's look into how this preheader can affect both opens and clicks.

Bottom Line: Don't be annoying. Skip caps and exclamation marks, which make you look not only unprofessional but desperate. Don't be tricky or misleading. Spam filters will catch any of this, plus even if they don't, you'll turn away subscribers who have initially been open to hearing what you have to say.


Get personal, but not too personal. And if you're sending bulk email, which you probably are, double and triple-check that everything is working as it should before you hit the send button. The last thing you want is for you someone to receive an email that says "Hello {First_Name!}".

There's more to personalization than just using someone's name, too. Here's an excellent guide to getting personalization right in 2017 by Kissmetrics. And as they say, "Personalized marketing delivers the right message to the right person at the right time."


Customers find spelling and grammar mistakes not only annoying but unprofessional. Using it's instead of its or your instead of you're. Yes, it matters. Double-check your copy, or better yet, have someone else look it over. Two sets of eyes are always better than one.


The way your emails are styled, the layout, the images, and even font colors can be a big deal. I'm sure you know that your emails need to be responsive and viewable on any device, but what else? Here's what you should keep in mind when designing your emails or points to discuss with your designer.

Avoid excessive images: Images are fantastic. They can easily convey an emotion or help get the point across. And the design of your email can quickly garner more attention or just as easily get your email trashed the moment they open it.

Using too many images or an email that's entirely made up of an image can be a bad thing, though. It can draw attention from spam filters, or poorly optimized images can increase load time. And if you think people are going to wait around for your email to finish loading, you've got your head in the clouds.

Some email providers won't load background images, and some people don't have images turned on in their email. Either they've turned them off, or the email provider blocks them by default, and the user hasn't intentionally set it to allow them. Not to mention the visually impaired.

Alt-text: This leads to alt text. Any image you decide to use should have proper alt texts applied—particularly important ideas like a CTA.

Provide different formats: Offer both an HTML version of your and a text version. Some people only use one or the other, and if you don't offer both, you're more than likely to have some subscribers who can't even view the email. It's also not a bad idea to also offer a browser version of your email that they can click a link to view. There are so many different email clients out there, and you could never be 100% sure they're all displaying your beautiful email correctly.

Bottom line: Images are great, but using too many or poorly optimized ones isn't.


You may be tempted to engage your list with interactive media, video, flash, or other embedded elements included in your email. Don't. Not only will many spam filters not like this, but even when it doesn't trigger spam filters, likely, the email client won't display it anyways. So that's space just wasted and will look unprofessional.

If you insist that a video or other media is needed or helpful, link to it. For videos, use an image that looks like a video player but leads to the video hosted elsewhere. For other interactive elements, use screenshots, a button, or simple text CTA.

The same thing goes for attachments. Attachments won't' go over well—link to what you want to attach instead.


A lot of this should come across as common sense. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you open it? Would you stick around to read it?

And remember that even if you do all of these things and check every mark, it won't' matter much if you're sending from a server that's already got a bad rep or is blacklisted. Do yourself a favor and start on the right foot with a whitelist certificate or enterprise-level email servers.

Hostwinds Enterprise Email starts only $5/month. It includes MailChannels filtering, with SPF/DKIM/rDNS set up and ready to go and virgin IP space (clean IPs no one else has ever used). You'll never have to worry about sending from a bad server either since every server is constantly monitored to ensure they're not in danger of being blacklisted.

But remember that you won't find this offer on our site. If interested, use our 24/7 live chat for more information to speak directly with a rep. Oh, and ask about the coupon code EMAIL25 for 25% off your first month!

Are there any other tips or tricks that have helped you increase your deliverability?

Written by Hostwinds Team  /  April 6, 2017