We all know about junk mail. We hate getting it and love the spam filters that protect us from it.

Oftentimes, we praise the powers that be for keeping our inboxes from flooding with unnecessary promotions!

There’s plenty of emails to go through in a day without having to filter through bogus requests for financial assistance and false bank accounts in Indonesia.

But for dealers like you, these “beloved” spam filters can mean a significant decrease in the return on investment for our email marketing efforts. Though email is relatively cheap in comparison to other messaging methods, the effect of an unseen email can be detrimental to a campaign.

You’re Losing Money to Spam

Email marketing continues to dominate other marketing channels. Today, email marketing has an average ROI of 3,800 percent – for every $1 spent, the average return is $38.1

This means every unseen email message sent to a junk mail folder because of a spam filter is costing you money.

“This means every unseen email message sent to a junk mail folder because of a spam filter is costing you money.”

Picture it this way: if you spend $300 on 2,000 emails with an ROI of around $12,000, then each email would be worth $6. Losing a few might not seem that extreme… but did you consider how many you might lose and how it might affect your ability to send in the future?

How to Avoid the Dreaded Spam Filter Click To Tweet

If half of your emails are caught by spam, you could lose as much as $6,000! Additionally, each email is sent to a potential customer – how many potential customers are you losing due to spam filters?

Navigating Around the Spam Filter

The truth is, although everyone knows about spam filters, not everyone knows how to bypass them– or even how they work. They use a lot of different principles to filter incoming emails and not all filters use the same principles.2 Spam filters check your IP address and your campaign metadata (like if the recipient knows you/has your email address in their address book)3 – but they also check simple copy mistakes like unclear verbiage and even how many exclamation marks you use.4

Google recently reported that it’s spam catches 99.9% of spam – which means not much gets past Google’s filters.5 The company credits the low rate to the introduction of brain-like “neural networks” (artificial intelligence) into its spam filters that can learn to recognize junk mail and phishing messages by analyzing scads off the stuff across an enormous collection of computers. And Google isn’t alone. AI is now a common addition to the average spam filter.

On top of this use of AI to create better spam filters and remove unwanted emails from the inbox, spam filters are tracking user information to fine-tune the email experience to each individual. The information one customer might want is different to the information another would want. Spam filters don’t just filter through mass-produced emails for possible malintent, they’re filtering out emails that might just be an undesired promotion or inquiry.

Because this criteria can change from filter to filter it’s difficult for people like you and me to determine what will make it through the tests.

Decreasing Your Chances of Landing Among the Junk

It really depends on what type of email marketing you do and whether you or someone at your dealership handles your email marketing.

If you work with a marketing agency, you’ll want to make sure they are following common email best practices and avoiding common email mistakes. Many dealers or their agencies don’t practice basic email protocol and therefore don’t see the results they hope for.

The best thing you can do to achieve a high email marketing ROI is to learn these practices and follow them.

1.  Track the Engagement Your Emails Are Recieving

If you’re sending emails to current or prospective customers who repeatedly ignore your messaging, you’re wasting your time and money. This is worthless messaging or gray mail.

Gray mail is messaging sent to contacts with low engagement or interest. It’s content sent to contacts who have never and will never respond. The more you send to recipients with low-engagement, the likelier your messaging will be flagged as spam.

Additionally, if your messaging is bouncing, or not being delivered (typically due to an invalid address), you need to remove those addresses from future messaging ASAP. Undelivered email can only hurt you. Spam filters check something called a “bounce rate” and the higher your bounce rate is, the lower your overall email deliverability rate will be. Your messaging will end up in the junk box and you will lose money.

2. Send Engaging Copy

Readers don’t like words in all caps. They also don’t like misleading verbiage or excessive use of exclamation marks. And, since your marketing should be catered to your recipients, you should consider their preferences.

In addition, using all-caps or being overzealous with your exclamation marks will simply manage to get your emails flagged as spam.

Be bold and clear with your marketing – phrases like, “unbelievable opportunity” and “HUGE SALE!!!!!” will not fly through spam filters or into your reader’s hearts.

3. Always Use Hyperlinks Instead of Attachments

Spam filters are designed to protect recipients from security risks and unwanted solicitations.

So while they can be annoying as we attempt to send quality messaging about quality sales and incentives, it’s important to work with these filters instead of against them.

That said, including a sign-up form or downloadable attachment to a mass marketing email is a definite no-no. The best practice for gathering or sharing information via email is to utilize the power of a hyperlink. In fact, having more links within your email copy will increase reader engagement opportunity!6

4. Choose Your Words Appropriately

This might seem obvious, but this happens all the time. Do your research and avoid using “spammy” words like “opportunity” and “free” and, well, there’s a lot.

There are entire lists of common words that spam filters catch automatically and send your emails directly to the junk box. Do your research and don’t just assume your marketing is clear.

Sometimes you might have to get creative with your wording just to avoid using a word that might get you flagged. It’s an inconvenient, yet necessary step in email marketing best practices.

5. Craft Appealing Subject Lines

The subject line is the first thing your recipients see. And, if you’re not careful, it might be the only thing they see. Send the wrong subject line and your marketing could be sent straight to a junk mail folder. Words and phrases like “free”, “sale”, “100% satisfied”, “call now”, “act now”, etc. must be eradicated.7

6. Proofread Your Content

Believe it or not, misspelled words are a trigger for spam filters. Your readers won’t appreciate the mistakes either. One study found that 80% of respondents felt spelling and grammatical errors to be an unacceptable email offense.8 So forget leaving room for human error.

Make sure your email copy is perfect by utilizing the spell-check tool. It’s the digital equivalent of dotting “I”s and crossing “T”s.

7. Keep it Brief

Not only will your readers be intimidated by the potential time investment of reading all your copy, the spam filters will catch your emails before they even make it to an inbox.

Having too much copy is a huge red-flag for spam filters. Keep your emails as short as possible with clear CTAs. This will help your readers understand only what’s most important.

If you must write more to explain your offer or product, make sure to break up your copy into more paragraphs to make the email easier to read and give your readers’ eyes a break.

8. Stay Up-to-Date

Yep. There’s a never-ending list of email marketing dos and don’ts. The list above is just the tip of an expansive and ever-changing iceberg.

The key to a successful email marketing campaign is to not assume you or your marketing team are doing everything right. Email marketing continues to change day by day and so do spam filters. It’s important to continually learn and grow as you continue to send incentives and invitations to your ideal customers.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the rules aren’t important. As I stated before, you might be losing more money to spam filters than you think – which will result in failed marketing and an empty showroom.


1. http://www.leightoninteractive.com/blog/2018-most-insightful-email-marketing-statistics
2. https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business
3. http://kb.mailchimp.com/delivery/spam-filters/about-spam-filters
4. https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30594/a-marketer-s-guide-to-getting-past-email-spam-filters.aspx#sm.0000nm6l7m1dckdc9zrfc9jt3qp41
5. https://www.wired.com/2015/07/google-says-ai-catches-99-9-percent-gmail-spam/
6. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/make-emails-more-clickable-list#sm.0000nm6l7m1dckdc9zrfc9jt3qp41
7. https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30684/The-Ultimate-List-of-Email-SPAM-Trigger-Words.aspx#sm.0000nm6l7m1dckdc9zrfc9jt3qp41
8. http://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Email-Statistics-Report-2014-2018-Executive-Summary.pdf