For many people who don’t know much about email marketing, the first thing that comes to their mind when you mention it is unwanted spam filling up their inboxes.

This obviously makes things harder for those of us who promote the legitimate use of permission-based marketing but there are those who ignore the rules of good email marketing practices and cause many recipients of their mails to associate email marketing with spam.


Today we’re going to look at some of the poor practices and strategies that are sometimes adopted in email marketing and show how they hurt senders in the end despite sometimes looking like a shortcut to success.

What NOT to do in email marketing

Straying from accepted good practices can get you labeled as a spammer. Here’s how to avoid this very serious consequence of violating some of the basic rules of email marketing.

Sending messages without consent

The most important rule of email marketing is the importance of permission marketing. This is the idea that recipients of your messages consciously and freely agree to receive commercial messages sent through electronic channels. If you send your email campaign to anyone who didn’t agree to receive it, you’re breaking the primary rule of email marketing.

This mistake can really cost you, too. Penalties vary from one jurisdiction to another but unwanted messages can be a violation of applicable law. 

Remember that “ignorance of the law is no excuse”. Learn more about 4 Common Legal Mistakes In Marketing Emails

Sending to addresses collected from...wherever

It’s not hard to find random addresses in different places online and offline. Businesses post addresses like info@, office@, etc. in lots of place and other kinds of addresses can be found as well. If you’re tempted to add these to your subscriber database, think again. The reason is the same as my previous about permission marketing - you can only send your messages to subscribers who asked to receive them.

Collecting addresses without using the double opt-in model

Even when you collect addresses on your own site with a sign-up form, there is still a right and a wrong way to do it. Using the double opt-in method, as opposed  to single opt-in, is the best way to add new addresses to your subscriber database for a few reasons: 

  • You get double confirmation of the subscriber’s clear desire to receive your newsletter
  • There are online bots that enter information on signup forms and the double opt-in model lets you be sure there is an actual person on the other end of your communications
  • Mistakes can be made on signup forms and the double opt-in model protects you from adding addresses that don’t really exist
  • Double opt-in also protects you from situations when people are signed up for your newsletter by third parties for whatever reason and never agreed to receive your messages.

Single opt-in registration lets addresses be added to subscriber databases automatically without confirmation. You can’t verify that the address really exists without sending a message to it and you have no proof that the owner of the address is the one who provided it.

When you use double opt-in, a message is sent to the address automatically with a confirmation link. The address is added to your database only after the link is clicked. By clicking, subscribers confirm again that they want to receive electronic messages from you.

The double opt-in model solves a lot of problems and protects you from various threats and simple mistakes when entering an email address in a signup form.

Not including a resignation link

Part of permission marketing is making it easy for anyone to leave your subscriber list at any time. Making it difficult to do so is a serious mistake and inconsistent with good email marketing practices.

Using misleading content

This is the quickest way to get marked as a spammer. Even if you have honest goals like improving your campaign stats, this is not the way to do it.

Such content includes:

  • Things like RE: FWD: in the message subject, implying that your message is some kind of response to earlier contact
  • Subject lines that make promises that are not met in the message content
  • “Spammy” things like offers or requests of a financial nature, misrepresenting yourself as someone else

Making subscribers feel cheated or misleading them in any way is one of the fastest ways to get them looking for the button that will allow them to report your message as spam.

Sending obscene content

This is most commonly associated with spam. Sending inappropriate content is not only offensive and distasteful, it can also result in harm and losses among recipients. Such messages can even result in legal action.

Learn more about content inconsistent with good email marketing practices in our post about Antispam Policies. You’ll find more details on material you cannot send through FreshMail.

The consequences of sending spam

Breaking the rules of good email marketing practices can result in several negative consequences, some more significant than others. Here’s what can happen if you don’t following the rules of email marketing.

Legal action

No matter where you or your subscribers are, there are laws governing the conduct of commercial activity via electronic means. The theoretical benefits you may gain (but probably won’t) aren’t worth the potential legal trouble you can have if you don’t conduct your email marketing appropriately.

Poor results

Sending your message to as many addresses as possible isn’t just a violation of privacy but is almost certainly pointless. Email marketing depends on personalised messages that speak to the preferences and and interests of subscribers, not sending the same message to everyone.

Falling into spam traps

There are addresses that are deliberately placed online by email service providers that help to identify spammers. Using them can make your campaigns undeliverable, even for addresses you have obtained legitimately.

Destroying your reputation as a sender

Nothing else you do matters if you can’t get your messages to subscriber inboxes. Protecting your reputation as a sender is the best way to ensure that your campaigns are not labeled as spam.

Wasting money

There are costs associated with putting your campaigns together and sending them. When you send to addresses that will almost certainly never convert and maybe don’t even exist, you are wasting your resources.

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  • Expressly

    Thanks for the article Eliza, you raised some great points.

    Destroying reputation as a sender is unfortunately something that many do. Even though it is something that is avoidable. It’s frankly better to send nothing that to send something that gives you a bad rep. You’ll lose customers as a result.

    One way to avoid this is to send only emails that have relevant content that is of value to the recipient. Our solution brings together eCommerce site owners in a way that allows them to gain information on potential new customers. It allows them to send email campaigns that offer great deals on their partners’ products.

    With carefully selected partnerships, the ads are always highly targeted. It helps to ensure high conversion rates and an excellent ROI. All this while actually enhancing the email senders reputation, not damaging it.