Sending Ham, Not Spam: Using Email Best Practices For a Better Campaign

Are you sending spam to customers without realizing it? Here are some steps you can take to ensure you’re sending emails your customers will love.

AWeber-SendingHamNotSpamEmailBestPracticesManaging an email campaign is easier said than done. Sure, using an email service provider definitely makes it easier to create and send emails to subscribers. But there are a number of different things you have to do to ensure you’re delivering emails people love.

If you don’t, you could end up sending out the most dreaded email message of them all: Spam.

*Cue the spooky music*

If you stick to email best practices, however, you can be more confident that you’re sending emails people want to check out. And when that happens, you’ll be well on your way to growing and maintaining an actively engaged list.

But first, it’s time to assess the current status of your emails.

You Could Be Sending Spam And Not Even Know It

Spam — not to be confused with the similarly named canned “ham product” — is any email that you did not sign up to receive. According to The Spamhaus Project, Spam is defined as “Unsolicited Bulk E-mail.”

No business owner wants to be associated with that dreaded scarlet word. But many email marketers are sending spam without even realizing it.


It’s true — consider your own emails for a minute. If you’re sending subscribers information they did not sign up to receive, then you might, unfortunately, be guilty of sending spam.

Think Ham, Not Spam

On the flip side, “ham” is any type of valuable email that a recipient would want to receive. If you signed up to receive information from your auto shop, and were sent vehicle maintenance tips, that content would be considered “ham.” (Hungry yet?).

So how do you send emails that subscribers want to receive?

Check out these four best practices you can use to help you send hammy emails instead of spammy ones:

1. Manage Expectations

Those who sign up to your email list should be aware of what they’re signing up for from the get-go.

This means that your sign up form should clearly explain what subscribers will receive from your emails. Whether it’s a company newsletter sent every Thursday, daily DIY tips or sales announcements, be clear and honest about what you’re sending. And always deliver on your promise — the ‘ol bait and switch will likely cause your content to be marked as spam.

Saying one thing and delivering something else, or being vague with your description is a bad habit to get into — and you’ll suffer greatly as the spam complaints come pouring in.

The same also goes for your subject lines. Tailor your subject lines to reflect the content of your message. If you send an email with commonly asked questions about consultation meetings, your subject line should convey this topic to your readers.

Pro Tip: Split test your forms and subject lines for better engagement and conversion.

2. Deliver Valuable Information

It may seem like a no-brainer, but the best way to keep your subscribers happy (and
avoid complaints) is to deliver the best content possible. When someone signs up for your list, they’re ready to receive your awesome content. So providing that from the start helps build strong relationships and keeps your subscribers engaged.

When you’re crafting your emails, think about the story you’d like to tell. Building a series that promotes your product or service is fantastic, but ask yourself: What am I really trying to say?

Spectacular content will not only help you convert subscribers into customers, it will both solidify your brand identity and differentiate your email content from competitors. Even a well-timed joke, or subtle quip can really endear your customers to you.

And best of all? Those spam complaints will be few and far between.

3. Use a Company Domain

In addition to setting clear and honest expectations regarding your email content, using a domain-based email address as your “From” name is another way to represent yourself as a trustworthy source.

Not only does this help subscribers identify you in their inboxes, it also serves as a way to reinforce your brand identity. Using a domain hosted email address such as can do wonders for your deliverability, while distinguishing your content in your customer’s inboxes.

If you’re managing multiple email lists, tailor your “From” Address to the specific content for each one. If you’re in the consulting business, you would want to use a different domain to reflect each industry you work with. For example, “” for your finance clients and “” for marketers.

Pro Tip: Domains will allow you to filter messages, create separate inboxes or folders for each ongoing campaign.

4. Maintain a Healthy List

No matter how awesome your content might be, regular maintenance is the the key to cultivating an engaged list.

As your list grows, customers will inevitably drift away — which is totally normal. It’s hard to let go, but removing inactive subscribers regularly will help you maintain a healthy list.

Doing so will not only remove those who no longer wish to receive information from you (which drastically decreases the risk of a spam complaint), it also gives you a more accurate view of your email performance.

With a list of engaged subscribers, you’ll likely see higher open rates, click rates, and overall better email analytics. Keeping disengaged subscribers can skew your email analytics, which isn’t a good thing at all.

To find out who to keep and who gets the cut, consider running a reactivation campaign.

Sending Valuable Emails

Are you ready to make improvements to your email campaigns? Share how you plan to send emails your subscribers love in the comments below.



  1. Long Live The Internet

    2/26/2015 4:51 pm

    Sending ham always results in dessert. Sending spam never gets you invited back for another meal. Great post Ham, I mean Sam.

  2. Sam Hollis

    2/26/2015 5:28 pm

    Thanks! I don’t want to give a “canned” reply, but I’m glad I could provide some valuable information.