Email Spam Turns 35: How To Make Sure You’re Not Getting Marked As Spam!

Mmm… spam. Gmail’s got some tasty recipes to make with

Mmm… spam. Gmail’s got some tasty recipes to make with the email spam you receive.

And it all started 35 years ago today. Today’s the 35th anniversary of the first spam email that ever got sent – to a list of about 300 people.

Spam is still an email plague today. But consumers tend to think of spam a little differently than marketers do. To marketers, spam is simply unsolicited email. If you send a marketing message to someone who didn’t opt into your list, that’s spam.

To consumers, spam is any email they don’t want – whether they opted in or not.

You don’t want to be considered a spammer – especially if you’re not really spamming. So for the 35th anniversary of the spam email, we’ve got a comic illustrating the 5 reasons people might mark your email as spam – and how you can fix it.

#1: They Forgot That They Ever Signed Up

Your Reader:
Signed up to your list, then didn’t hear anything from you for a while. A long while. So long that they actually forgot they signed up (which, in the Internet world, doesn’t really take that long).

By the time an email from you finally hits their inbox, they don’t even remember who you are or that they requested your emails.

Should whip up a welcome email to send as soon as readers confirm to your list. And maybe set up a quick follow up series too, with 3 or 4 messages spaced a week apart.

If you’re sending a monthly newsletter, make sure to mention your frequency everywhere – on your sign up form, on your thank you page, in your welcome email, at the end of your welcome series. The more readers are exposed to your schedule, the more they’ll remember it – and you – when their first monthly email arrives.

#2: They Don’t Recognize The Sender Name

Your Reader:
Signed up for emails from XYZ Company. So who is this Mr. A and Mrs. B who keep emailing them, and how did they get their address in the first place?

Should keep your From name recognizable and consistent. The best solution? Use your company or blog name. Readers are sure to recognize that every time they see it.

If you need to change your From name for some reason, use this advice to give your customers a heads up first.

#3: Too Many Emails!

Your Reader:
Has inbox overload, and the 75th email from your business this week was the final straw!

Shouldn’t be so over-eager. Consumers receive about 5 marketing emails per day, in addition to emails from friends, family and colleagues. The last thing they want is three emails a day from you, too.

If you’re having trouble finding the right frequency, do you and your readers a favor and let them choose their own email schedule.

#4: Your Emails Are Different From What You Promised

Your Reader:
Signed up for your Bacon Recipe Of The Week email list, because he’s drooling for some sweet bacon recipes. So what’s up with all the asparagus recipes he’s getting with his bacon recipes?

Should stick to sending what you promised. If you promised bacon recipes, send bacon recipes. If you promised store coupons, send store coupons.

You might get tempted to add your subscribers to a different list – like sending them your blog emails after they’ve signed up for weekly coupon deals to your Etsy shop. Don’t do that. You’ll get marked as spam every time.

If you want to advertise a separate list, dedicate a small section at the end of your email or in a side bar to let people know you have more content to share. But don’t send them something they’re not expecting – and didn’t sign up for.

#5: Where’s The Unsubscribe Link?

Your Reader:
…just wants off your list. But your email is really long and the unsubscribe link is all the way at the bottom in a tiny font. This spam button here at the top is really big and easy to click and does the trick right away.

Should move your unsubscribe link to the top. Above your header. No, seriously. It works, your readers appreciate the easy out and you don’t get slammed with false spam accusations.

Share This Comic!

Anniversaries are for gifting, right? Share this comic with your friends and save them from spam complaints too!

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Do you have other ways of making sure your readers don’t accidentally report you as spam? Share them in the comments!


  1. Randall Magwood

    5/3/2013 7:40 pm

    This is a great description of how to avoid spam. I’ve seen some marketers implement some of these techniques in their email newsletters before, but I never understood why. But now I know. Great blog post.

  2. WSI

    5/4/2013 12:58 pm

    Very good text with nice comic pictures. Keep going good work! 🙂

  3. Jim

    5/4/2013 4:52 pm

    Good info and right on target. Who knew anyone kept track of the birth of spam?

  4. Douglas Hopper

    5/6/2013 3:19 am

    I didn’t even have to look at the spam page you have because I had bad experiences myself the biggest reason I marked my incoming messages spam was because the person would promise free product then you put your Email in then you get That free product from someone totally different and I will never do that because what happens is you lose that customers trust and lose them I think when you promise someone something FREE Just give it to them instead of putting them through A Maze to get it. When I give out Free Ebooks I give them the download link right away not pass there Email on to an affiliate thats not how you get Customers or make money.

  5. Barbara McKinney

    5/13/2013 5:47 am

    When subscribers don’t confirm, there is no audit trail. There is also more of a risk that they aren’t as interested about the information being sent.That’s why we have to turn on confirmed opt in!And don’t forget to customize the confirmation message so it sets expectations for your email campaign. Thanks for the post!

  6. jocuri

    6/4/2013 5:55 pm

    This is really good explained so everyone can get it! Thanks for the comic too 😀 it was really entertaining!