Best Practices For Great Results with Email Marketing

email marketing best practices

Email Marketing success depends on understanding which are the important factors to get the best results. 

We’ll start with explaining how sending an Email Marketing email Actually Works.

An email system consists of 2 parts 

  1. Client ( the program that you have on your PC )
  2. The Email Server ( the program that runs on your server online )

Later on we will be discussing limitations, so remember these two facts:-

The Client software tells the Email Server program what to do.

The Client program, for instance, Thunderbird, Outlook etc. Simply downloads the emails from the Email Server and uploads the emails that we are sending, to the Email server. The client software cannot send or receive emails on its own.

Communications between PC and Server use either POP3 or IMAP protocols

Communication between Our Email Server and the remote server ( with the address of the email ) uses SMTP protocol. The Email Server is often referred to as the SMTP server.

Email SMTP Servers

Our PC program ( Outlook etc )  is used to compose the email, then it is sent to our SMTP Server, through the internet to the recipients SMTP Server where it is stored, until the recipient opens his email and it is downloaded to the Client software where it can be read.


An Autoresponder is an Email Client Software that has the ability to load up an email sequence and an email list, also it has a timer function.  For example, if we were promoting a course, as an affiliate, we might send out a snippet from each section of our course, one per day, to all the people on the email list, to entice them to purchase the course.

AutoResponder Services

Most Affiliates will be using a service like Mailchimp, Aweber, etc.  In which case the autoresponder will be hosted by them. They provide us with an interface or Portal, to the autoresponder so that we can compose our email sequence, set up times to send and load up our email lists.  In this case, they are responsible for taking care of the delivery of our email.

Here  an Aweber autoresponder is engaged by the Affiliate (PC1) , to send multiple emails to multiple addresses. The autoresponder is a program just like Outlook in the first diagram. Aweber provides a remote portal on the internet, for the user to set up the processes.

Why not set up your own autoresponder for Email Marketing?

Yes it would and there are Worpress plugins that enable exactly that, but there are procedures that the autoresponder companies do, that perhaps newbies are not aware of.

AutoResponder Services

Most Affiliates will be using a service like Mailchimp, Aweber etc.  In which case the autoresponder will be hosted by them. They provide us with an interface or Portal, to the autoresponder so that we can compose our email sequence and load up our lists.  In this case they are responsible for taking care of the delivery of our email. 

Like  everything else on the net, our Autoresponder has an IP address

IP Reputation

This is the MOST important factor when it comes to the deliverability of the email:  whether the email will cause a ‘bounce’ or lands in the Spam ( or promo ) box, rather than the INBOX.   

Every email that lands in the Spam folder is useless. We are not going to make any money from those unread emails, more importantly, if the bounce rate is too high, our autoresponder email server IP will be blacklisted. 

The services – Aweber, Mailchimp, Sendinblue, etc. cannot allow that to happen, so it will warn us of the problem of high spam count and in most cases will throttle the sending rate, possibly down to zero.

Why do Email-Marketing Emails end up in Spam?

Let’s start with the Type of Marketer that typically use Email for Marketing:


  1. Traditional: Collect emails on their website, using the double opt-in signup form
  2. Speculative: Buys email list, uses single opt-in form or no form
  3. Cold List: Scraped email list, buy low-quality list

Really anything other than the Traditional model is unsafe, possibly even likely to land you in trouble legally, with anti-spam Can-Spam laws etc.

Types 2 and especially 3 need huge numbers of emails sending per day possibly 100k upwards, which is getting difficult and expensive. The only way to go if you are a type 2 or 3 sender is with a VPS server build-it-yourself model. ( see “VPS Hosting” at the end of this article )

Let’s start with the content. Don’t email your list with rubbish! Send interesting, intriguing well written, informative content, and don’t overdo the promotions. Your contacts will look forward to your emails and the resulting high open rate will boost your ratings.

Double or Single Optin Forms?

ALWAYS USE DOUBLE OPTIN. You then have an opportunity to do some other things …. in safety.

You MUST have permission to put someone on an email list. Your email signup form MUST spell out that you are signing up for an email list. This is a legal requirement now.

Ensure your email has an unsubscribe link at the bottom, clearly marked. Remember that if you do not include this link, they are much more likely to report the email as spam, which is much worse!

Ensure you have a physical address on the email or at least a PO box number.

Low Engagement

Most autoresponders monitor Engagement: Many email clients like Yahoo, Gmail and Outlook will auto-sort into spam any email that fails their sophisticated algorithms. So your autoresponder has to check the email with similar scanners before sending, to eliminate the risk.  I have included a list of sites that you can use to check for red flags in your email content, below.

You need to maximize engagement – ensure that you have a high open-rate, if your emails are ignored, sent to the spam box, or deleted straight away, your autoresponder company will take some action, like throttling the flow.

If you have attachments in your sequence of emails, remove them. Redirect readers to a web page to read long-form content. In the past scammers have used attached files to introduce viruses and other malicious or spyware into users’ systems. Attachments are therefore a red flag to the filters.

Ideal Text length

Too few words in an email or too many will sometimes trigger a filter. It’s based on what has happened in the past, databases contain, profiles of scam emails, built up over years of monitoring, so keep the length over 50 words, but under 150 – 200.  If more is needed, redirect the user to a web page to read the full content.

Images similarly may cause problems, if they are too large or too many, so keep to a minimum. No more than 40% of the total mail should be composed of images.

Sender Information

You may have noticed lately, it has become common practice to end the email with  “ You are receiving this email because……. “ .

At the minimum, you should display the From, To and Reply-To lines and ensure they are correct.

Ideally include a recognisable ‘signature’, maybe a picture of yourself, your company logo, short bio. Something that the user can recognise and have trust in.

Spelling and Grammar

Take a second look at your email before adding it to the sequence. Obvious spelling mistakes are easily spotted with free browser add ons like Grammarly and Spellcheck I also use Phrase Express, very useful if your output uses technical phrases that don’t come easily to mind.

Over Capitalisation, Sensationalism, Use of Emoticons and Exclamations

I shouldn’t have to spell out this section, but it seems some marketers just cannot give up their old ways. Use of Huge fonts in garish colors, too many different fonts in one place,

Don't Make Unrealistic Claims
Big claims, unrealistic claims, all capitals, all of these are picked up by spam filters. Write in a consistent way, without too much exaggeration

Spam Trigger Word Examples

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Critical Email-Marketing Problems – Email Addresses no longer in use

Any email address which is unopened over several mailings should be removed. It may no longer be in use or may be deliberately false.

If you buy a list, ensure you monitor responses from it carefully to remove inactive ones

The best method is Email Verification. A service that will remove invalid addresses.

Whitelist Requests

When you send the first email ( the double optin confirm email ) to a new subscriber, ask them to white-list the email, in this way you can be sure it will never have to pass the spam filters again.

Test your emails before sending, there are a number of good email spam checkers:

What are the risks of using a Self Hosted Autoresponder?

By risk I mean keeping your IP reputation up.

Once you get started and have built up a large list, you should be ok. In the early stages though it can be tricky. It pays to use a reputable email provider. Reputation counts for a lot.  Cost may play a large part in expanding this base, have a look at the charges that Mailchimp et al, charge for larger list hosting.

So, can self-hosting be done? Yes, but do it on a separate domain to your website. If your email gets blacklisted, you may find your website goes down too!  With just your SMTP server on your webspace the model is quite simple:

Self Hosted Autoresponder

VPS Hosting For Email Marketing

The cheapest way for your own SMTP server is with VPS hosting. (Note: very few trad hosting companies welcome email servers on their platforms – they know all the pitfalls ). VPS comes with no ‘nice’ Cpanel interface though, so if tech is not your strong point, you may need assistance. All the loading of programs, running programs and server housekeeping is done with comm-Tools like Putty, in a command-line screen, not in Windows. You’ll need a working knowledge of commands used with Unix servers. Not too big a learning curve, but still a hurdle for most people.

There are a number of good Client Software packages available for autoresponder purposes, many for free, in open source programs.  There are huge savings to be made once setup, though many of the tasks that autoresponder companies do, as detailed above, would then become your responsibility.

VPS and Mailwizz or Mautic Client Programs are a great combination and without any of the limitations imposed by traditional Autoresponders, but beyond the scope of this article. In the future, I may set this up and report back.

Segment your List

Don’t forget that email has many advantages over other forms of distributing your content, mainly 

  • personalisation
  • segmentation

When you write an email, it is to a person, so make it more personal. A  big warm welcome in the first contact.  Use the first name of your contact. 

If your list is interested in say Gardening, you can and should segment it into sub-interests like Lawns, Weeding, Moss treatment, Water features….

In this way, you get a much better response from your prospect and can target any promotion so much better.