Guard dogs

The 7 Guards of the Primary Inbox in Email Marketing

In email marketing, the path to the personal inbox is protected by 7 faithful and dangerous guards. You must fully master each of them to gain access:


FilterDanger rating: ★★★★

Threat: Filter looks for specific behaviours and then pounces aggressively. Examples include using all caps in your subject, sending from a blacklisted server or a server that doesn’t match your SPF records.

Avoidance: Review your email content against known triggers and ensure your Email Service Provider maintains good sending practices. Alternatively run mail merge from your own email account – avoiding email marketing servers completely.



PromotionDanger rating: ★★☆☆☆

Threat: Promotion was greatly feared, but is currently not too dangerous. The promotions box introduced by Google affects relatively few recipients (16% of email opens are on Gmail webmail according to Litmus). But may yet pose more of a threat in future if introduced to mobile apps.

Avoidance: To avoid this puppy completely you can use a mail merge app like emailbee



SpamDanger rating:  ★★★★★

Threat: Spam is the deadliest of the guards. One mistake and your entire campaign can be badly hurt. According to the Return Path Sender Score Report, a spam complaint rate of over 1% can result in over 40% of emails not arriving in inboxes.

Avoidance: Make sure you have permission to send email marketing to your recipients, and ensure your email provides them with genuine value or interest. And use “unsubscribe” (see below). You have been warned!



SecondaryDanger rating: ★★★★

Threat: Secondary is deadly as it’s completely invisible. According to 30% of subscribers change email address annually. Many users also maintain secondary email addresses specifically to capture email marketing. But the sender has no way of knowing which inbox they are messaging.

Avoidance: Ensure that your communications offer is so compelling you’ll be invited (and re-invited) to the primary inbox. Segmentation, personalisation, design – it all matters.



RuleDanger rating: ☆☆☆☆

Threat: Rule is rarely seen but damaging when used. It requires the user to set up explicit rules to filter designated “newsletters” into a separate folder.

Avoidance: The response to rule is much the same as Secondary – keep your communications compelling.




Danger rating: ★★★☆☆

Threat: Scan is the most common of the guards. The sheer volume of emails your customers receive mean they simply scan the “from” address – perhaps glancing at the subject.

Avoidance: The secret to beating scan is consistent quality. Make your emails and subject lines interesting. And don’t follow a great subject with poor email content. That will mean you get scanned out based on your “from” address.



UnsubscribeDanger rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Threat: Despite appearances, unsubscribe will protect you from the deadlier foes. It ensures that the people receiving your emails are genuinely interested – improving your list quality.

Avoidance: Don’t avoid this useful companion. It will protect you and keep you on the right side of the law.


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