Whether you’re a yoga instructor or an investing guru, the key to delivering effective and engaging online courses is through exceptional communication. Email is a vital component of e-learning for current and prospective students.
As an online course creator, you likely send many emails, including class updates to active students, enrollment opportunities for potential learners, and more. If your audience never receives those emails, they may miss important information or take their business to another online education platform.
Your first step in ensuring your emails make an impact is avoiding the spam trap — read on to learn how.
What is spam email?
We’re all familiar with spam: those unsolicited emails trying to sell you junk. Sometimes, they’re simply annoying and irrelevant to your life. Other times, they’re complete scams.
Email service providers (ESPs) like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook are equipped with filters designed to divert spam messages straight to the spam folder. These filters are triggered by specific factors, such as the use of spammy language or a low IP reputation score.
Spam filters are beneficial when they detect actual spam. Unfortunately, sometimes legitimate messages also end up in the spam folder — often when a sender like yourself falls into a spam trap.
What’s a spam trap?
Spam traps are email addresses designed to mimic valid accounts to “trap” spammers and senders who aren’t following email best practices. Internet service providers (ISPs) and anti-spam organizations (like Spamhaus) monitor spam traps. If your email lists include even one of these false addresses, it can harm your sender reputation and divert your legitimate course emails to the spam folder.
Three types of spam traps — and how to avoid them
There are three common types of spam traps. Thankfully, avoiding them isn’t too tricky. As you create email campaigns for your latest courses, you must follow some email best practices.
Spam trap 1: Honeypots
Also called pristine or pure spam traps, honeypots are intentional traps created by anti-spam services. These email addresses are not, and have never been, associated with real email users. If one is on your list, it’s clear you didn’t follow the proper steps to build a following for your online courses.
How to avoid honeypots
Never use purchased email lists to promote your e-learning platform, as they can include spam traps. You should also avoid email scraping (collecting published email addresses from other websites). Spam aside, neither strategy is great for sales or engagement. There’s no way to be sure the recipients are even interested in the topics your courses cover.
Send your emails only to individuals who have expressly given their permission to receive them. Avoid cold emailing, which can result in your messages being classified as spam, and instead focus on building your email list organically through engaging marketing initiatives and providing exceptional courses.
Spam trap 2: Recycled emails
Recycled spam traps were once valid and active email addresses but have since become inactive. Maybe the original user changed ESPs, or the address was associated with a former employer. Regardless, anti-spam organizations can recycle these abandoned emails into spam traps.
This trap isn’t as detrimental to your sender reputation as a honeypot. After all, the addresses were once valid and having one on your list doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve purchased or scraped it. But continually emailing recycled spam emails shows that you do not prioritize maintaining a clean and up-to-date email list.
How to avoid recycled spam traps
Keep your email lists up-to-date by periodically purging old emails. If a recipient hasn’t engaged with — or even opened — your messages in months, it may be time to remove their address from your list. You can try a re-engagement campaign first, offering promo codes for your latest courses or other incentives to get them back onto your site. But if there’s still no response, remove the address.
Spam trap 3: Typos
Typo spam traps look like legitimate emails at first glance. But look closer, and you’ll spot a typo, for example, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like recycled spam traps, typos aren’t as damaging as honeypots. You may have obtained a typo spam trap on a purchased or scraped email list, but it’s just as possible that a real customer mistyped their email when signing up for your course campaign messages.
Constantly engaging with these traps can greatly damage your email analytics and negatively impact your sender reputation.
How to avoid typo spam traps
Implementing a double opt-in for your course emails is a smart way to avoid email addresses with typos. After someone signs up for a new course, your newsletter, or other communications, send them a follow-up email with a confirmation link. Only after they’ve confirmed should you add their email to your list.
Other strategies to avoid the spam folder
You can avoid spam traps by growing your email list organically, periodically purging inactive accounts, and using a double opt-in strategy. But spam traps aren’t the only reason your course emails may end up in the spam folder.
Your recipients are legit — but are you? ESPs must protect their users by verifying every email sender’s domain reputation. A healthy domain reputation doesn’t happen overnight. You must build it — and maintain it.
If you’re a new course creator, start by warming up your domain with a small and engaged recipient list before expanding your email outreach. If you jump to an extensive email campaign immediately, it may look fishy to ESPs and cause them to block your messages.
It’s also essential to authenticate your domain, which helps ESPs recognize that you are who you say you are — not a spammer or phishing scheme. You can authenticate your domain by publishing Domain Name System (DNS) records, which enable security checks like:
- Sender Policy Framework: SPF verifies the IP addresses allowed to send emails from your domain.
- Domain Keys Identified Mail: DKIM adds an encrypted key to your emails to protect them from being tampered with during transit.
- Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance: DMARC uses SPF and DKIM verifications to provide extra protection for your domain.
When you implement SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and more, ESPs recognize that you’re an authenticated sender, which reduces the likelihood of your emails going to spam.
Engaging and relevant emails
You’ve followed the above best practices and built your sender reputation. Great work! Of course, there’s another way your emails could end up in the spam folder: your recipients put them there.
Any recipient, for any reason, can mark your messages as spam. If this happens frequently, ESPs may automatically route your messages into spam. That’s why it’s vital to craft relevant and engaging emails. (Don’t forget to add a compelling call-to-action.)
Segmenting your subscribers is a great strategy. If you teach courses on multiple topics, create different email lists for each one. You should also segment active and potential students since they represent different stages of the buyer funnel.
When recipients enjoy reading and interacting with your emails, they’re far less likely to mark them as spam.
The final way to avoid the spam folder isn’t just a beneficial strategy — it’s a legal requirement in many countries. For example, the CAN-SPAM Act in the U.S. says you must allow recipients to opt out of your messages — and honor those requests quickly.
Always include a clear unsubscribe link or button in your course emails. Even better, provide an email preferences center for your students and subscribers, so they can pick and choose the types of communications they’re interested in.
By giving your recipients greater control over the type of emails they receive from you, you can reduce frustration and prevent them from reporting your emails as spam.
Steer clear of spam traps for course email success
After dedicating countless hours to creating incredible courses, the last thing you need is for your students to miss vital communications about your platform. Avoid the spam trap by building an engaged email list, periodically removing invalid subscribers, and implementing a double opt-in strategy. It’s also beneficial to maintain a strong sender reputation, craft engaging messages, and allow your recipients to unsubscribe.
Since you’re providing a service, you’ll also need to send your students transactional emails periodically. These types of messages are automatically triggered by an action, like a student enrolling in one of your courses. They’ll receive a confirmation message and know their enrollment was successful.
Transactional emails, like marketing messages, can fall into the spam trap, but a reliable email service can help you avoid this. SendWP is a transactional email solution for WordPress that helps you achieve a 99.5% deliverability rate. We do this by taking on some of the heavy lifting regarding email authentication, including SPF, DKIM, and more. Plus, we integrate seamlessly with LifterLMS, making SendWP the ideal solution for online course creators.
Whether you’re creating marketing campaigns for your latest online courses or you need to send transactional emails for clear communication, spam is a factor to consider. Avoid the spam trap by taking the above steps — and letting SendWP assist you.
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