Oops – you didn’t realize it, but in sending what you thought was a great first touch email, you composed a message that’s heading straight to the spam filter. After spending your time crafting a great message with all the elements of a successful cold email, it’s frustrating to think that your message might not even inbox. With every element of your email, you are making a choice between sounding legit or sounding like a spammer. From now on, instead of unknowingly making the wrong decisions and sending messages that end up lost in your prospect’s promotions tab, let’s learn the things to avoid in each key element of cold emailing:

1. Formatting

The way you use things like bold, italics, font, and text size can play a big role in your email’s deliverability. What you think might look cool could actually be hurting you. Instead of going for the wow-factor in what your email looks like, pay more attention to what it says instead of being flashy. Write your cold emails like you would write to a friend – in plain text. No fancy HTML, no all caps. Oh, and skip the emojis – they are made mostly of unicode, which spam filters are highly suspicious of. It’s not worth compromising your deliverability over a winking smiley face.

2. Images

Visuals look great and may garner a better reply rate in some rare cases, but they can drastically hurt your deliverability by preventing your email from inboxing in the first place. Spam filters assign a ratio between images and text, so if you are going to include an image, make sure that’s not all your email is and that you have plenty of text around it.

3. Links

The more links you include in your email, the worse its deliverability could be. Here’s why: the point of spam is to get you to click away from the email and onto something else, so avoid composing an email that does that very same thing. For best results, aim to have zero links in your email or links that are whitelisted by spam filter (e.g. LinkedIn profile), or you are sure most prospect will click on (rare thing on the first email). If you have something you really want to share with your reader, look for a more creative, less harmful way to include it. Add it to your call to action and ask your prospect if they’d like you to share a relevant link that you just described to them. This leaves the link out of your email and keeps the door open for starting a conversation.

4. Keywords

Sadly, there’s no list of naughty words that are guaranteed to get your email flagged as spam, mostly because it changes so frequently. Instead of there being one main hit list of taboo keywords, email spam algorithms look for words that match other emails that have been flagged in the past. In this way, spammy keywords are about being guilty by association. Scan your email for words that sound like they might show up in spam and find other ways to re-phrase your message.

5. Length

Length is a tough one because there are merits for both short and long emails. Short messages are direct and to the point and lead to more replies. Longer messages play better with spam filters, meaning you have better deliverability with long emails. For length, it’s all about finding the balance – that sweet spot for the best deliverability is possible. Ideally, include previous email in following up, so you get the benefit of long emails without your recipient having too much to read.

6. Variations

Variations can be used for A/B Testing (low volume makes it hard to be statistically significant, so aim for drastically different variations), but more importantly to increase your deliverability. Too many similar emails are a red flag for spam filters, so it’s always good to add variations that are different enough.


Keep these lessons in mind so you can send your cold emails with confidence that they’ll get delivered straight to the inbox of your hottest prospects.