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Avoid the spam folder when sending healthcare email marketing


What good are your email marketing campaigns if patients never see them? Luckily there are some general tips you can follow to avoid the spam folder.

HIPAA compliant email marketing can improve patient outcomes, set you up as a leader in your field, boost your brand, and grow your business. And as we’ve previously covered for Physicians Practice, personalized email marketing is even more powerful.

But what good are your email marketing campaigns if patients never see them? Luckily there are some general tips you can follow to avoid the spam folder.

Obey the CAN-SPAM Act

The first step is to obey the CAN SPAM Act which sets a national standard for the regulation of spam email. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Bureau of Consumer Protection has provided a CAN SPAM Act compliance guidewhich summarizes the ruling.

In a nutshell, all email marketers including those in the healthcare field must:

  • Provide the option to unsubscribe
  • Provide your physical address
  • Accurately identify the business that is sending the email in the email header
  • Include a subject line that briefly explains the email contents
  • If it’s an advertisement, identify the message as such

Ways that your email ends up in the spam folder

There are two ways that your email can end up going to the spam folder: either spam filters send it to the spam folder directly, or a recipient tags your email as spam themselves. Once enough people do this, your spam score will increase, and eventually your emails will start going to the spam folder before anyone has a chance to read them.

We’ll explain how you can avoid both scenarios below.

Remove bounced email addresses

Hard email bounces are the result of an invalid, closed, or non-existent email address, and these emails will never be successfully delivered. Bounce rates are one of the key factors internet service providers (ISPs) use to determine an email sender’s reputation, so having too many hard bounces can cause your emails to no longer arrive in patients’ inboxes.

Ask subscribers to add you to their address book

Most spam filters allow recipients to whitelist a sender by adding it to their address book. You can recommend that your recipients do just that.

Don’t use a no-reply email address

Certain ISPs, network spam filters, and patients’ personal email security settings are set up to send no-reply email addresses to the junk folder. Also, most ISPs do not allow email recipients to add no-reply emails to their address books.

Don’t use an overwhelming number of images, or huge images

Using one large image as your entire email, or too many images in general tends to send an email to the spam folder.

You’ll also want to make your image file sizes as small as possible without losing their visual integrity to prevent long email load times.

Don’t use ALL CAPS

Some people consider all caps spammy. Instead of using annoying tactics to get people’s attention, try personalizing your emails, establishing relevancy, and using catchy language.

Don’t use exclamation points!!!!!

Another thing that can make your subject line or email look unprofessional is exclamation points. And since 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line, you’ll want to stay away from red flags like this as much as you can.

Don’t use spam trigger words

A good rule of thumb is this: If it sounds like something a used car salesman would say, it’s probably a spam trigger word. Think “free,” “guarantee,” no obligation,” and so on.

Don’t embed forms

Forms aren’t supported across common email clients due to security risks. Instead, include a link to a landing page with a HIPAA compliant contact form in the body of your email.

Use standard font sizes and colors

Using a red font or using invisible text (white font on top of a white background) is a common trick that spammers use. And besides, people don’t like it when marketers use irregular fonts, font sizes, or font colors in emails.

Check your spelling

Spelling mistakes aren’t just unprofessional, they’re also a trigger for spam filters and for people marking your email as spam.

Create different types of campaigns

Healthcare email marketing can take many different forms. An email campaign can provide educational messaging (i.e., summer skincare tips), promotional messaging (i.e., six Botox sessions for the price of five), seasonal greetings (i.e., Happy New Year!), or be in the form of a monthly newsletter.

Serving up different types of content will engage and inform patients, keeping them interested in your emails.

Use email segmentation

Every campaign you create won’t apply to every patient, so use email segmentation to tailor messages to the correct audience.

Keep it short and sweet

Too much copy is another red flag for spam filters. Not only that, but people generally prefer concise emails.

If you must write a lengthier email, break it up into multiple paragraphs. Giving visual breaks and composing the email with a clear introduction, middle, and conclusion will make it much easier for your reader.

Hit the right frequency

Fifty percent of people prefer to communicate with brands by email. However, 45% say sending emails too often is the number one reason they unsubscribe from mailing lists.

You don’t want to overload inboxes but reaching out too infrequently can also hurt your cause. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula, so take the time to figure out what works for your healthcare practice.


HIPAA compliant email marketing can help you grow your business and improve patient outcomes. But crafting an email that avoids spam filters and that patients want to read takes time and practice.

Using the guidelines above to write effective email campaigns, the sky is the limit on what you can communicate to patients.

About the Author
Hoala Greevy is the CEO of Paubox.
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