In Part 1 of this series, I reiterated what most of us think to ourselves at least a few times a week – nobody likes spam. Then I offered how your nonprofit should consider text to image ration when designing emails.  In this blog, I hit use of color, font and links to make sure your emails sparkle and shine. And most importantly, that your supporters actually receive the emails. So, read on, my fellow spam-hating friend!

Use of Color

There are several ways the use of color in your design might impact the spam score given to your email. One way is by altering the text color in the body of your email. Red body text (or sometimes green) can be considered a flag for spam by some filters. White text over an image or colored background can also cause problems since filters may see this as an attempt to include hidden or obscured text within the body of the email.

Of course certain colors may be a design requirement per your organization’s branding and style guidelines. It’s important to adhere to consistent styles as much as possible to establish recognition and trust with your audience. For this reason, our general recommendation is to use the header and footer areas of your email to integrate brand colors, while keeping the body of the email as simple as possible – black or dark grey text on a white background. This also inherently reduces accessibility issues your audience may have challenges with.


Fonts and Font Size

Use of extreme font sizes in either direction can trigger spam filters, but the main culprit is using an 8px or smaller font size. Filters may interpret tiny text as an attempt to hide or obscure some portion of your email. To avoid this issue while maintaining legibility of your content, we do not recommend using font sizes below 13px for any portion of an email. Apple Mail has a minimum font size display capability on iPhone and iPad devices of 13px and will automatically override anything smaller to such. With mobile readership ever on the rise, we suggest reserving this font size for components like the snippet, “view online” link, footer content and links, and any other peripheral content outside the main portion of the message.



In the same way we recommend balancing your image to text ratio, we also recommend paying attention to your link to text ratio. Increasing the number of links in your email increases the likelihood your reader will click-through, but it also increases the risk your email will trigger a spam filter. Having too many links per block of text can also negatively impact readability.

Since button links are now commonly used in emails and preferable for mobile email viewing by being “finger friendly,” our suggestion is to include a text link equivalent for each button link in your email. This practice helps compensate for the likelihood of button/image links being blocked by default image display settings in many email clients.

Naturally, there are also mandatory links you’ll need to include, such as an unsubscribe link, links to your privacy policy and terms of use, a link to view the email in a browser, a valid organizational address and phone number, contact link/email, etc. Failing to include an unsubscribe link will certainly trigger a spam filter, and more importantly, is a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

See the Federal Trade Commission’s compliance guide for the CAN-SPAM Act.

Outside of these fundamentals, there isn’t an industry standard for how many links you should include in an email. Some email marketers suggest not exceeding one link per 50 words of text.