Spam Advice Many of our clients often ask us about the best way to beat spam filters. In truth there is no way you can guarantee getting past spam filters however there are certain things you can do to help avoid their attention. Listed below are some good hints and tips below which should stand you in good stead for your email campaigns.

In General:

Ensure your content and subject relate to one another, that the content is distinctive and interesting enough that the contact may be inclined to pass it on to colleagues etc. If you have included links, ensure they are relevant. Include links to your own site and information held there, but not lots of links to articles written by others. The content of other peoples sites may be helpful to the end user but dilutes your brand impact.

  • Subject: The title should contain 5 - 7 words - no more. Subjects that do not relate to your message, no matter how clever, will alienate the reader.
  • Inform: present the information you are sending in a way that means the reader can gain the gist by scanning very quickly. Use lists, bullet points and a link that enables the user to view the e-mail in a browser (this can be achieved automatically in Mail Magic by using the {online_version} token.
  • Preview: The very top of the e-mail, as seen in preview in an in box, is the most important part of the mail. Ensure that any call to action is placed here, and repeat it at the bottom of the mail.
  • Audience: The tone of the mail should always reflect the audience you are targeting.
  • Copy: Best practice dictates a short email with the main benefits highlighted. It is also good practice to add extra detail on a couple of relevant issues within the mail.
  • Content: Ensure the content is relevant to the needs of the audience. Information that the reader can act upon is generally more successful than information for the reader to think about.
  • The Offer: Do not promise the moon on a stick. Set real expectations to the user which will make them receptive to your follow up contact. Try not to use words like 'Free' 'Special Offer' etc.
  • Brand: Once you have settled on a style you like for your email content try to stick with it. Consistent branding mean the reader will begin to recognize your mails and will in turn up read rates.
  • Personalization: The best way to develop a relationship with the customer is to address him/her personally. This goes beyond 'Dear First Name' and should include something else relevant to the recipient. This might be your name (if they know you) in the signature, or mentioning their role, company etc.
  • Repetition: By keeping copy short you don’t get much opportunity to repeat yourself, however it is often helpful to repeat the key points. The subject line should be repeated and the information held in the introduction should be repeated in any final calls to action.

Following the above will help with avoiding the spam filters to some degree, but there are other measures you can take. I have listed below some trigger words to be avoided: Avoid...

  • Certain words like “guarantee” “call free” in caps
  • Subject line starts with “free”
  • Subject contains FREE in all caps
  • The word “free” in certain phrases (free offer, free leads, free access, free preview)
  • Using font sizes that are 2 point or bigger
  • “Call now” requests
  • The phrases: “what are you waiting for”; “while supplies last”; and “Limited offer”
  • A background in an HTML email that isn’t white
  • Claiming compliance with Spam regulations
  • Asking you to “click below” (just have the link)
  • Uses a Nigerian scam key phrase such as “million dollars”
  • “Money back guarantee”

Because it is not always easy to avoid these words or styles – the good news is that you don’t have to completely.

The most commonly-used Spam filter is Spam Assassin. Spam Assassin uses a rules-based system on e-mail headers and body text. It is a points system that assigns “positive” scores (it’s Spam) or “negative” scores (it’s not Spam) to a long list of trigger words, phrases and message headers.

If you reach a certain total, your e-mail is classified as Spam, and filtered out. If it is less than that total, your e-mail gets through. So use them but with caution. It is also best to avoid HTML font colour's grey, red, yellow, green, blue, magenta.

You will inevitably run into spam filter issues, you can expect 10-20% of your emails to just get lost in cyberspace mostly due to over zealous spam filters.

As of now (June 2011) Spam Assassin score the following:
Talks about lots of money (.193 points)
Describes some sort of breakthrough (.232 points)
Looks like mortgage pitch (.297 points)
Contains urgent matter (.288 points)
Money back guarantee (2.051 points)
Why Pay More? (1.249 points)

If your campaign's total "spam score" exceeds a certain threshold, your email is sent to the junk folder. Unfortunately each server has its own score threshold and this is determined by the person who installed the spam filter software. If the person is really sick of spam, they'll set the threshold extremely low. Just about anything will get spam filtered then.

There are some measures you can take, for example, do not do any of the following:

  • Going crazy with exclamation marks!!!!!!
  • Colour fonts bright red or green
  • Creating an HTML email that's nothing but one big image, with no text (spam filters can't read images so assume you're a spammer trying to trick them).
  • Using the word "Test" in the subject line (agencies run into this all the time, when sending drafts to clients for approval)
  • Sending a test to multiple recipients within the same company (that company's email firewall can only assume it's a spam attack)
  • Designing HTML email in Microsoft Word, and exporting the code (copy and paste) to HTML (that code is sloppy, and spam filters hate it).
By Lee Callender
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 16:15
Catagory: Spam
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