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What is Spam and How Can You Avoid Sending It?

By Jordan DeSantis | Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Spam is essentially a term used to describe emails that make their way into a recipient’s inbox without their consent. According tothe Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG), almost 90% of all email is considered spam. Due to this shocking number, spam filters are widely used to assist users in keeping tabs on emails that are actually relevant. How do these spam filters work? We don’t know a lot about the algorithms used to operate them, and that’s probably a good thing. With that type of information floating throughout the web, spammers would be able to easily beat these filters, and we’d see cluttered inboxes everywhere. But despite our lack of knowledge on the intricacies of spam filters, there are a few red flags to avoid and best practices to adopt to keep genuine emails from entering total oblivion.

How Spam Filters Work

As mentioned, no one can be 100% certain how a spam filter flags an email, as they use many different benchmarks to judge an incoming message. A few hallmarks include:

  • IP Address – If your IP address has been flagged for sending spam in the past, it will impact the deliverability of your mail. This extends to your ISP as well. Where some ISPs attempt to eliminate spam from their servers, some take a more relaxed approach to spam.

  • What The Email Looks Like – Filters will look at the subject line and body of an email. If the filter deems either of the two to resemble spam, then your email likely won’t make it into someone’s inbox. Words and phrases such as “free” & “buy now” are often cited as trigger words.

  • Code – An innocent mistake many users make is using text formatted from Microsoft Office applications. Unfortunately, this creates rather messy HTML code with unnecessary lines of coding.

Here are a few best practices to employ to avoid the spam box:

  1. HTML with a low text to image ratio. It’s important to have a beautiful looking email in order to attract a customer, but too much beauty and not enough substance will often get your email flagged. It is also highly encouraged to avoid sloppy HTML.

  2. Reputation. Filters will often check your sending IP address. If, for whatever reason, your sending IP reputation has been damaged, email delivery will most definitely be impacted, and you will run the risk of being blacklisted.

  3. Bounce Rate. A standard bounce rate should hover somewhere around 5% (meaning 5 emails out of 100 don’t make it through to the recipient). This brings up another good point – clean out your lists regularly.

  4. Looking like a spammer. We’ve all received spam, so we know what it looks like. A good rule of thumb is to avoid making the same mistakes you’ve witnessed with other emails. Here are some examples: a. ALL CAPS b. Using more than one character of punctuation. Get it??? c. Large Font

  5. Provide an unsubscribe option. No one wants to see a potential lead opt-out of their email list, but providing this option will help reduce the chances your email enters the spam filter or is marked as spam by the recipient.

  6. Volume. Do not send too many emails, too often. This will make your legitimate emails bothersome to recipients. Try to provide consistency in your email schedule (monthly or bi-weekly) or take care to note when the last time a recipient received an email from you was.

  7. Use spam checkers. There are many services online (e.g. isNotSpam.com) that allow you to send your email to their servers and have it tested. It is always smart to test drive an email before sending it out to your clients, prospects or other recipients with who you’ve established a relationship.

By implementing these tips, you will be well on your way to staying out the spam folder and on the road to joining the 10%.

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