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Email Marketing Clinic: How to prevent your messages being treated as spam

August 22, 2007

Email is among the most flexible and cost effective tools at a marketers disposal. However, before diving in and sending emails to your customers and prospects, there are several things that should be taken into account. In this month's email clinic, email marketing experts Pure share their thoughts on the issue of spam, and how to prevent your valuable marketing message being viewed as such.

Why is it important?
Standing between you and your target audience are spam blockers. These increasingly sophisticated devices, used by ISPs and customers, don't read your email, so much as taste it to find tell-tale signs that it might be spam. If they find them, your email will be summarily blocked. Avoiding spam blockers is a question of not looking like spam.

What could happen if the filters think my email is spam?
If ISP administrators receive a number of complaints about unwanted emails coming from your address or if they see you consistently send out undeliverable emails, you will be labelled as a spammer and they will blacklist you.

What should I avoid?
For starters, avoid sexual words and innuendo or, if they are relevant, use them very carefully. You don't necessarily want to over-sanitise your email but these words can be triggers for email filter engines, especially in subject lines.

Do spam blockers only look for rude words?
There are many words that are filtered out by ISPs and mail clients. Obvious giveaways are words like Viagra, all capitals, excess punctuation, such as rows of exclamation marks, phrases like 'dear friend' and 'make savings' and numbers in subject lines. Other common phrases include:

  • Free
  • Call now
  • Earn $
  • Eliminate Debt Lose Weight
  • Credit
  • You're a winner!
  • Loans
  • Discount!
  • Call now!
These are just a small sample, there are many more.

What else should I look out for?
Make sure you use a good distributor with a functional IP address and it has not been blacklisted. You can make sure your IP address is working if you carry out a test run or check to see if it is whitelisted. Microsoft, AOL and other major ISPs are working on filters with lists of approved email couriers.

It's now a matter of EC law that email marketeers identify themselves clearly and this helps avoid being picked up as spam, even by the recipient.

You should also ensure you keep your lists up-to-date. Subscribers who unsubscribe should be removed immediately. Failing to do this can cause you to be blacklisted. It is essential to include an unsubscribe link in every email.

Check lists for non-deliverable emails. Are they bouncing due to misspellings? Invalid email addresses should be removed.

What if I get on a blacklist?
There may be occasions when legitimate emails are picked up as spam or your target audience complain. For example, they may have forgotten they signed up for your newsletter or promotions.

It is important to ensure you keep accurate records of opt-ins. If you get blacklisted by an ISP you can then show them your records and demonstrate you are a responsible marketeer. Generally, they will remove the blacklisting.



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