Five basic criteria that make Spam filters the best allies of an email marketer.

Five basic criteria that make Spam filters the best allies of an email marketerMarch 06, 2012
by Adina Doblete

As email has evolved as a channel, so did the importance of the spam filters. On the recipient side, spam filters are thought of as a “first line of defense” against unsolicited or scam emails. On the email service providers (ESPs) and email marketers side, they are used to asses trust and reputation, but are dreaded for being the hurdles on the way to a high deliverability rate of emails.

One of the main advantages of spam filters is their ability to identify any email that meets a certain criteria. By installing spam filters, ESPs specify lists of criteria to be analyzed when determining if a message is spam. To ensure that legitimate messages pass the filters, these criteria will take into account not only the anti-spam laws but also the basic principles of email marketing.

By rewarding ethical marketing practices, spam filters are working on marketers’ behalf. As they are regularly updated and constantly setting the bar higher, passing the filters can be a powerful, inexpensive method to achieve a competitive advantage.

ZoneEmail has selected five basic criteria that ensure reaching the inbox, every time. They address the issues of identity (emails forgery), relevance (solicited emails), unsolicited emails, content and proper use of technology (metrics analysis).

Email’s Identity

Email header filters are the most sophisticated. Email service providers use the information in the email header for email authentication and to establish email marketers reputation.

■ Make sure the information you introduce in "From" and "To" are true and accurate. Forged or misspelled email addresses will be filtered out. Also, non-existent email addresses and spam trap addresses created by ISPs (that can be easily found on purchased lists or lists that are created by harvesting email addresses from the web) will have a negative impact on sender’s reputation.

■ Make it easy for recipients to recognize your From Address by keeping it short, easy-to-remember and relevant. Your email address is a pertinent way of identifying your business from others.

■ Make sure that each, message footer contains the current, complete and accurate postal address and contact information of your company. This will greatly increase the recipient’s confidence in your email.

■ Give proper consideration to your subject line, it has a critical importance for both the open rate and the deliverability rate of an email. It has to be as specific as possible to ensure that it will not match any spammers or other marketers’ words, phrases or construction. Also, longer subject lines that allow marketers to be more specific, are associated to a much higher click-to-open rate than short, general subject lines, and that is an indication of real relevance.

Email’s Relevance

New anti-spam features are designed to place spam control in the hands of recipients and, statistically, irrelevant communications are the first to be labeled as spam. The basic step into email relevancy is building a subscription-based email list.

■ Provide a double opt-in email sign-up box on the pages of your website. This method allow subscribers to confirm the email address to be their own, versus single opt-in option, where email addresses submitted to the list are not verified (making it possible to sign up somebody without their knowledge and consent).

■ Provide the subscriber with a valid "opt-out" method to request the sender to stop sending additional messages and have a system in place for dealing with complaints.

■ Finding your place in the subscribers ‘priority box’, trusted sender or contact list (whatever the name may be in their email program ) is a further step into email relevancy. It depends on your capacity to offer them value, whether that's special deals, important information or something else.

■ Offer various choices on your sign-up form. Your subscriber’s explicit option for promotional emails rather than informative newsletters or event emails, for example, will help you make your emails relevant.

Unsolicited emails

Very often direct marketing involves communicating in unsolicited ways. Unsolicited emails are not illegal but they have to comply with very strong legal requirements (the anti-spam laws). The overriding principle here is that unsolicited emails you use for marketing should only be sent to obtain the recipient permission to be added to an e-mail list and to receive further emails. This principle also applies to lists you

have received from others. The third party marketer should have the permission to rent, sell, or exchange the recipients email addresses with other companies.

■ Most of the unsolicited emails are "solicitations" that marketers sent as sales messages or advertisements. If your email is a solicitation you must be very clear that it is a solicitation, what you are soliciting, and who you are.

■ All unsolicited emails should contain a physical address and contact information for your business. You may not hide, alter, or use fake aliases or give misleading information in your to, from, or subject fields.

■ Specific “opt-in”-"opt-out" mechanisms (subscribe-unsubscribe option) should be included in the email itself. You should never follow-up on unsolicited emails if you get no response. There is no value in sending an email if the recipient will ignore it, mark it as spam or file a complaint for it.

■ A legitimate Solicitation Mailing Lists should contain the email addresses of individuals that someone you knew or you have already done business with recommends you to contact. Therefore, unless you have “rented” Opt-In Direct Email lists and got the confirmation that all recipients have “opted in” to receive offers like yours, your solicitation mailing list should be small. “Unsolicited Bulk Email”, the practice of transmitting mass quantities of unsolicited email, is referred to as “spamming” and always brings about negative consequences for marketers.

Sending thousands of unsolicited emails may result in a multitude of recipients marking your marketing campaign as spam or filing a complaint for it and giving your service provider a right to restrict, rescind, or terminate your account privileges for abuse.

You might also be asked how you acquired your emailing list and, unless you purchase it, for illegally harvested email addresses, or obtained in some other unethical (or illegal) manner you could be blacklisted by service providers.

Email’s Content

When someone opens an email there are certain aspects of the message that reflect professionalism and inspire credibility, such as the language, the formatting, the layout … the way a message “looks”. Spam filters also analyze these aspects and it seems they hide the spammers’ most important weaknesses.

■ Make sure you are using a proper language and include details if possible. The list of words and phrases that trigger spam filters grows longer every day. Spammers have become more sophisticated, and more often than not, they use trigger words normally associated with the call-to-action tactics that professional marketers are using in their direct-marketing strategies.

What they will lack is detail. And the filters know it. Details make a world of difference when distinguishing between a spam and a legitimate message. For example, if an email contains the generic words ‘Group Meeting Tomorrow’ it is easy to suppose that it is a legitimate email if the time, the place and other details are mentioned.

■ Make sure the length of lines in your e-mail is no more than 65 characters. Doing this will ensure that almost everyone you send emails to will all be seeing a similar layout, without lines going off the right edge or wrapping awkwardly.

The standards (RFC 5322) give definite rules about e-mail line length, limiting lines to 78 characters, but the netiquette (RFC 1855) suggest limiting lines to 65

characters, to enhance readability. Also, some popular email programs will open on default to line lengths of 65 characters.

■ Make sure that all the fonts you are using are fixed-width fonts. By doing so, the text of your email message will display well in all email programs, no matter their default fonts are fixed width font (Courier, Lucida console, etc.), or non-fixed width fonts (Arial, Times Roman, etc.).

■ Remember to indicate new paragraphs by inserting a blank line. Also, insert blank lines before and after a mark bulleted list. This will ensure that traditional text editors will display them properly.

■ Keep your email as clean as possible: do not use excessive punctuation !!!, ???; $, and other symbols or write in ALL CAPS (uppercase); do not make an excessive use of different colors, fonts, sizes and so forth.

■ Make sure there is a balance between the graphics and the text in your emails; messages containing only a picture or those containing both a picture and little text could be filtered out as graphic spam.

Email Metrics

Most email marketing software provide features that can help email marketers to avoid some of the aspects that trigger spam filters, like HTML anomalies or nonexistent email addresses, and to improve the recipient experience by tuning, for example, the email frequency.

■ Use professional templates to avoid HTML coding errors-. Coding an HTML email is different than coding a web page, the software used to

view email differs. If you are not sure that you can code your HTML email properly, use ZoneEmail’s templates. They are professional designed for Multi-part email creation, HTML message, text message or both. Sending your email in "multipart-alternative", format means that an HTML email is sent with a plain-text alternative, embedded along with it. That way, if the recipient’s email program can't read HTML email, the plain-text version will be displayed instead.

■ Use a list-management system to increase relevancy Email marketing softwares are powerful tools for the creation of mailing lists and their management. Take advantage of all the features at your disposal to create and manage custom email lists.

Segment your list to keep track of different preferences and needs. Targeting the right audience with the right message and content will increase the relevancy of your emails and the probability the recipient will click the “spam” button will be reduced.

Keep your mailing lists clean of invalid addresses and duplicates. Sending a large number of emails to nonexistent addresses could label you as spammer.

Schedule your emails to be sent with the right frequency; "sending too many emails" is the main reason for recipients to unsubscribe from a list or report the sender as a spammer.

■ Use email metrics to establish a relationship with the recipient. Emails are the most cost-effective form of direct marketing and a channel intensively used by both spammers and legitimate marketers. The difference though is that marketers target their emails to establish good relationships with recipients and seek long-term, sustainable success in the marketplace while spammers send random mass emails and explore only the lucrative aspect of their ‘campaign’.

When recipients fail to differentiate between spam and legitimate email marketing campaigns they could delete or mark a legitimate email as spam. Such action should be a signal for marketers to take appropriate action and improve their strategy, but it only can be captured analyzing the emails metrics provided by the email marketing software.

The role of an email marketing software is to monitor an email marketing campaign, tracking the status of the emails after delivery and giving analysis reports on the campaign. Using these information email marketers can have a picture of how many emails have reached the recipients inboxes and if the recipients are opening, forwarding, clicking, sharing -- in other words, if they are engaging with the messages and content they received.



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