Stay under the Spam Radar

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These days, anywhere between 5 and 20 percent of legitimate, permissionbased email is filtered out by the spam detectors and never reaches the intended recipients. Always run your marketing messages through a spam checker before sending them out. The spam checker will give you a spam rating score and tell you how you received that score. Today, if your score is 5.0 or higher, it will be deemed to be spam by most of the spam filters. If your message scores too high, you should edit your message to eliminate or change the items that gave you the score. Then you should run your new message through the spam checker again to make sure you have an acceptable score before sending your message out.

Many ASP mail list software programs have an integrated spam checker, like Professional Cart Solutions (http://www.profcs.com) (Figure 12.2) or ConstantContact (http://www.ConstantContact.com). If yours does not, there
are a number of free spam checkers online and others that charge a fee such as Site Build It!  http://spamcheck.sitesell.com) and MailingCheck (http://www.mailingcheck.com).

Some email elements that add points to your spam rating include:

Using software and listservers that are commonly used by spammers. The header identifies the software that you are using.

Professional Cart Solutions has a spam filter integrated into its software.

  • Spam words in the subject line—things such as:
    • FREE in CAPS
    • GUARANTEED
    • Subject talks about saving
    • Starts with “Hello”
    • $.
  • Hyperlinks—Using links without the http:// prefix or using IP numbers instead of domain names.
  • Color discrimination:
    • Color tags not formatted correctly
    • Using colors not in the 217 Web-safe colors
    • Hidden letters (same color as background).
  • Background other than white.
  • HTML issues:
    • HTML message with more than 50 percent HTML tags
    • JavaScript within the message
    • HTML forms within your email
    • HTML comments that obfuscate text.
  • Using excess capital letters.
  • Using large fonts and characters. Fonts larger than +2 or 3 can cause you to have points added to your score. Use H1, H2, H3 instead.
  • Using spam words or phrases in the body of your message adds points to your score. There are way too many of these to list. Your spam checker lets you know what words are adding points. The following are the type of words and phrases they are looking for:
    • Great offer
    • Risk free
    • You have been selected
    • Guarantee
    • Call now
    • Amazing
    • Act now
    • Millions
    • Order now.
  • Carefully word your “Unsubscribe.” Claims that a recipient can be removed, claims that you address removal requests, and list removal information all add points to your score. Use text like “Use this link to unsubscribe.”
  • If your communication is a newsletter, say so. The spam rating also allows points to be deducted from your score for certain elements. When the subject contains a newsletter header, or contains a newsletter frequency, month name, or date, you might be spared some unwanted points.
  • Use a signature file. This is another element that can cause points to be deducted from your score. Spammers never include their signature file.
  • Don’t mention spam compliance—only spammers do this.
  • Always make sure you update your list and do your housekeeping regularly. Remove any addresses that have bounced back to you as undeliverable if your software doesn’t automatically do this for you. Remove any “spam flag” addresses in your database—those that begin with [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]
  • Set up test accounts for yourself at the popular email hosts to ensure that your mail is getting through. Set up test accounts at gMail, Live, Hotmail, Yahoo!, AOL, and some of the popular ISPs.
  • Always monitor the blacklists to make sure you are not included.