'Email Marketing'

How Email Spam Filters Work (Part II)

20 JAN 2011 8

After the recent article on how spam filters work, it’s about time we had a look at how to get past them and deliver our legitimate emails to the users’ inbox. Email marketing is an art—it can’t be taught in a series of articles, as it requires lots of study and practical experience—but here are some tips you should keep in mind when mailing out to your list.

The subject

Your subject line shouldn’t contain any ‘spammy’ words and phrases. Even if the email doesn’t get filtered as spam, it is still up to the recipient to open it, delete it or flag it as spam. The subject has to be relevant. Your recipient must recognize, in the blink of an eye, who the email is from and what the message is about.

Your subject must be intriguing, but in a way that is relevant to your audience. Much like the title of a blog post, the subject of your emails has to get the message across, quickly and efficiently. If I were to send this series on spam filters to your email box, how many of you would open it if I had named the subject ‘HOT HOT HOT! Free report from Lifeline Design inside!!!!!!!’ instead of ‘How Email Spam Filters Work’?

Some common don’ts:

  • Never!!!! ever!!!!! use!!!!! too!!!!! much!!!!! punctuation!!!!!!
  • Don’t use profanities. Even though this should be a no-brainer, I keep seeing some F-words among topics in my Spam folder. Rule of the thumb says that if it can’t be said on CNN, you shouldn’t say it either. Not only will profanity potentially get your emails filtered, but it is likely to reflect poorly on your business.
  • Don’t get creative with numbers instead of letters or words. TXT Speech is for teens and should be left to their use. 'Special offer 4 U 2nite’ as a subject line won't likely work.

The ‘To:’ line and introduction formula

Always use the recipient’s first and last name in the To: field. Don’t solely use the email address. Just like you won’t enjoy a snail letter addressed to ‘The current resident’ or ‘The head of household,’ people like to see their name in the recipient box.

Likewise, use at least the recipient’s first name when addressing him. Don’t use Dear Friend— this can often seem fake or forced — or Dear valued customer — if he’s so valued how come you don’t know his name?

The content

Many of the tips and tricks you may have learned in the many Copywriting 101 courses might get you into trouble with spam filters. It’s easier than you would think to accidentally slip some spammy phrases in the Call-to-action. It’s better to be conservative and have a higher delivery rate than overly aggressive and get canned. Here are more do’s and don’ts on how to write the content properly

  • HTML emails need a healthy balance between text and graphics. A large (eventually animated) GIF image would likely raise a spam filter’s warning flags.
  • Always include a plain-text version of your email and send both as a multipart message. Nowadays, spam filters compare the HTML against the plain-text version and will flag the message if the differences are significant. Spammers are known to be lazy and not to bother with creating both versions of the message. Don’t be mistaken for one!

The next and final episode will cover aspects on networking and the importance of a ‘clean’ IP and domain name, as well as how spam filters are tweaked on major email networks.

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