SPAM Filters Gone Wild

Date posted: Thu, Mar 21, 13 | Author: Dan Lukens | Category: admail services, best practices, sending email

The first goal of any email marketer is to get their email into the inbox of their list members. This seems like it a relatively simple task, but there is a major obstacle in the way. That obstacle is SPAM filters. They are designed to protect recipients from being overwhelmed with unsolicited and unwanted email, but often, they block desired or harmless emails unintentionally.

The problem arises when SPAM filters go too far. Recently, there has been a significant upturn in legitimate mail being categorized as spam. This is happening to a wide demographic of email users and has affected email from countless sources. Even companies that are sending mail to paying subscribers have had their email land in the spam box along side unsolicited offers of natural male enhancement.

This highlights a serious problem that exists with SPAM filters at their very core. They are designed to adapt to user activity and to become better at filtering out SPAM from legitimate mail, but it turns out that accurate filtering is an almost impossible task. With such inconsistent filter accuracy, what happens when someone actually wants to get an email about the little blue pill or receive correspondence from foreign royalty? If your message happens to be similar to whatever topic is trending from the SPAMbot mailers that week, you may find yourself unjustly and unavoidably buried in the SPAM box.

In every campaign, some email sent will end up filtered into SPAM. I am a Spotify subscriber and I pay a monthly fee for their service. I am most definitely interested in the email that they send me and have never marked it as SPAM, yet for some reason, their recent messages have ended up in my gmail SPAM folder. It's really difficult to pin down exactly why. It's possible they are sending too much email to people who aren't interested and those people are marking it as SPAM instead of unsubscribing, or maybe their content or subject line are matching up with some recent SPAM language.

SPAM filters are not standardized. What is filtered in one email program may not be in another. If we continue with the example of gmail, we know that their SPAM folders are designed to react to how users interact with the email they receive. Gmail takes note of actions performed on mail from specific senders and certain content over time. Based on the perception of how important or unimportant a piece of mail is to you, they attempt to rank each email message. If it ranks poorly enough, into SPAM it goes. It's also clear that Gmail monitors recipients and content that is marked as SPAM throughout their whole network, taking other users interactions into account as well as the primary account user.

Looking at how just one email service provider handles SPAM highlights the complexity of how SPAM filters operate as a whole. Every web mail system on the planet has it's own specific system and there are a nearly infinite number of ways mail can filtered in home and offices. Just comparing the methods of one IT professional to the next shows that each SPAM filter has the potential to be very different.

The unfortunate truth is that landing in the SPAM box occasionally is a reality of email marketing. Even if you send the best content to the best list, it's possible that you will have issues. Someone may mark your email as SPAM instead of unsubscribing, or you might even land in spam because you send an unfortunately timed campaign for trips to Bermuda the same week that overseas SPAMbots chose trips to Bermuda as their high volume SPAM gimmick of the day. It's not to say you shouldn't aim for the inbox, but perfection is an unachievable goal.

Email marketing, like all marketing, isn't an exact science. There are unavoidable risks along the way. You can avoid a great deal of risk by producing quality content, remaining familiar with email marketing and SPAM trends, and collecting and maintaining your list properly. Even the best email marketers however, will end up in the SPAM box. It's not the end of the world. What many email marketers forget is that email marketing is relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of marketing. When a few dollars allows you to send to 1,000 people, losing a few emails to the spam box is much more tolerable risk.

Our recommendation is to dedicate your time to content creation for your customers. You should keep an eye on what successful email marketers are doing and an even closer eye on what marketing is failing. It's actually one of the good uses of your SPAM box! Look at what you see there and if your emails are using similar language, layout, or subject lines, you'll know that you need to make a change. One of the best tips an email marketer can get is to cling tightly to common sense. Know you medium and know your audience and you will be sure to have success. Remember that they are your clients and you know them best. Give them what they want and you'll be generating too much interest to be worried about SPAM folders.