If you send enough email campaigns, you’ll inevitably run into spam filter issues. According to ReturnPath, you can expect 10-20% of your emails to get lost in cyberspace, mostly due to overzealous filters. Legitimate email marketers who send permission-based emails to people who requested them get spam filtered all the time. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. The only way to avoid spam filters is to understand what spam is and how the filters work. In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What spam is
  • How spam filters work
  • Common mistakes to avoid

Even if you’re sending perfectly legal and engaging email newsletters, you need to have an understanding of the spam world. It will help keep you out of trouble and make you a better email marketer. Now, let’s get started.

What is Spam?

There are a variety of definitions and interpretations of the word itself, but at its core, spam is unsolicited, irrelevant email, sent in bulk to a list of people. For example, let’s say you purchased a list of email addresses from a local business organization. On the surface, that list of addresses seems like it could contain some great prospects for your business, and you want to send them an email with a relevant offer they can’t refuse. But, since those people didn’t give you explicit permission to contact them, sending an email to that list would be considered spam.

Spam laws

As an ESP, we are required to enforce spam laws, not just because it’s a legal obligation, and not just because it’s the right thing to do. Spam negatively impacts deliverability rates, and we want to make sure your emails reach their recipients. We have some very strict rules that must be adhered to in all countries, but you may find that your country has additional requirements. We’ll cover the laws in the United States and Canada in this guide, but please refer to this article for details on MailChimp’s requirements and requirements of the laws in place internationally.

If you have any questions regarding the details of the laws or any potential legal ramifications, we encourage to you to consult an attorney who is familiar with this topic.

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 became law on January 1, 2004. According to the FTC, if you violate the law, you could be fined $11,000 for each offense—that’s $11,000 for each email address on your list. ISPs around the country have already successfully sued spammers for millions of dollars under this law. If you send commercial email (generally sales or promotional content), you should familiarize yourself with the requirements of CAN-SPAM. A few key points of the law include:

  • Never use deceptive headers, From names, reply-to addresses, or subject lines.
  • Always provide an unsubscribe link.
  • The unsubscribe link must work for at least 30 days after sending.
  • You must include your physical mailing address.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) went into effect on July 1, 2014 and carries penalties of $1-10M per violation. CASL is very similar to the CAN-SPAM Act, but has some minor differences and covers all electronic messages, not just email. This article details the basics of CASL.

How Spam Filters Work

Spam filters consider a long list of criteria when judging the “spamminess” of an email. They’ll weigh each factor and add them up to determine a spam score, which then determines whether a campaign will pass through the filter. They might look for spammy phrases like “CLICK HERE!” or “FREE! BUY NOW!” Then they’ll assign points every time they see one of those phrases. Certain criteria get more points than others. Here’s a sample of criteria from SpamAssassin:

  • Talks about lots of money (.193 points)
  • Describes some sort of breakthrough (.232 points)
  • Looks like mortgage pitch (.297 points)
  • Contains urgent matter (.288 points)
  • Money back guarantee (2.051 points)

If your campaign’s total “spam score” exceeds a certain threshold, then your email goes to the junk folder. Passing scores are determined by individual server administrators, so unfortunately, what passes some filters doesn’t pass all of them. As for that list of spammy criteria, it’s constantly growing and adapting, based on—at least in part—what people identify as spam with the “Mark as spam” or “This is junk” button in their inbox. Spam filters even sync up with each other to share what they’ve learned.

Spam filters don’t publish their filtering practices, as doing so would give spammers the knowledge needed to bypass filters and harm their users. But even though there’s no magic formula, we can still help you avoid common mistakes that result in emails landing in junk folders.

Avoid these common mistakes

MailChimp has been helping email marketers create and send email campaigns since 2001. During that time, we’ve found that there are a few common mistakes frequently made by email marketers that can result in accidental spam filtering:

  • Using phrases like “Click here!” or “Once in a lifetime opportunity!”
  • Excessive use of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!
  • USING ALL CAPS, WHICH IS LIKE SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS VIA EMAIL (especially in the subject line).
  • Using bright red or green colored fonts.
  • Using bad content. This one’s broad, but important. Email delivery expert Laura Atkins details content-based filtering in this article.
  • Coding sloppy HTML, usually from converting a Microsoft Word file to HTML.
  • Creating an HTML email that’s nothing but one big image, with little or no text. Spam filters can’t read images, so they assume you’re a spammer trying to trick them.
  • Using the word “test” in the subject line. Agencies can run into this issue when sending drafts to clients for approval.
  • Sending a test to multiple recipients within the same company. That company’s email firewall often assumes it’s a spam attack.
  • Sending to inactive lists. These are lists which have not engaged in the campaigns through opens and clicks. Because subscriber engagement is a huge part of getting emails into the inbox, when an ISP sees low engagement rates they will often begin to bulk the campaigns to the spam folder. Then they will block the domain and IP addresses used to deliver the campaigns.
  • Sending to stale lists. Permission generally goes stale within about 6 months, so if your subscribers haven’t heard from you within that timeframe, you’ll need to reconfirm your list.

Article Provided By : MailChimp

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