Spam Filters: How they think and how to outwit them!

Spam filters are great, aren’t they? No one should be without a good spam filter to keep their inbox nice and tidy and free of Emarketing campaigns. Except of course if you happen to be trying to pull off a successful Email campaign and generate leads for your business – then they become an incredible nuisance for the uninitiated. That’s why you need to know how to deal with Spam filters if you want to succeed – so read on, and let me skool ya!

If you want to beat a spam filter, you need to know how they think. Remember, spam filters are designed by humans, and so what a spam filter is looking for as it scans your lovingly crafted E-newsletter is pretty much the same thing that would make you delete a message from your inbox without reading it. How do you react when you receive an email entitled “Once in a lifetime opportunity – win thousands of pounds!!!!!”? That’s right-you permanently block the sender without a second thought, convinced it’s a scam. Exactly what your spam filter thinks. They don’t like unneccessary exclamation marks, or phrases like ‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’, and they especially don’t like the mention of money. As for the word ‘free’, if that appears at all in your subject line, a spam filter will swallow up your mailer before you can say “unsubscribe”.

The good people at MailChimp (which is a really useful commercial email server by the way) have put together a list of common mistakes for you to avoid:

Avoid these common mistakes

These are the most common mistakes we see new email marketers make, which result in accidental spam filtering.

  • Using spammy phrases, like “Click here!” or “Once in a lifetime opportunity!”
  • Going crazy with exclamation points!!!!!!
  • USING ALL CAPS, WHICH IS LIKE YELLING IN EMAIL (especially in the subject)
  • Coloring their fonts bright red, or green
  • 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 (since spam filters can’t read images, they assume you’re a spammer that’s trying to trick ‘em).
  • Using the word “Test” in the subject line (agencies run into this all the time, when sending drafts to clients for approval)
  • Sending a test to multiple recipients within the same company (that company’s email firewall can only assume it’s a spam attack)
  • Designing HTML email in Microsoft Word, and exporting the code to HTML (that code is sloppy, and spam filters hate it)

A good commercial email client should offer a range of spam-testing options, so that if you have used a phrase which will alarm a spam filter or been overzealous with your exlamation marks, this can be brought to your attention before you send out a mailer. It’s also worth sending test emails to email accounts with different spam filters if you can, to get an idea of your likely success rate. I’m revisiting a favourite topic here – check out my post Test for success! Tips for your email marketing campaigns. I won’t harp on about it anymore here – but seriously guys, TEST.

It’s also worth noting that spam filters can react to messy or over complicated formatting. Don’t go for anything too busy; excessive use of different fonts, colours and texts can lead to a high spam flag rate. Mitchell Harper suggests you should use a maximum of two or three font types and sizes in his article Avoiding the Spam Filters.

Finally, spam filters are being adapted, modified, upgraded and improved all the time, so if you don’t keep an eye out for developments among popular spam filters, you may find you click rate begins to suffer. Make sure you keep up with all the latest news.

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