Classic DM Tactics Are Spam for Filters

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More and more well-intended e-mail is ending up in the junk box as companies and individuals tighten the screws on their anti-spam systems. Currently, seven out of 10 e-mails are being flagged as spam.
According to Postini, a third-party provider of e-mail security services, the makeup of spam looks like this: 97 percent bulk mail; 1.4 percent "Get rich quick"; 1.2 percent sexually explicit content; and 0.4 percent special offers
Here lies the problem:  the nebulous definition and perception of bulk mail.  Some people automatically equate the term bulk mail with spam.
The fact is, if you are using best practices and are sending bulk e-mail to customers or prospects that have asked for it, your bulk mail is not spam.
Yet today's spam-detecting options are doing so well at flagging any bulk mail as spam that legitimate e-mails are getting unfairly stopped.
In the interest of keeping it simple, there are two key areas to consider: the sending method and the content of the e-mail.
A crack IT group familiar with the authentication and authorization communication that occurs between mail servers will help ensure that you are meeting all the best practices for sending e-mails. As marketers and content providers, we all should understand how the second area - the content - affects delivery.

Killer Scores
We recently tested more than 200 e-mails, both business to business and consumer, and ran them all through SpamAssassin, a leading anti-spam program, to see what e-mails were getting tripped up and why.
SpamAssassin conducts more than 750 tests on any given e-mail to determine if it is spam. Each item is given a score.  A positive number is bad.  A negative one is good.  Only a handful of the items it looks for are of the good, negative variety meaning over 700 of them can give you a bad, positive number.  (Sounds like a double oxymoron.) 
The scores range from a very miniscule .0001 for "message has unparseable relay lines" to a killer 100 for "address in the user's blacklist." 
The default setting within SpamAssassin scores a total score of anything of 5.0 or over as spam.  Many companies customize SpamAssassin settings, usually making the criteria more stringent so that even lower scores result in the e-mail being flagged as spam.
Want to shoot your scores over the line and assure your mail winds up in the junk folder? Then try these seemingly harmless tactics. Some of these would be considered classic direct marketing tactics in some marketers' eyes. Yet SpamAssassin and other spam filters will disagree, assigning them higher "point values."

Subject line:
Starts with "Hello"
Contains "Your family"
Contains "Your own"
Starts with "Buy" or "Buying"
Is all capitals
Starts with dollar amount
Contains "For only"
Contains "FREE" in CAPS
Starts with "Free"

Body of e-mail includes:
Removal phrase right before a link
Asks you to click below (in capital letters)
Click to be removed
Claims compliance with spam regulations
Offers a full refund
Contains "Dear (something)"
Money-back guarantee
Why pay more?
Receive a special offer
What are you waiting for
Compete for your business
Lowest price
If you want to subscribe

HTML links
Says "push here" or similar
Says "opt out" or similar

The whole point is that an e-mail that's seemingly safe on the surface can be penalized for very obscure items. It's critical to have someone on staff or from an outside resource that stays current with spam filters forwards and backwards to protect your e-mail from being flagged as spam.
A must for any marketer is to run any e-mails they plan to send through a program like SpamAssassin and to send them to test e-mail accounts at all your top recipient domains (e.g., AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN, Gmail).  Then you'll know ahead of time exactly what any potential problems are and be able to fix them accordingly.


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