23 Oct 2018

Trigger words, weird fonts and downright deceptions:
Ditch these don’ts to dodge the spam folder

Success in email marketing depends on the things you do — and the things you don’t.

Even the sharpest pitch or the sweetest offer won’t generate a sale if the recipient never sees it. So, don’t doom your emails to obscurity by using practices that send them straight into the recipients’ spam folders.

Automated email filters are the guard dogs that keep most unwelcome mailings out of our sight. They’re so common and efficient that it’s hard to remember how much junk used to wind up in our inboxes. The barrage of scams, pornography and malware traps prompted passage of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and encouraged email providers to create and upgrade these filters.

Spammers still send us a tsunami of junk email. Even with a modest decline in the last two years, spam represents nearly half of the emails sent every day, dominated by healthcare and dating offers. Many of these messages now get intercepted before we ever see them.

So how do you make sure the legitimate marketing emails you send won’t get caught in the net with all the bad stuff?

Among the things the filters sniff out are spam trigger words, phrases so commonly deployed by spammers that their use raises digital red flags. While the subject lines are the first places checked for spam trigger words, many modern filters sniff out the entire email.

There are hundreds of words and phrases on a wide array of topics considered spam trigger words and these lists evolve to keep up with scammers’ changing tactics.

Some spam trigger words and phrases are no-brainers. You can practically hear them coming out of a huckster’s mouth: “Act now!” “fast cash,” “get out of debt,” “save big money,” and “why pay more?”

Others aren’t quite as obvious. Suppose you want to offer customers a free quote to help refinance their mortgage so they can save money with a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment. Pitching this service will have you walking through a minefield of common spam trigger words, including “customers,” “free,” “quote,” “refinance,” “mortgage”, “save money,” “lower interest rate” and “lower monthly payment.”

Using some of these words on occasion won’t be a fatal mistake. Context and having a good track record both get you some leeway. Still, coming up with clever alternatives is safer and might earn points for creativity.  Using spam trigger words in a legitimate email is like selling fresh milk in a jug with a month-old expiration date. The product may be perfectly fine, but most customers won’t chance it.

Other things can get your emails exiled to obscurity, too.

Exclamation points in a subject line give any email a whiff of sketchiness and suspicions get exponentially higher the more exclamation points you use. Attachments are common ways to spread viruses and malware, so emails that contain them often get set aside. Headers with unusual fonts and bright colors also raise red flags, as do significant spelling errors. Wouldn’t you be suspicious of an email from an online pharmacy that spells it “pharmocy?”

Want more examples of what not to do? Check once in a while to see what got caught in your personal email spam filter. It’s the digital equivalent of clearing clogged hair out of your shower drain.

These practices aren’t just essential for your biggest mailings. You need to be doing these things all the time. Having too many emails caught in spam filters — or marked as spam by recipients — hurts your overall email reputation and makes it more likely that future mailings will get also branded with that same scarlet S.

Finally, it should go without saying that honesty is the best policy. Filters — and the CAN-SPAM law itself — both warn against using deliberately deceptive practices, such as misidentifying the real source of the email and using subject lines that mislead about what’s inside the message.

If you’re still not sure whether your email is spam folder bait or not, test it. Set up some dummy accounts with Gmail, Yahoo and other major providers and try sending your email there. You might also consider using outside checking options, such as Isnotspam, that can sniff out spam triggers in your email. Or reach out to SoftVu.  We have many email accounts we test with, plus we’ve partnered with 250ok for our clients.

Be careful, be strategic and be smart. Spam filters are grim, lonely places. Don’t let your message — and your dreams of a sale — die there.

If you’re ready to improve your email reputation or better yet, get out in front of potential deliverability issues, reach out today!