Avoiding Blacklists & Spam Filters: Advanced Email Marketing Tutorial

2.2 Introduction

This is Matt Bailey. Now let's move on to Spam and Blacklists. While this doesn't have a legal element to it, this has a service provider element. This is a deliver ability aspect, because if you determined as being spammy by terms of an Internet Service Provider, this could hurt your ability to send emails, to send promotional emails, and it can also hurt your reputation as a domain.

2.3 Blacklists

So the first thing we'll talk about are the Blacklists. A Blacklist is a known and identified domain or server that sends spam, and many internet service providers maintain a Blacklist. And what that Blacklist is as soon as they determine that a sever, or an IP address, or a domain is sending spam, then they will set it aside and limit anything that comes from that domain. And of course, all these internet service providers share information. Because they are all trying to reduce the amount of spam that comes through their networks. The main reason is, it takes so much bandwidth to deal with all of this spam, that if they can deal with it at the source by cutting it off, it will free up resources. And so, you want to be sure sometimes servers are hacked and compromised. Sometimes, someone may find a hole in your domain and take over an email address. You want to be sure once in a while to check and make sure that you are not on the Blacklist. Now, you can just do a quick search on a search engine to see how many Blacklist checks there are. There are a lot of websites out there that will allow you to test your IP address. And you want to test the IP address of your email server. That is done very quickly. You just take the IP address and you put it in the Blacklist check. And you'll get a report that each keeper of a Blacklist making sure that your IP address is not listed as a suspicious domain. If your IP address is listed as a suspicious domain, then most likely your email are being throttled back or finding themselves deposited into a spam box and inhibiting your deliver ability. And there are steps that you can take, and many of these services will help you get off the spam list, or you can contact the spam list directly in order to be removed. However, this is one of those cases that you are usually considered guilty first, and then you have to show that you are innocent. And sometimes that may require your going back into records and showing that you are complying with all aspects of the law.

2.4 Spam

Now when it comes to spam the bottom line on spam is that it is unwanted, unsolicited email. It is email that you did not subscribe to or give permission to, and spam is what ISPs want to remove. It's what recipients want to remove. It's what a lot of people are trying to remove, and fortunately spam email tends to come in specific areas and they tend to use the same techniques in order to overcome spam filters.

2.5 Filters

So, a couple of things that you can do to ensure that you do not get caught in a spam filter. The first thing is, avoid spammy phrases in the subject line. Such as talking about lots of money, breakthrough, big promotional terms such as, click here in all caps, or buy now, these are all things that when a SPAM catcher is evaluating the email. There are certain phrases, certain words, and certain techniques that are scored, and if the score is high enough. The email message is considered SPAM. Each one of these spammy phrases will increase your score. A couple other things are lots of exclamation points, colors, a lot of extraneous code in the email, a lot of images or a big image with no text. Also something to avoid is the Subject: test email. If you do a lot of that internally, that may show up as being spam, and get caught by a spam filter. And if you do these things, it gets scored highly. And here's an example of about how a spam filter looks at a spammy email. So here we have spam detection software and it has identified this email as being spam. And as we move through here, we can see that it was an abusable web server. And so here we have a relay server that has been compromised and identified by ISP's as an untrustworthy web server. They also have a URL in the email that's listed in a block list. And it may contain malware. And so because of that, the sender doesn't match an actual record. There's long information, the dates don't match. The date is six to 12 hours before the received date, and as you can see towards the end, HTML is included in the message. The spam probability is 40 to 60%. And so, right there it is snagged by spam detection software. Another example here was SpamAssassin. They have flagged it as spam. And here's the score. The score is 13.7%. However, the score required to mark a message as spam is five. And in there, they list all of the scores that were included in totalling up that 13.7. And so the more factors that you include that are considered spamming, and also as we can see, blacklists play a large part in how the spam score is calculated.

2.6 Abuse Reports

Now in order to get blacklisted, in order to get a high spam score, one of the things you need to avoid are the abuse reports. Now what is an abuse report? Well, the abuse report is built into your email program. Whenever you click the button, report as Spam, what you are doing is filing an abuse report against that email which then goes back to the sender, which goes back to the sender domain and to the sender IP address. And so too many spam reports against your emails will eventually block your server. And here again, you're guilty until proven innocent and so in order to have that block removed, you're going to have to show how you collect your emails and how you send your emails. And every time someone marks your message as spam, that is considered an abuse report. Now what causes abuse reports? Main thing is, sometimes people get lazy, and, whenever someone signs up to receive emails from your organization, that it was probably too long between when they signed up, and when you start sending an email. If it's six months after the original sign up, they may not remember signing up for it, and so they think it's spam. If you've never sent a message before but all of a sudden now you're starting, again, people may forget they signed up for that list and mark it as spam. Especially this happens if you're collecting business cards or names and email addresses at a trade show. If you're running a contest and people put their business cards into a bowl, and then you take all those business cards and you add them to your promotional email list. The chances of people marking that message as spam are very high. And of course, if you rent or purchase a third party list, because you are sending a promotional email message to people who don't know who you are, your chances of having a abuse report are very high.

2.7 Best Practices Checklist

So what can you do to protect yourself? Well obviously if you decide to start sending emails and you've never sent them before, you may have to remind people who you are and when they signed up for your email and ask them if they still want to receive it. If you received lists of names from a trade show then again send them an email address asking them if they want to subscribe. Don't assume that they are opted in. And the lists that you currently have, you need to maintain good list hygiene. Go in, and look at the amount of bounced emails. Remove those invalid emails, because if you continually send email blasts, and you have a lot of bouncing emails that indicates that you may be a spammer. And so we move those bounced emails because what they do is they contribute to a high bounce rate and a high bounce rate will damage your reputation and it may block you from delivering your emails

2.8 Thank You

This has been Email Marketing. We covered a lot of methods to keep yourself out of trouble with internet service providers by being marked as a blacklist or as a spammer.

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  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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