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Case Study: How to Beat the Spam Filters

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As a marketer, you've probably experienced spam frustration. You spend hours doing research, writing an article, carefully composing your newsletter; then, you submit it for broadcast to your list. In the old days, an ordinary email newsletter could turn into thousands of dollars of sales. But the glory days of email marketing are coming to an end. Today, even if you are a legitimate marketer sending a requested opt-in email or newsletter, a spam blocker can pull your email into a spam box so that your subscriber never sees it.

How can we as responsible marketers make sure that our newsletters get through the filters and to our customers? That's the million-dollar question we all face.

Between getting caught in spam filters or being blocked by ISPs and disappearing in the sheer volume of email that's out there, it's tough to guarantee that your newsletter actually gets into the hands of your customer.

Being one who likes a good challenge, I took on a mission to beat the spam filters. Recently, I worked with a client to improve his newsletter delivery rate by 22%. Read the following case study to see the small changes we made that made such a dramatic difference.

The Problem


Rich Fettke (www.Fettke.com) is facing declining deliverable rates on his newsletter, "The 1 Minute Climb to Success" and is seeking to improve them. His newsletter has 5,538 subscribers. In the past, Rich's undeliverable rate has run 10-40%, with an average of 22%.

Here's Rich's e-zine before the fixes. We highlighted the trouble areas in yellow so that you can spot them easily.

The Solution

To improve the delivery of Rich's e-zine, we made some simple changes. Below are three things we did to improve his delivery rates. See an improved version of his e-zine with the spam-filter-friendly changes in place. The items that we changed are marked in red and bold so you can see them easily.

  • Fix 1. We added a note to the top of his newsletter to have subscribers add their email address to his address book: "You are receiving this email from Fettke.com because you subscribed at our Web site. If you want to continue to receive emails from us, please add rich@fettke.com to your address book today."

  • Fix 2. We changed his newsletter headings and his e-zine subject line from being all caps to being both uppercase and lowercase and bold. The spam filters consider all caps as shouting, and penalize you accordingly.

  • Fix 3. We removed words and phrases that were triggering a flag in the spam filters. The trick to fixing such words is to add a symbol (like an apostrophe, asterisk or dash) in the middle of the word. For example, "weight" was one word that was triggering the spam filters. Changing that to wei'ght makes it spam-filter friendly.

You can always add a note to explain to readers why some of your words are appearing funny, like this: "P.S.: (~ *) characters have been added to some words to avoid triggering sp@m filters.

Here's a great free resource: www.ezinecheck.com. Paste the text of your email messages into the online form and the application offers up what to fix. The E-zine Checker helps your e-zine avoid the spam traps by checking for commonly used spam words, words in all capital letters and excessive use of words with symbols in them.

Every time an email has a word or phrase that triggers a spam-filtering flag, it adds a penalty point. If your score ranks high, your e-zine is likely to get caught in the spam filters. If your score is low or zero, your e-zine is likely to get delivered into your subscribers' inboxes. The goal is to get a spam score of one or zero.

Other Quick Tips

  • Get a free email account (like at Yahoo or Hotmail) and send a test to see if your e-zine gets through.

  • Try using a thesaurus to find alternatives for words that filters flag.

  • Use search and replace to find the offending words and replace them.

  • After you send your HTML newsletter, send a short teaser email that says where they can go to view your newsletter issue online.

  • Don't send email too frequently. Some spam filters flag sources that send several emails within a short period of time.

  • Add your complete contact information at the bottom of the broadcast.

  • Avoid using a listserv that is blacklisted and sends email from too many spammers. Some major providers will block anything they see broadcast from certain IP addresses that have been banned.

Our E-zine Check Spam Score Before Fixes

Note the phrases that were causing flags: click here, check, click, here, unsolicited, weight, and winner. There were also some phrases in all caps (shouting).

click here 0.1 points
check 1.739 points
click 0.405 points
click 0.405 points
click 0.405 points
click 0.405 points
click 0.405 points
here 0.312 points
here 0.312 points
unsolicited 1.245 points
weight 0.415 points
winner 0.204 points
winner 0.204 points
SHOUTING 2 time(s) 0.5 Points

Total Points 7.056

Analysis: Risky. Your spam score is high enough to cause delivery problems.

If your score is too high, you should edit your copy to remove the spam triggers

E-Zine Check Score After Fixes

Look here to see all the changed we made using the suggestions from the E-zine Checker. The changes are indicated in bold and red.

Here's the score we got at E-zine Checker: 0. Excellent. Your newsletter should be delivered without any problems because you have achieved a spam penalty score of less than 1. Your e-zine is ready to send.

The Results

After sending the fixed broadcast, we checked the delivery rate tracking of Rich Fettke's newsletter. Before the spam fixes, his last newsletter was not delivered to 28% (1,550) subscribers. After the fix, all 5,538 were delivered.

Summary

Don't toss in the towel. E-zines are still a powerful marketing tool for business. It's now critical that we be a bit smarter in our newsletter-delivery strategies. I hope you will take a second look at your e-zine.


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Kristie Tamsevicius is president of Branding on the Net (www.BrandingontheNet.com).

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  • by Ron D Wed Apr 21, 2010 via web

    all the links in this article are broken or directing to parked domains.

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