Friday, 9 July 2010

How can I prevent emails from getting caught by junkmail filters?

A quick guide for creating a good email template

When a new email message arrives, both email servers and email programs conduct several tests, on which they base their assumptions on whether the email is spam or not.

For example the widely used SpamAssassin method conducts almost 750 tests for each structure, content and sending information for each single message. For every failed test SpamAssassin assigns a certain amount of points, and when the sum reaches the alert level the message is classed as junkmail. Quite often even “real” emails end up in the junkmail folder specifically because of the structure and contents of the email.

In this article we will review the six most typical problems and the solutions to them.

Problem 1: Special characters in the email subjectThe highway to the junkmail folder is using numerous and repeated non letter characters, such as !?#€$%&(){[]}, in your email subject line.

Solution: Stick to text and only use necessary punctuation, such as commas and period marks. Avoid exclamation points and do not use currency symbols, such as £, € or $ - these you can easily replace with words (”pounds”, “euros”, "dollars”).

Problem 2: Low amount of text in relation to picture area
Junkmail filters are very critical of messages that contain very small amounts of text or when the amount of text is small compared to the area of the pictures you have used. Quite often this happens when trying to present the message of the email partly or fully in picture format.

Solution: Most of the contents should be typed in as text. Make a habit of using pictures only as graphic elements – do not put your main message in the pictures.

Problem 3: High numbers of line breaks in relation to the amount of text
In case your email contains a small amount of text but numerous line breaks, the spamfilter might suspect that you are trying to hide something towards the bottom of the email.

Eg. If your message contains only one line; ”Please answer this survey” and a link to a online questionnaire at the end, you should not put in lots and lots of line breaks in between.

Solution: In case your email does not contain lots of text, remember to keep an eye on the number of line breaks. Increase the amount of text slightly (this will most likely also raise your response rate!) Or simply delete unnecessary line breaks.

Problem 4: Links that seem to direct to other addresses than you see on the screen.

Your message is one step closer to junkmail if you have tried to make the message text look better by masking the URLs it contain as a link that is different from the actual destination.The problem occurs when the text visible to the respondent is e.g., when in fact the URL leads to

Solution: Never show a link as a diferent address than the actual URL is, instead use words, suchas as “Click here” or “Enter our website here”. Of course you can always choose to show the link in its original form.

Problem 5: Text with small font size & colours close to the background colour

This problem is common when unsubscribe link and respondent source information are tried to be made as unnoticeable as possible and then placed at the bottom of the email.

Solution: Do not use the smallest font size and avoid text colours that are close to the background color. Even with large font sizes junkmail fiters will regard your message as suspicious if the text colour is too close to the background colour, i.e. it thinks you are trying to hide something in the message.

Problem 6: Non-standard or badly written HTML code

In general, junkmailfilters are very doubtful towards messages that contain non-standard HTML code. The problem often occurs when writing an email template manually or using external editors. Even if a message created in an external editor looks good in the browser, it does not mean that the code is on all accounts good enough. This is because most browsers are optimized to show poorly written pages as well as possible.

Solution: If you create an email template manually, or using an external editor, it is always worth letting the Webropol ABC editor check the text. Copy the message in html mode to the Email message field, click on the ABC editor to open it and save. The Webropol editor will save the message structure in the best possible form.

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