Archive for March, 2010

Case Study: Avoiding Spam Filters. Simple Fixes for Your Emails

This post demonstrates a real-world example of getting caught in the spam filters and how to get out of them.

I recently signed up for Twimailer. Some of their notices are coming in marked as spam and some are not so I thought I’d help them out by figuring out why and sending them an email. (I can’t get in touch with them so someone let them know if you know¬†the guys.)

Here’s the issue about email and spam. Emails accumulate a +/- score depending if you do things right or wrong. If you include a copyright and use clean html code, you get + marks. Use bad code or break one of a million rules that a sys admin dreamed up and you get – marks.

It’s not easy to dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s. This short example is great example of why you should do everything you can to fix the elements within your control and put the odds in your favor. That way the impact of the elements out of your control don’t affect you as badly.

The first thing I did was review the body of the emails. They include previous tweets. Great idea but some of the tweets are from the distant past and the email got dinged for having an old date in it.

Next I looked at the email headers. In Outlook, open an email and click on View then Options in the menu. This is what you get (mouseover for full size):

This is a screen shot of two email headers. The one on the left is marked as spam and the other one isn’t.

This all seems techy but let me break it down for you so you can understand it yourself. And I don’t make a career out of studying spam engine speak so I’m interpreting these based on my years of experience. I’m not looking these up…

BTW – My mail server uses SpamAssassin. These codes are SpamAssassin’s terminology. Yours are probably different.

Here’s the SpamAssassin Wiki if you want to learn more:

Determined to be SPAM:
X-Mail-Filter-Gateway-SpamDetectionEngine: SPAM,

Spam score (bad thing):
MailFilterGateway Engine (Score=4.451, Score Required 3,

Not listed as a spammer (good thing):
autolearn=disabled, CTASD_SPAM_UNKNOWN -1.00,

Dated in the past (bad thing):
DATE_IN_PAST_12_24 1.77,

HTML message (not bad or good):

Did not use proper html code <html> missing (bad thing):

Content type issue – not sure (bad thing):

Only sent html email vs. mutli-part MIME format (html and plain text) (bad thing):

Domain authentication not setup properly? (bad thing):

Ultimately got a 4 star rating:
X-Mail-Filter-Gateway-SpamScore: ****

What are the biggest offenders? The basics…

Bad HTML coding i.e. invalid HTML

They didn’t include a plain text version (multi-part MIME format)

A pretty big ding for including a date in the past (just include recent tweets vs. mixing in old ones…)

In this screen shot to the left you’ll see there are no <HTML> <body> or <meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” > tags. They only included <div> tags.

The developer who created the email probably didn’t know about these rules and it’s costing the sender its email reputation.

See my recent post about How to Manage Your Email Reputation.

Here are the Top 10 Tips to Improve Email Deliverability and Response.

Posted: March 17th, 2010
at 10:22am by Rob Van Slyke

Tagged with , ,

Categories: Email Critiques,Email Deliverability,Email Optimization

Comments: No comments

Top 10: Improve Email Deliverability and Response

Keep emails fresh

  • Relevant: Appeal to each of your primary audiences

Unless you only offer one product/service and subscribers would only subscribe for one reason, you need to segment your list and provide relevant content to each segment. See my recent post: 6 Easy Steps to Implement An Email Segmentation Strategy

  • Deliverable: Dot your I’s and cross your T’s.
    • Setup domain authentication (previous post)
    • Keep your list clean (stop sending to unopens)
    • Watch your text to image ratio
    • Don’t go overboard with the superlatives, ALL CAPS and spammy words
    • Include a copyright and link to your privacy policy
    • Use clean HTML code – sloppy errors are flags

Don’t let mistakes affect deliverability. All sorts of things affect deliverability but don’t let the basics slip by.

  • Compatible: Design for the various previews in email clients

Preview your email templates in the major email tools such as Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Apple Mail.

This is the best reference I’ve found for understanding which CSS styles render in which email tools:

  • Personable: A friendly person wrote this – not a company

The days of stuffy corporate speak are over. You are trying to build a relationship with your prospects through multiple channels. Don’t blow it in email.

  • Focused: Don’t create distractions and keep it shortFor whatever reason, many email templates are full of distractions (navigation links, house ads, etc). Focus on:
    • Your subscribers’ needs
    • Your goals

Again, reference my post Email Segmentation Strategy for tips

  • Test: Test everything before you change something

If I had to guess, I’d say 5% of all email marketers test their emails in any way. Marketing = Testing.

  • Simple: Simplify the layout

Unfortunately, most marketers don’t revisit their email layouts and templates as often as they should. If you aren’t testing, how do you know what to change?

  • Fresh: Work in design elements that keep it fresh

Just a visual queue to your subscribers that this isn’t a resend and they should take notice.

  • Recognizable: Review your from, subject line and headline strategy

Don’t get too generic with your from email and from name and don’t change them. You want subscribers to add you to their address book. If you change your address and/or from name, it won’t be in their address book. Choose something recognizable and run with it.

  • Viral: Make it interesting and incorporate share icons

How much effort does it take from the first key strokes of an article to the moment you hit send to get your email out to your subscribers? If you add up the hours and cost, you might take your email marketing more seriously. Take another hour or so to review headlines, intros and photos to make your email something people want to share (assuming your content is compelling in the first place).

  • Useful: Reference previous and up-coming content

Just a bonus tip: People don’t read every email you send. Reference previous content and hint and upcoming content.

Download the Presentation Email Deliverablity Checklist

How to Manage Your Email Reputation

This is a quick reference cheat sheet to keep tabs on your Email Reputation and specific steps on how to improve your Email Reputation through email authentication. Don’t let the techy term put you off. It’s critical you know this stuff or send it to your technical administrator so they know this stuff.

What is Email Reputation?

How to Manage Your Email ReputationIt’s a number of things. It’s the reputation of your domain, email addresses, shared or dedicated IP address at your Email Service Provider (ESP), your email server, etc. You build it over time. You actually start out in a little bit of a negative situation so it’s important to get your campaigns right – right out of the gate. It’s determined by everything you do in your email campaign so follow best practices or else. This post focuses on the technical aspects of Email Reputation.

Briefly, there are things that happen behind the scenes when you hit send that you may not be aware of. Each recipient’s email server conducts a “hand shake” with your ESP. The server asks “‘HELO’. Are you who you say you are and do you have authority to send email to me?” The server is asking for the PTR record, or reverse-lookup record, which validates the authenticity of the originating IP Address of the email sender by resolving IP addresses to hostnames. That’s as technical as I’m going to get but take it seriously. Seriously! This is the absolute minimum you should have setup before sending out your email marketing campaigns.

Beyond PTR, there are a number of additional steps you can take to ensure greater deliverability and protection of your Email Reputation. Read on.

Quick Reference for Email Authentication and Email Reputation Management

Email Authentication

  1. Determine Your Email Server’s IP Address
  2. Generate SPF Record using this Sender ID SPF Record Setup Wizard
  3. Setup PTR Record
    • Send the information you collect to whoever controls your DNS and ask them to setup your PTR record.

Get this Email Reputation Management Quick Reference Guide in PowerPoint.

Email Sender Reputation Management

Check Blacklists

Check Email Reputation

Email Authentication Types

Wikipedia on Email Authentication

  • PTR (reverse lookup – all mail servers)
  • SPF
  • Sender ID
  • DKIM
  • Domain Keys

Improve Your Email Deliverablity With Third-Party Certification

Get this Email Reputation Management Quick Reference Guide in PowerPoint.

Posted: March 5th, 2010
at 7:49am by Rob Van Slyke

Tagged with , , , , ,

Categories: Email Deliverability,Email Optimization

Comments: 2 comments

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