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What triggers an email message to appear as spam and what can I do to avoid it?

Internet Service Providers use spam-blocking measures to sort through incoming mail and filter out messages that are identified as unwanted or as spam. Over 85% of all messages, are, in fact, spam! Sometimes, however, the measures to prevent spam block legitimate emails. Other times, your messages are delivered, but the recipient perceives the message to be "junk" and reports your email as spam. Both scenarios should be avoided. To ensure that your messages arrive in your clients' email system and that they are read, you should follow these best practices:

Identify yourself

Clients may issue complaints about your messages simply because they don't remember you. Even though they have not opted out of your emails, they simply don't remember their interaction with your program, so they think you are sending them spam. To prevent this from happening, make sure your interaction with the client was in recent history and make sure the "From" line is from a name they will recognize. Clients who have not worked with you in over a year may not appreciate receiving your correspondence.

In addition to letting recipients know who you are, you are legally required to let them know where you are located, which is why Neoserra will automatically add an unsubscribe link at the bottom of all blast emails that includes your center's name and address. However, we also strongly encourage you to add the name and email address of a human point of contact that they can reach out.

OutreachSystems strongly recommends that you create a filter and focus your correspondence to those clients who have had some interaction with your program in the last few months using the "Most Recent Initial/Follow-up Session" filter or the "Any I/F or Training Session" filter parameter:

PTAC programs, can additionally use the "DLA Active?" filter to focus their email to just those clients that are actively working with their program.

Thus, if you truly do want to email ALL of your clients use the time filter to ensure that you are not spamming people who have not had interaction with your program for some time:

Good content

It is absolutely critical that you avoid catchy subject lines that might be misleading. In fact, per the CAN-SPAM Act, it is actually against the law to intentionally mislead someone with your subject line.

In both the subject line and body of an email, there are certain words, phrases, and characters that can cause your message to be interpreted as spam. Here are some common words that should be avoided:

  • FREE
  • Guarantee
  • Opportunity

You can find a complete list of spam trigger words here. You will notice that there are also some phrases on the list that you should avoid using. Some additional tips:

  • Don't string readers along with vague content. Include a clearly written subject line and call to action.
  • Avoid writing your subject line or your message in ALL CAPS, this is a sure trigger to end up in the spam folder, plus it is rude.
  • Avoid extensive punctuation, such as adding multiple exclamation marks at the end of a sentence!!!!! And along those same lines, you should avoid using other $ymbols.

Avoid extensive use of images

Emails that use too many images, or are all one image, are very likely to trigger a spam filter. Using several lines of text to offset the images can help prevent this. Similarly extensive use of color in your message is not recommended. Sending a message in a variety of colors (or fonts) is also not recommended.

Sender reputation

It is vitally important for OutreachSystems to maintain the highest mail server reputation. If your emails are consistently generating spam complaints, then the Neoserra mail server will be blacklisted, which will prevent all Neoserra-generated mail from going out. We ask your cooperation in following these best practices rules. Once a Neoserra server has been blacklisted it takes hours, days and often weeks to clear the server. Sometimes we simply are not able to clear a mail server from the blasklist which means we have to invest in a new mail server. All this costs time and money which ultimately will affect your subscription rates. It is in everyone's best interest to work together and create email content that is informative, targeted and well structured.

Coordinate with your IT group

Last but not least, please ask your IT group if they can set up DKIM and include Neoserra in your SPF record. They will want to edit your domain's Zone Editor and create a CNAME record as discussed in this FAQ.

Want more? Browse our extensive list of Neoserra FAQs.