Tags: Spam

Insights About Spamhaus & SpamCop

Insights About Spamhaus & SpamCop

Beyond • February 27, 2017

In previous posts, we have discussed types of spam traps and how an email marketer can stay out of them. In this article, we are going to talk about the blacklist services Spamhaus and Spamcop. Spamhaus Spamhaus is an international non-profit organization that helps the majority of Internet Service Providers, ESPs, corporations and other security vendors by tracking spammers and blocking the vast majority of spam and malware sent over internet. It provides several blacklists such as SBL, XBL, PBL, DBL and ZEN, which can be used by mailbox providers for protection against spam-like activities. SBL - The Spamhaus Block List is the collection of IP addresses from which Spamhaus doesn’t recommend the receipt of email. It is maintained by a devoted team of investigators spread over 10 countries. XBL - Exploits Block List is a real-time database of IP addresses of hijacked PCs infected by illegal 3rd party exploits, including open proxies (HTTP, socks, AnalogX, wingate, etc), worms/viruses with built-in spam engines and other types of trojan-horse exploits. PBL - The Policy Block List is a DNSBL database of end-user IP address ranges which should not be delivering unauthenticated SMTP email to any Internet mail server, except those provided for specifically by an ISP for that customer\'s use. The PBL helps networks enforce their Acceptable Use Policy for dynamic and non-MTA customer IP ranges. DBL - The Domain Block List is a real-time database of domains (typically web site domains) found in spam messages. Mail server software capable of scanning email message body contents for URIs can use the DBL to identify, classify or reject spam containing DBL-listed domains. ZEN – This is the latest Spamhaus list which combines all of the blocklist zones. It is the most recommended, as it integrates the feature of SBL, XBL, PBL. Rather, you should be using only zen.spamhaus.org in your IP blocklist configuration. Never use ZEN together with other Spamhaus IP blocklists as it will simply be wasting DNS queries and slowing your mail queue. SpamCop Spamcop is the premium service for reporting spam and it gets its list by crawling the internet and from users that report spam. Spamcop discovers the genesis of unwanted email and reports it to the pertinent Internet Service providers. It’s reporting service is free and you can get started by clicking this link: https://www.spamcop.net/anonsignup.shtml. What is the SpamCop Blocking List (SCBL)? The SpamCop Blocking List (SCBL) is a combative spam-fighting tool that indexes IP addresses which have transmitted reported email to SpamCop users. The SCBL is a quick and automatic list of sites sending reported mail, with multiple report sources, including automated reports and SpamCop user submissions. The SCBL also quickly and automatically delists these sites when reports cease. You can read about the working rules of SCBL and it’s implementation here: https://www.spamcop.net/fom-serve/cache/297.html. What to do if you are listed on a Spamhaus or Spamcop blacklist? Take prompt action: To know if you are listed on Spamhaus enter your IP address or domain name here: https://www.spamhaus.org/lookup/ . If you are blocked on Spamhaus, getting delisted should be your first concern as it will affect your deliverability. Review your recent email sends to find the possible issues that triggered the blacklisting. Gauze your list for bounces and inactive email IDs. Resolve the issue: To get delisted from Spamhaus, you need to fix the issue that caused the blacklisting. Your technical support will be able to guide you through the process. Some of the points you should check are: Review your list procurement - Investigate all your sources of list acquisition and stop sending emails to rented or purchased lists. Follow all the components involved to maintain list quality such validation of email addresses and implementing double opt-in. Remove inactive & bounced IDs: Inactive users are vulnerable to spam traps. These are users not engaging to your campaigns and a segmentation policy should be placed to filter out these contacts. Mailbox providers will send an unknown user code a year in advance before turning it into a spam trap. It is important that you identify bounces and remove contacts identified on feedback loops. As soon as you complete the above checklist, follow the delisting process here:  https://www.spamhaus.org/lookup/. While completing the delist form, briefly inform them that you have fixed the issue. Once you are removed from a blacklist, make sure to monitor metrics like complain rates, unknown user rates and spam trap hits proactively.


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Honey Pot Spam Traps

Beyond • November 28, 2016

‘Honey Pot spam trap,’ a term you’re likely to surmise as being a baiting technique used to trap spammers. It’s a technique used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and anti-spamming authorities to identify and penalize spammers. The ‘honey pot’ for a spammer is obviously contact details, or more precisely, email IDs. Spammers use harvesting softwares to collect random email IDs from the web, which are filled up by users on different forums and websites. Databases containing harvested email IDs are then sold to innocent marketers (the lazy ones), who seek some fresh new prospects for their email marketing campaigns. At the end of the day, these email IDs get bombarded with marketing emails, which they have never subscribed to and are of no relevance to them. So the next time you find your inbox cluttered with marketing emails, you’ll have a clue about how you have fallen prey to spamming. Even the best offers will not placate the customer who finds spam in their inbox. However, spamming will hurt the marketer more than it does to a prospector customer. Anti-spam organizations, who have been unrelentingly fighting spam for so long, create and spread email IDs across the web so that they get harvested by spammers in order catch them red handed. If you send an email to these IDs, no matter if you agree or not, you will be booked as a spammer. Beware this honey pot can give you a sour mouthful. This technique is called a ‘Honey Pot spam trap.’ Project Honey Pot: Project Honey Pot is bad news for spammers. Spammers guffawed all over cyberspace and celebrated their heyday. It was affecting the email marketing industry and people started to hate email marketing, which is and was one of the most effective ways to deliver your marketing messages. Matt Prince and his anti-spam fighters at Unspam stepped into the scene with this brilliant web based Honey Pot network, to identify spammers and the spambots they use to harvest addresses from websites called Project Honey Pot (PHP). Today, PHP serves various government and law enforcement organizations to fight and reduce spamming. The PHP software installs addresses on your website, which are custom tagged to the time and IP of a visitor (even if it is a bot). If these addresses start receiving messages, obviously it is a clear case of spamming. We will also be able to track the exact time when these addresses were harvested and also the IPs which did that. In simple layman terms, PHP will include email addresses on your website which are invisible to the naked eye (display: none CSS rule), but which bots can scrape. Each invisible email address is a unique email address leading the spammer into the spam trap. Today Project Honey Pot stands tall as far as combating spam is concerned. In fact, they have even diversified their efforts to defend against other types of spamming. They have taken initiatives to prevent comment spamming and also dictionary attacks. PHP also launched services which leverage the data to allow website administrators to keep malicious web robots off their sites. The stats are in favor of this organization in fighting spam: Project Honey Pot so far: Project Statistics (as of June 18, 2016) Time From Harvest To First Spam Slowest: 3 years, 4 months, 2 weeks, 3 days, 21 hours, 1 min, 31 secs Fastest: 1 sec Average: 2 weeks, 5 days, 11 hours, 49 mins, 41 secs Harvester Traffic 1.55% of all honey pot visitors are harvesters Spams Sent 951.9 messages to the average spam trap address 1,700,752 messages sent to the most targeted trap Spam Servers Per Harvester 414.4 spam servers per harvester Monitoring 123,004,531 IPs 228,934,209 spam traps Identified 256,773 harvesters 375,028 search engines 106,406,578 spam servers 1,280,557 comment spammers 27,580,502 dictionary attackers 30,896 rule breakers 382,951 bad web hosts Active (This Week) 3,116 harvesters 137,139 spam servers 5,149 comment spammers 34,760 dictionary attackers 111 rule breakers Received 2,839,586,684 unique spam messages 5,677,168 unique messages this week Monitoring Capability 618,345,000,000 spam traps Top-5 Countries For Harvesting China (32.5%) Spain (12.2%) United States (8.7%) Romania (4.4%) Germany (3.2%) Top-5 Countries For Spam Sending China (9.3%) Brazil (8.5%) Russia (6.8%) United States (6.4%) India (6.0%) Top-5 Countries For Dictionary Attacks India (10.9%) Brazil (8.4%) Russia (7.1%) China (6.2%) Vietnam (5.9%) Top-5 Countries For Comment Spamming China (31.2%) United States (15.9%) Russia (10.0%) Ukraine (5.5%) Brazil (3.8 %) Source: https://www.projecthoneypot.org/statistics.php You can also be part of the effort to fight spam. Count yourself in by giving your details on the PHP website and agreeing to their policies and agreements. You need to do this to enroll your website in project Honey Pot. If more websites contain the PHP software, the more effective it will be in fighting spam. Basically, PHP is a collective effort by a group of individuals working together to fight spam. How to drop off the Honey Pot spam list: It is always recommended that email marketers use services like the ProjectHoneyPot.org, Windows Smart Network Data Services and Return Path’s Sender Score tool to ensure list hygiene. You can accidentally find yourself tangled in the spam trap in the following scenarios: You are reusing an IP which was listed in the spam trap. Your ISP did not play it’s part in preventing spam and complying with the best practices to prevent spamming from the email server you share or are a part of. In such cases, it will be /24 listing and you can request to be whitelisted. Your IP address has been involved in the activity without your consent or knowledge. Spamming/malware bots do have a way of infecting systems without the operator knowing they are there. If this not the case you have to check on your email marketing practices because it’s pretty certain you were directly or indirectly involved in spamming. A honey pot are an automated system and have nothing to do with you on a personal level. Since it is possible to get into a honey pot list inadvertently during your email marketing endeavors, the remedies are as follows: You can send a request to whitelist your IP. You may automatically whitelist any IP within the /24 of your requesting IP. Whitelisted IPs will automatically become delisted by bad activity occurring after the whitelisting date. A delay penalty will then be incurred for the next whitelist submission. Remove all those email Ids from your email list who have never clicked or opened your emails for a span of 6 months. ( this is a preventive measure but will save you from hitting a spam trap multiple times) If you are an email marketer and have been for some time, then you will be well aware of the fact that it is the marketing channel which gives the highest ROI when compared to other digital marketing channels. Emails are personal communication to a customer and spamming exasperate them. As responsible marketers, we should preserve and sustain the channel and join the fight against spam. Happy sending!


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How Do Dead Email Addresses Get Turned Into Spam Traps?

Practical Marketer • September 20, 2016

Brands that depend on email marketing always ensure that they check the spam scores of their emails before hitting the send button. Regardless of following all measures of legitimate email marketing, are you falling into the prey of spam traps? This happens when you fail to keep your subscription list updated enough. ISPs choose inoperative addresses to use as spam traps A spam trap is an email address which is specially created by ISPs to find spammers.  ISPs pick random dormant email addresses and customize them into their version of spam traps. It could be those email IDs which were once active, but after a period of inactivity, they started returning hard bounces. If theses addresses receive emails, ISPs will understand that the list is either purchased or rented. Mostly rightful though enervated digital marketers fall into this trap as they fail to revise their list regularly. Drop your Hard Bouncers or get stacked into the spam can Mailers should be clear about the types of bounces they receive for their email campaigns. Hard bounces occur when the email address is either invalid or it doesn’t exist. All types of terminated email addresses including Hotmail aliases return hard bounces even if their primary addresses are still active as Mailer Daemons are unable to identify them. If you continue to send emails to hard bounces ISPs smell it as spamming and will finally lump you into the spam can. Attrition rates can overshoot one-third of your list Churn rate is an important factor for any business with a subscriber-based service model. It can multiply up to one-third every year. There could be numerous reasons for which people drop their email addresses but one of them could be the rapid increase in the use of Hotmail aliases by customers. People hide their primary email information from the marketers by creating aliases and dispose of them later. The primary reason driving email churn is the value and efficacy of your marketing campaign. Lack of relevance of your content, over-emailing could be some of the marketer driven reasons. The other reasons could be the change of domains, perhaps a start-up business failed to flourish and all the email addresses associated started returning hard bounces. The common types of spam traps are: Pure, Pristine or True Spam Traps are either created by ISPs, mailbox providers or blacklists services like Spamhaus, Spamcop. They place these email addresses on public websites in a way that is hidden from a normal user but can be scraped by email harvesting bots. Mailing to pristine spam traps can cause several deliverability issues and can even lead to blacklist. Recycled Spam traps are those email addresses that were used by real users in past became abandoned and then converted into a trap by mailbox providers. If you follow unclear list collecting practices you may pick recycle spam trap. Is it possible to remove 100% spam traps from your list? ISPs, anti-spam authorities and inbox providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL and Hotmail never disclose which email addresses are traps. Revealing this list will certainly weaken their purpose of catching spammers. The optimum possible solution is to follow proper list acquisition process. It is always preferable to monitor your reputation proactively using Return Path reputation monitoring. The biggest small change to your email marketing strategy Your company must delete all the hard bounce email addresses on priority. The result will be visible in your campaign reports as an increased open rate. Companies relying on email marketing can put to an end by the blockage of their email marketing campaigns. Hence, it is important for a legitimate email marketer to consider their list cleaning as imperative as making payroll. Benchmark Email adds these addresses to a suppression list which ensures that even if you send emails to them will not get delivered as we understand they are of no use. We want our customers to practice lawful email marketing, therefore we have decided to educate them.


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Opt-In List Management: Shielding Yourself from Email Harvesters

Beyond • June 2, 2011

Email addresses are quite valuable these days. In fact, they are so valued that spammers go out of their way to steal them in order to add them to their random lists. Although you want people to be able to contact you to inquire about your products or services, it is important to know that publishing your email address anywhere on the web makes it vulnerable to these unscrupulous thieves. Fortunately, there are a number of actions you can take to protect yourself from email harvesters, including the following: Alter Your Address The easiest way to shield your precious email address from harvesting is to alter it when placing it on your website, blog or wherever you decide to publish it. For example, instead of typing it as myaddress@mydomain.com, you could reformat it to read something like “my address at my domain dot com”. The downside to this method is that it essentially renders your email address unclickable and could be confusing to some visitors. This is a common practice, but if you are worried about potentially losing business, it may be a good idea to explain why you are doing this and give your visitors some clues on how they can unravel the mystery. Embed Your Address in an Image Another way to ward off email harvesters is to embed your address into an image. This is an ideal alternative to the first method because it allows you to retain clickability by linking to a web form. It is also a sound method for the simple fact that it works. Most email harvesting is done via software programs. These programs are similar to the spiders deployed by Google and other search engines in how they are only to process text and cannot read graphics. So even with the most effective tools, the average harvester will not be able to steal your email address when using this technique without manually typing it into their database, which is something most are not willing to do. Connect It to a Web Form Web forms have several beneficial uses. Among them are collecting information from visitors, building a list of contacts and qualifying leads. We only briefly touched on this above but they can also be used to safeguard your email address from harvesting. Instead of leaving your address out in the open for a spammer to nab, this method calls for you to hide it entirely. There are numerous scripts in CGI, JavaScript and PHP that make it easy for visitors to enter a message, click a button and contact you through a web form. If your website sees a lot of traffic, this method may be more convenient for both parties. Email harvesters are on the prowl, constantly roaming the web in search of addresses to add to their lists. Once victimized, you are not only susceptible to annoying spam but also malicious phishing scams that pose a threat to your identity. Needless to say, protecting your email address from these potential dangers should be high on the list of priorities.


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Who Can Fatten Your Inbox? The Spammer Man Can (Part 3)

Who Can Fatten Your Inbox? The Spammer Man Can (Part 3)

Beyond • December 31, 2010

A Brief History Leading to Botnets It all started with a moth. In 1947, Grace Murray Hopper, a researcher at Harvard, notes a system failure and finds a moth trapped in relay panels - and there you have it, the first computer bug. Skip to 1981, the first virus (the term hadn\'t been coined virus until \'83) is released into the wild. The Elk Cloner reflected the camp spirit of the frontier days of computing in the early \'80s. It was written by 15-year-old Rich Skrenta for Apple II\'s DOS 3.3 operating system and passed along on floppy disks to his friends (as you can imagine, Skrenta went on to work in Silicon Valley and co-founded the search engine blekko). The next milestone was the coinage of the phrase computer virus; in 1983 Professor Len Adleman at Lehigh University demonstrates the concept at a seminar. Fast forward to 2008, and enter Conficker: the worm that infected so many computers that as of February 13, 2009, Microsoft is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals behind the creation and/or distribution of Conficker. Now, looking at spam and how much spam can be sent, check out this wikipedia link for a full list of the most notorious pieces of malware ever to slime their way into your system. We know around 200 billion spam emails are sent per day. Yeah, per day. So this brings the series to a close. I want you to take an active part in making malware a thing of the past. But it will only happen if you are constantly on guard. It doesn\'t take much effort, just a few simple good habits to live by. Don\'t open any attachments from people you don\'t know or open files you aren\'t expecting to receive. Do not click on any pop-ups that encourage you to download anti-malware software; reputable anti-malware companies DO NOT advertise in that manner. Keep your anti-malware programs up to date. But most importantly, DO NOT PIRATE YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM; this leaves you vulnerable to a plethora of hazards that can bring your computer and your IP address to the mercy of the botnet bandits.


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Video Email Tips & Tricks – The Weekly Wrap

Video Email Tips & Tricks – The Weekly Wrap

Beyond • December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, everybody. Can you believe it\'s already here? I can\'t. I hope you all have a great weekend with your family and friends - whether you\'re celebrating the holiday or not. At the very least, go eat some Chinese food and see a movie. That\'s what my people do. Speaking of what people do, here\'s what we were up to at Benchmark Email this week. Support Update: Link Directly to Documents Christmas time means new toys for all the good girls and boys...and for our users. That is if you consider a new feature a new toy. We do. Check out our latest support update on how to upload documents into your emails and newsletters. New Benchmark Email Software Features More new toys! Just go with it. Color coded code! Say that 10 times fast. OK, It\'s not that hard, but it seemed like a fun idea. Check out these new Benchmark Email software features. HTML Tips & Tricks #3 - Header Alignment & Breaks There is currently a jackhammer going full blast outside our offices, making it increasingly difficult to write witty summaries for each blog post. It did have me thinking what the annoying thing for jackhammer operators would be, as they are for me. I\'ll take a quick break to ponder that while you read about HTML breaks in our HTML Tips & Tricks #3 - Header Alignment & Breaks. New Year\'s Resolutions for the Savvy Email Marketer It\'s that time of year. Have you made your New Year\'s resolutions yet? I say if you never make them, you can\'t break them. If you do want some goals to achieve, read through our newest guide: New Year\'s Resolutions for the Savvy Email Marketer. New Boxing Day Templates for the Holiday of Champions Do you know what Boxing Day is? I didn\'t. The evidence online was inconclusive. Making up my own answer was more fun. Won\'t you come take a stab at what Boxing Day is? Use a Boxing Day email template, and ask your subscribers what they think it is. ¡Feliz Nochebuena! Customize a Template for the Good Night The real Christmas party takes place in Spain and Latin American countries. Nochebuena is a late night celebration on Christmas Eve that sounds like way more fun than the traditional Christmases I have participated in. Wish your subscribers a ¡Feliz Nochebuena! Customize a Nochebuena email template. Making Good Email Videos Part 1: Why Doesn\'t My Voice Sound Professional? Video can be an incredibly powerful tool in your email marketing campaigns. If they don\'t look and sound professional, they won\'t be. People will often focus on the visual aspect, but how it sounds is just as important. Check out part 1 of making great email videos with Benchmark Email. Making Good Email Videos Part 2: Enough Sound, Let\'s Discuss the Visual Aspect This isn\'t a fashion magazine, it\'s a blog about email marketing. That doesn\'t mean we can\'t talk about looking good. Learn how to make your videos pop, and how to make successful email videos. Email Outperforms Many Online Activities Across Age Groups A study from the Pew Research Center looked at the internet habits of various generations. The results were interesting, and particularly in favor of email. Read on, and see how email dominates each generations\' online activity. Who Can Fatten Your Inbox? The Spammer Man Can (Part 2) Last week I spoofed a song for you and we introduced the top spamming industries. This week, learn how to stop bots from compromising your computer. That\'s more important than song spoofs anyways (a little piece of me died writing that sentence).


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One Goes Down, Another Goes Up

One Goes Down, Another Goes Up

Beyond • December 3, 2010

How much email traveling out there in cyberspace is spam? As of September 2010, 89.4%. Yep, about 9 out of 10 emails that are sent are emails you or someone like you does not want. But look on the bright side, that\'s down from 92.5% in August 2010. I know, I know, from a narrow POV it\'s still 9 out of 10. But when we look at the big picture it\'s a reduction in the billions. Now, does this mean that spammers are growing a conscience and realizing what they do is wearing and tearing at the infrastructure that carries their message? Do they know that spam is harmful to the inbox owner who has to take the time and sift through junk emails everyday? Can they fathom that spam is a plague to the tax payer, because governments both local and national have to provide additional equipment, software and manpower needed to combat the problem in some ironic rerun of the Cold War\'s arms race gone digital? Probably not. Now phishing is on the rise and we must be ever diligent to not fall victim to emails and websites that use familiarity to lure us into giving away sensitive information. I can personally say I was a victim a long, long time ago to a phishing campaign. It was a website that looked exactly like the bank of my credit card. After naively entering the information requested, I realized what a colossal mistake I had made. So, what did I do to save myself a giant headache? I immediately registered my social security number, phone number and all credit/debit cards with the Federal Trade Commission. Plus I provided the FTC with a trace route of the malicious website. Now I update my information with the FTC every 6 months. I know this can be a chore, but it\'s much better than dealing with years of hardship trying to get your life back in order.


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How To Avoid The Top Twenty Spam Words

How To Avoid The Top Twenty Spam Words

Beyond • May 25, 2010

Many of the words and phrases that ISP mail filters identify as spam are clearly obvious. Incorporating terms such as $$$, Incredible Deal, Earn Extra Cash, Multi-level Marketing, and of course, Viagra and Cialis into your email text or subject line are surefire, express one-way tickets to the blacklist. There are, however, twenty words or phrases that most email marketers wouldn’t ordinarily consider as dangerous, but using them can demolish your reputation ranking just as quickly as using Enlarge or Cheap. Affordable – An extremely easy one to slip in. Of course your products and services are affordable, but try Economical, Frugal, or Thrifty. Apply Now – This is a nearly universal call to action, but it’s also one of the most perilous phrases. Respond, Answer, or Return are better choices. Credit – Simply having the word credit as part of Credit Card can blow up your email message. Try Card, CC, or Payment Method. billion – Who would have thought that making a reference to the number of people on Earth would get you canned? Use X,000,000,000 instead. Extra Income – A standby of the work at home scams, this phrase should be substituted with Additional, followed by Earnings, Profit, or Revenue. Free – This is the emperor of all spam words, and it truly limits bona-fide providers of Free Info and Free Installation. Try working Complimentary or Gratis into your content instead. Guarantee – Surprisingly, this word rings the bell but Warranty does not. Other options include Guaranty, and Surety. Home Based – Spam filters believe that all workers belong in offices, so try rephrasing as In Your Residence, At Your Abode, or In Your Living Room. Incredible Deal - Astonishing, Stupendous, Wondrous, Extraordinary, Sensational, Outstanding, Remarkable, Exciting, Alluring, Spectacular… need we go on? Leave – This word is one of the easiest to inadvertently drop in. You can’t even use Tree Leaves! This is both a noun and a verb, so pull out Roget’s Thesaurus. Limited Time Offer – It’s far better to actually list the expiration date, or state that “You have X days left until…\" Mortgage Rates – You’re going to be better off avoiding both these terms, so try Home Loan Cost, or Residential Financing Percentage. Obligation – Commitment or Responsibility are the two preferred terms, but you can also try Pledge, Covenant, or even Coercion. Opportunity – Another easy one to unintentionally slip in. Opt for Chance, Occasion or Opening as substitutes. Order Now – This call to action mainstay is spam poison, therefore Ask For, Request, or even Solicit are better choices. Price – This term has to be the ultimate unintended treacherous inclusion into email marketing content. Try Value, Cost, Fee, Charge, or even Outlay. Remove – This is one of the most common terms in promotional content and it should be exchanged by Discontinue, Eliminate, or Suspend. Thousand – As in the case of Billion, swap this out with the numerical form or the vernacular Grand. Depending on your demographics you might even try using Large, G-bird, Thundo, or Geezil. Unsubscribe - Admit it, your last email message included this term. Try working it into a phrase which asks if the reader wishes to Cease or Stop Receiving Our Messages. Weight Loss – Avoid this spammy cliché by using Discard or Drop Pounds / Kilograms / Stones (depending on the geographical location of your customer). Google has been able to perform optical character recognition on PDF files for years, and it’s certainly technologically feasible to extend that capability to other image formats as well. In the near future, images from both websites and email marketing messages may be analyzed for spam words, so it is wise to avoid including them even in your jpegs starting today!


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Five Ways to Avoid Email Spam Filters

Beyond • October 21, 2009

Email marketing has a lot of advantages, the biggest benefit being that email is free and convenient. The down side to this is that the ease of email has led to an explosion of spam, and therefore the creation of the spam filter. Most unfortunately, these filters tend to block even legitimate email. So if you find your emails are being blocked, read on. Take a look at five great ways to avoid those email spam filters. 1. Never use spam words in your email There are a lot of words and symbols that are classified as ‘spam’ and these should be avoided at all cost. Words such as ‘viagra’, numerous dollar signs, multiple exclamation marks and even sentences in capital are considered spam. It is very important that you do not use such words in the subject line of your email. 2. Always safeguard your customer list Your customer list should be protected at all times. You must look after your list as per the terms mentioned in your privacy policy. Remember, people have given you their information on the basis of trust. You need to honor this trust. Never disclose or sell your list to anyone unless you have stated that you will do so in your policy. Violating your policy could lead to penalties. 3. Place an unsubscribe link in your email It is important that all your email communication contain an unsubscribe link for the benefit of your recipients. This is usually provided by all the leading Email Service Providers like Benchmark Email, etc. However, you should ensure that your link works properly by testing it yourself. If a recipient clicks on the unsubscribe link you must ensure that the person is removed from your subscription list instantly. 4. Make use of double opt-in forms Although single opt-ins can be used, double opt-in is a much better alternative. In the single opt-in process, a person who wishes to subscribe needs to provide his name and email address and confirm that he wants your emails. When it comes to double opt-in, the person completes the single opt-in process and then clicks on a verification link that is sent to him via email. The verification process used in double opt-in makes it more trustworthy and reduces the chance of your email being called spam. 5. Pay attention to all aspects of your email Your email should maintain a constant ‘From’ field and the ‘To’ field should always be personalized. When it comes to HTML emails, try to avoid using javascript, embedded forms and even hidden text and make sure all your links have the ‘http://’ prefix. Request your readers to add your email address to their ‘whitelist’ or address book.


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Getting your email past the spam filters

Beyond • September 23, 2009

When it comes to getting your email past the spam filters there are a number of factors to keep in mind. Although sender authentication and reputation are amongst the most important criteria when it comes to ISP filtering, there is one more potential hazard - your spam score rating. Once your emails pass the authentication and reputation filter, they have to pass a content filter. Here, your emails are rated on the basis of different factors and then given a ‘spam score’. Failing to pass these filters would result in your email going straight to the junk folder. For this reason it is vital that you follow all the right rules when it comes to your data, email templates and content. Following the right rules gives you a much higher chance of delivering your email to the inbox. If you want to guide your email to an inbox rather than a junk folder, take a look at some helpful tips to avoid getting trapped by ISP filters. However, keep in mind that spam filters, firewalls and ISPs do not follow a fixed set of criteria when it comes to filtering email. The following tips should prove helpful but due to constantly changing criteria there is no guarantee that following these tips will ensure you escape the filters unscathed. Tip 1: Your template should be professional Your template must: Be well designed Contain correct HTML code Appear properly in every browser Avoid incorrect coding as this adversely affects your spam score. Tip 2: Your email must be error free When it comes to your email, avoid: Incomplete/ unnecessary code Blank font tags Excessive use of \' &nbsp\' Incorrect grammar Spelling errors All these will give ISPs the impression that your email contains spam and will affect your email delivery. Always run your email through spell check and send test mails to friends to catch errors. Tip 3: Your email must contain text plus HTML Ensure that: Your email is multipart; it should contain plain text and HTML The text version and HTML version are as similar as possible Your email has a proper mix of text and images You avoid sending emails with only images and no text Multipart emails enable even those with Blackberry’s and PDA’s to read your email. Your email should have a balanced amount of text and images as too many images result in ISP’s tagging it as spam. Tip 4: Your emails should be correctly personalized It is important that your database is precise and you avoid: Unpersonalized email Incorrectly personalized email Badly personalized email All these result in people unsubscribing from your emails and making spam complaints. Tip 5: Your emails should have proper text Avoid the following text traps in your email: Text in italics Huge font Different fonts Text completely in uppercase Text with gaps in the words White text that blends into the background Italics, big and gappy fonts simply scream to the ISP’s that your email is spam. Also using white text on graphical backgrounds is a common spammer trick - avoid doing it. Ensure that your text always stands out and is easily readable. Tip 6: Your email should not contain: Avoid the following text traps in your email: Embedded images Images as attachments Forms As most spam mails contain embedded or attached images and forms, avoid placing these in your email. Instead, your images and forms can be hosted online via your image library or website. Tip 7: Your email should not have spam words Certain words are spam triggers. Avoid placing words and phrases such as: Free Viagra Gamble No obligation Order now The more spam words placed in your email, the higher your spam score. A Spam Checker is a good idea It is a good idea to pass your email through a spam checker before sending it. A spam checker would point out broken HTML and words which could be considered spam. This gives you the opportunity to rectify these errors before they can cause damage. Setting up test accounts at sites like Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL is also a good way to check if your emails are landing up in the inbox or junk folder.    


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