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Best practices: Avoiding spam filters

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As companies continue to make spam fighting a top business priority, e-mail marketers will have to work harder than ever to make sure their messages reach valued business customers and prospects.

According to the "E-mail and Collaboration Corporate Survey, 2006-2007,” released last week by research firm Radicati Group, fighting spam was identified as the top messaging priority this year by corporations.

Fighting spam has ranked as the highest messaging priority for businesses since 2002, Radicati said. The second-highest messaging priority this year is e-mail archiving, followed by upgrading messaging software.

Another top priority for corporations is handling the volume of corporate e-mail, Radicati found.

The report was based on a survey of 112 corporations worldwide.

Although corporations are trying to fight spam with more sophisticated spam filters and software, there are steps b-to-b marketers can take to make sure their messages are delivered and, better yet, read.

“That is the holy grail of e-mail marketing—how to get your message received without getting flagged by a spam filter,” said Stefan Pollard, director of consulting services at EmailLabs, an e-mail marketing firm.

“Clearly, spam filters are designed to look for patterns, and there are some obvious steps most marketers can take to reduce incidents of false positives,” Pollard said.

Some of these steps include making sure messages are being properly transmitted, their reverse DNS (domain name system) records are set up correctly and MX (message exchange) records are set up correctly, he added.

“You should also have working postmaster and abuse e-mail addresses, and one form of authentication record, SPF [sender policy framework] record, sender ID or DomainKey,” Pollard said.

Once the messaging infrastructure is set up correctly, marketers need to look at the creative content to make sure they are not indicating signs of spam.

On Sept. 13, EmailLabs released a white paper titled “The Complete Guide for Creating HTML Emails: Technical and Design Best Practices.”

The white paper is available on EmailLabs’ Web site at www.emaillabs.com. It addresses everything from proper HTML coding to font size, color and images.

Among the advice given is to avoid scripts, such as JavaScript and VBScript, and not to embed images.

“The final piece is looking at the words you actually use in the creative,” Pollard said. “If you say things that sound like spam, such as ‘free,’ ‘sweepstakes,’ ‘guaranteed winnings’ or ‘lottery results,’ even authorized and properly crafted messages will not help you,” he said.

One measure marketers can take to make sure their content will make it through spam filters is to install software to test messages. “You need to identify keywords and phrases that are tripping filters, then use creative copywriting techniques to communicate the message without tripping filters,” Pollard said.

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