The first-ever incident with a spam email sender happened in 1978, when a US-based agency sent hundreds of messages to its private network to advertise computer hardware. But spam, as we know it, didn’t pick up speed until the late 90s, when marketers realized its potential in reaching out to new customers, forging new connections, and creating sales opportunities.
But no one likes hearing sales pitches multiple times a day; email service providers quickly realized this and started putting up barriers. These barriers would discourage spammers from indiscriminately emailing their customers, and voila! Spam filters were born.
And before we discuss how to overcome those pesky email filters, let’s explore what spam is, and how being a spam email sender isn’t a great way to drum up business. We will then share guidelines for becoming a top-notch email sender!
Table of Contents
- What Is Spam?
- Top 10 Problems Caused By Spam
- How Spam Filters Work
- Remember: Spamming Is Illegal!
- Guidelines to Avoid Being Marked as Spam
- How Email Testing Tools Can Help You
- Campaign Refinery: Reach the Inbox, Always!
What Is Spam?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines spam as “unsolicited, usually commercial messages (such as emails, text messages, or Internet postings) sent to a large number of recipients or posted in a large number of places.”
But to better define spam, let’s look at its characteristics:
- Unwanted and unsolicited messages, often sent in bulk.
- Typically transmitted through electronic communication channels, with email being the most popular medium.
- Includes various forms of messages, such as unwanted advertisements, phishing attempts, scams, and irrelevant content.
- Often sent for commercial or fraudulent purposes.
- Can pose risks like malware distribution, identity theft, and financial fraud.
- Mitigated through spam filters, user education, and legal regulations.
Now that we know what spam looks like, let’s further examine the most common types of spam emails.
Types of Spam Emails
Spam emails come in various forms and types, each with its own purpose and characteristics. Here are the most common types of mass spam emails:
|Advertisements||These are promotional emails sent in bulk to advertise products, services, or offers.|
|Financial services||Some of these emails may be legit, but they acquired your contact details without your explicit permission — this makes it spam.|
|Phishing emails||Phishing emails are designed to trick recipients into revealing personal or financial information.|
|Fraud||These scams typically promise a large sum of money in exchange for a small upfront payment.|
|Malware and virus-laden emails||These emails contain malicious attachments or links that, when opened, can infect a recipient’s computer.|
|Nigerian prince scams||These emails promise you a reward to help a wealthy individual or organization that needs help transferring a large sum of money.|
|Fake lotteries/Prizes||Such emails inform recipients that they’ve won a lottery, sweepstakes, or prize, but they need to pay fees to claim their winnings.|
|Adult websites or adult services||These messages usually entice readers with adult content but the links always lead to malicious websites.|
|Weight loss ads||These spammy emails promise you unrealistic results within an unrealistic time frame.|
|Surveys/Opinion polls||These promise rewards or prizes in exchange for participating in surveys or opinion polls.|
|Cryptocurrency||These emails claim to be from cryptocurrency exchanges and promote fake investment opportunities.|
|Inheritance scams||Inheritance scam emails claim that you are the beneficiary of a large inheritance but must pay a fee to access the funds.|
|Tech support spam||These emails claim that the recipient’s computer is infected or has issues. They offer to provide support for a fee.|
Always be cautious when dealing with any unsolicited emails, as they can carry various risks and are often designed to deceive or defraud recipients. If you see a spam email sender in your inbox, ensure you mark the email as spam immediately!
Top 10 Problems Caused By Spam
Spam email can cause a variety of issues, which is why it is considered bad. Some of the primary problems and concerns associated with such emails include:
- Overwhelming your email account: Spam emails can flood your inbox with unwanted messages, making it difficult to find and manage important emails. This can lead to missed or overlooked important messages.
- They can be costly: These emails consume network bandwidth, storage space, and server resources, increasing costs for individuals and organizations.
- Time-consuming: Sorting through and deleting spam can be frustrating! This wasted time can be a significant productivity drain.
- Phishing/malware: Some spam messages contain malicious attachments or links that can infect your computer with malware or lead to phishing attacks. Such incidents cause data breaches, financial losses, or other security issues.
- Privacy concerns: Spam communication often collects data about the recipient, even something as basic as the email address being valid. This can lead to increased privacy risks and exposure to phishing attempts.
- Network congestion: A large volume of spam can congest servers and networks, causing slowdowns or outages.
- Scams and fraud: This is the biggest problem with spam — they may promote fraudulent schemes, including offers that are too good to be true, pyramid schemes, and various scams that can lead to financial losses for recipients.
- Offensive content: Some spam emails contain offensive or inappropriate content, which can be distressing or disturbing to recipients.
- Brand reputation: If your brand gets associated with spam, it can harm your online reputation and impact your ability to send legitimate emails.
- Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack: While rare nowadays (thanks to better technology), DoS attacks can cripple email servers and cause disruption.
Spam is considered bad because it can be a major nuisance to recipients; it causes compromised security, wastes time and resources, and leads to various other negative consequences.
It’s also a bad idea for marketers to indulge in sending spam emails; modern spam filters will immediately detect your spammy content, plus you will get blacklisted by ESPs and ISPs both.
How Spam Filters Work
Spam filters are software or algorithms designed to detect and filter out spam emails from legitimate ones automatically. They use various techniques to analyze email content and characteristics to make this determination. Here’s how spam filters work:
- Content analysis: Spam filters scrutinize the content of an email, encompassing the subject line, message body, and attachments. They search for keywords, phrases, and patterns that are typically linked with unwanted emails.
- Sender reputation: Filters consider the sender’s standing, often by verifying the sender’s email address and domain against established lists of recognized offenders or trustworthy senders. A sender with a poor sending history is more liable to have their emails tagged as spam.
- Blacklists/whitelists: Filters reference records of acknowledged spammers and reputable senders. Messages from individuals or domains on blacklists are more inclined to be designated as spam, whereas those from whitelisted sources are usually let through.
- Machine learning and AI: Modern spam filters often employ machine learning and AI methods to enhance their precision continually. They can analyze an extensive range of aspects, including email text, sender scores, and user input, to predict the email’s legitimacy.
- Authentication protocols: Filters may look for appropriate email authentication via protocols like SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance).
- User inputs: Some filters even consider user feedback. If a user labels an email as spam, the filter can assimilate this feedback and refine its future filtering judgments.
- Collaborative filtering: Spam filters may exchange insights with other filters or services, creating a network to heighten the precision of spam detection. For example, Yahoo and Gmail have teamed up to take the fight against spam to new levels.
The combination of these techniques and the continuous improvement of algorithms allows spam filters to adapt to evolving spam tactics and maintain a high degree of accuracy in identifying and filtering out spam emails while letting legitimate messages pass through to the inbox.
Remember: Spamming Is Illegal!
Spam emails are more than just an annoyance; indulging in spam emailing is considered a crime in multiple regions. The legal repercussions for sending spam can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the violation.
Consequences may include:
- Fines: Violators of spam laws may be subject to significant fines, which can vary based on factors such as the number of spam messages sent and the nature of the violation.
- Criminal charges: In some cases, sending spam may result in criminal charges. For example, the United States has the CAN-SPAM Act, which includes provisions for criminal penalties.
- Civil lawsuits: Individuals or organizations that receive spam may choose to file civil lawsuits against senders for damages.
- Blacklisting: Known spammers and their domains are often added to email blacklists, making it difficult for their messages to reach intended recipients. This can have a significant impact on the sender’s ability to conduct legitimate email marketing.
- Reputation damage: Being identified as a spammer can harm an individual or company’s reputation, impacting their ability to engage in legitimate business activities.
- Seizure of assets: In some cases, authorities may seize assets related to spam operations.
It’s essential to be aware of and comply with the spam laws and regulations in your jurisdiction and the jurisdictions where your recipients reside. Always use ethical and permission-based email marketing practices to avoid legal issues and maintain a positive email sender reputation.
Guidelines to Avoid Being Marked as Spam
Now, you may be a well-meaning email marketer, but spam filters can be harsh. If you discover that a lot of your emails end up in the spam folder and have no idea how to stop it, here are some strategies you can use.
These guidelines will focus on enhanced email deliverability and reduce the likelihood of your emails being flagged as spam:
- Monitor your sender reputation: A weak sender reputation will catch the eye of spam filters. Keep an eye on your sender reputation and work towards improving it.
- Get permission: Only send emails to individuals who have explicitly opted in to receive messages from your organization. Avoid purchasing email lists or sending unsolicited emails.
- Verify and clean your lists: Regularly verify and clean your email lists to remove invalid or inactive addresses. Sending emails to non-existent addresses can harm your sender reputation. At Campaign Refinery, we addressed this pain point by offering our clients an automated list-cleaning feature, which intelligently removes all dormant and harmful addresses from their email lists.
- Use double opt-in: Implement a double opt-in process, where subscribers confirm their subscription via a confirmation email. This ensures the recipient genuinely wants to receive your emails.
- Be consistent with sending patterns: Maintain a consistent and reasonable email-sending schedule. Sudden or erratic sending patterns can raise suspicions.
- Authenticate your domain: Implement email authentication protocols like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to prove the legitimacy of your emails. At Campaign Refinery, we require all clients to implement these security protocols; this further strengthens our results as an email platform.
- Keep your content relevant: Ensure your email content is relevant and valuable to your recipients. Irrelevant or excessive content can trigger spam filters.
- Avoid spam trigger words: Refrain from using spammy words, phrases, or excessive punctuation in your subject lines and content.
- Personalize your emails: Use recipient’s names and other personalized content wherever possible. Generic, one-size-fits-all messages are far more likely to be flagged as spam.
- Include an opt-out link: Make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe from your emails and honor opt-out requests promptly.
- Respect privacy laws: Comply with local and international privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the CAN-SPAM Act.
- Monitor feedback loops: Keep an eye on feedback loops provided by email service providers and ISPs to address complaints and unsubscribe requests promptly.
- Segment your email lists: Segment your email lists based on recipient preferences and behaviors, allowing you to send more targeted and relevant content.
- Test your emails: Regularly test your email campaigns using email testing tools. Monitor your email deliverability and open rates to identify and address issues.
- Design your emails well: Use a balance of text and images in your emails, as image-heavy emails are more likely to be marked as spam.
By following these practices, email marketers can increase the chances of their emails reaching the intended recipients’ inboxes and reduce the risk of being marked as spam. It’s crucial to stay informed about the latest email marketing best practices and remain adaptable to changing email landscape and regulations.
How Email Testing Tools Can Help You
Email testing tools can play a pivotal role in reducing the likelihood of your emails ending up in the spam folder. These tools offer a range of functionalities that help you identify and fix potential issues before you run your email campaigns.
Different email deliverability testing tools offer different features, but most can scrutinize your email content to ensure compliance with best practices and anti-spam guidelines. By detecting and alerting you to spammy language, broken links, or formatting problems, these tools allow you to make necessary adjustments to your emails, making them more likely to pass through spam filters.
Moreover, email testing tools provide insights into how your emails will render across various email clients and devices. This ensures your emails look professional and are user-friendly, reducing the chances of triggering spam filters due to irregular formatting or rendering issues.
In summary, email testing tools empower email marketers to proactively address potential spam triggers and optimize their emails for improved deliverability, ultimately helping to keep their messages out of the spam folder.
Campaign Refinery: Reach the Inbox, Always!
One thing our clients don’t have to worry about is reaching the inbox. Our clients have adopted all our email best practices required to be an A-grade email sender, and this reflects in their sender reputation — their emails are extended a warm welcome by all ESPs.
Our expertise in optimizing content and sender reputation guarantees outstanding open rates and clickthrough rates, maximizing the impact of your email campaigns.
Explore our signup page to apply and become a Campaign Refinery client, and if you make the cut, you’ll soon be running your best campaigns on the best email platform on the market!