How important are Spam trigger words? Not very.

Sharon Jennings

21 January 2013

For years we’ve talked about Spam trigger words, avoiding them like the plague. Not putting ‘Free’ or ‘Win’ into the subject line. Not writing things ALL IN CAPS. Working under the assumption that if we avoid all of these pitfalls that our email will not be flagged as Spam, and will end up fairly and squarely in every recipient’s Inbox. Right? Wrong!

Content only accounts for 17%* of what’ll get your email flagged as Spam – Sender Reputation counts for 77%, and is obviously far more important to worry about.

So what affects sender reputation?

  • Spam Complaints

    If people mark your email as spam, it has a huge effect, and if enough people do it, you’ll end up getting blacklisted! Obviously make sure everyone on your list has opted in to receiving your emails, make your unsubscribe link easy to find, and make the actual process easy. An unsubscribe is better than a Spam Complaint!

  • List Hygiene

    Again, ensure everyone’s opted in and that your list up to date and valid. Remove bounces and unsubscribes, and also remove anyone who hasn’t interacted with your emails for a period of time. As well as finding them in purchased lists, Spam Traps can be created from old, unused emails addresses.

  • Infrastructure

    This is about authentication – the sender domain that you claim the email is from must be related to the IP address that it’s actually sent from. This is shown when you have those emails that appear to be from a bank, but end up in your junk folder.

  • IP Permanence

    The longer you’ve been using your IP address, the better your reputation will be. Spammers get blocked, and so have to keep changing IP address.

  • Message Quality

    Spammers are lazy. They code badly, they use lots of big images to avoid writing lots of code.  Or they just have text with no images, again to avoid having to write lots of code. They write in large fonts to catch your attention. So, make sure your code is valid and of good quality. Keep a good image to text ratio, use alt tags and use sensible sized fonts.

  • Engagement

    This is kind of the new kid on the block. The way ISPs used to work, was that they just set out to catch all of the spam. And it worked. Mostly. But like when fishermen use a net with holes that are too small and catch dolphins accidently along with the tuna, along with genuine spam email getting blocked, legitimate emails were getting stopped as well.

Now, not only are they looking for ways to punish the bad, but they’re looking to reward the good as well. It’s bringing some balance back in, and it can make a huge difference.

What gets rewarded as engagement?

When subscribers;

  • pull your email OUT of the junk folder
  • click on the links
  • forward your emails on to others
  • read the email before deleting it

So if you want to keep your subscribers engaged, you need to make them want to fish your email back out of the junk folder. Give them content that’s of interest tothem, not what you want to sell them. The more engaged your customer, the more emails will land in their inbox.

If you adhere to all of this then you can afford to put the odd exclamation mark into your subject line. But don’t write in caps, because that’s just annoying!


*Source – Return Path 2012