As the junk email (SPAM) problem continues to grow, a new problem that presents itself is the blocking of legitimate email messages. When such an email is labeled as SPAM and blocked, this is known as a false-positive.

From the business person's perspective, having your outgoing emails blocked by another person's SPAM filters is a serious issue. If an email that you sent to a customer, client or prospect is not delivered, then this may result in the intended recipient believing that you did not fulfill your commitment to communicate with them. As a result, business opportunities and relationships can both suffer.

This particular issue can be especially frustrating for a number of reasons. When you send an email, you:

  1. Have no way of knowing whether a recipient's email is being filtered, and by what means.
  2. Cannot control the SPAM filtering that occurs on the recipient's ISP or personal computer.
  3. Are unable to reliably assure that your email has been delivered.

While the roots of this problem are obviously beyond your control, there are steps that you can take in order to decrease the odds that your email will be intercepted by a poorly implemented SPAM filtering process.

Preventative Medicine

  1. First of all, realize than many email filters concentrate on the contents of the "subject" line. With this in mind, you need to carefully craft the subject of your email to avoid overly promotional words that are often used in junk email solicitations.

While the potential list of words that may cause unwanted scrutiny is quite long, common examples that legitimate senders might also use include: Available, Chance, Convenient, Excellent, Homeowner, Information, Low, Mortgage, New, Opportunity, Priced, Reduced, Simple, Super, Unique and so on.

Always consider how your "subject" line might be misinterpreted by a "junk" filter before you send your email.

2) Too many abusive email promotional offers boasting "The BEST Whatever YET!!!" have caused many anti-SPAM efforts to trigger false-positives against even reasonable usage of capital letters and punctuation within the subject line, as well as based on the actual words themselves. Avoid using either if at all possible.

3) Another problem for the business user is the practice of sending email through your ISP account, but listing a different email address in the "Reply to" field.

While reinforcing your web site domain this way is always a good marketing practice, realize that when many SPAM filters see an email originating through one network, (ATT or Earthlink, for instance) where the "Reply to" address lists a different domain (perhaps, they will often trigger closer inspection or rejection.

For exceptionally important email, you should consider using your actual ISP email account as both the sending and "reply to" address.

4) A great deal of junk email is sent with many recipients listed in the "Carbon-Copy" and "Blind Carbon Copy" fields. While including just a handful of recipients usually will not trigger a false-positive, for large mailings (over 10) you should send individual email messages in order to avoid having your message treated as SPAM.

5) Certain domains have been widely used by the senders of junk email and should be avoided at all costs as they will create great suspicion within many anti-SPAM programs. The most notable examples include MSN, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and Excite.

Even when SPAM campaigns do not actually originate from these networks, the senders often "spoof" such addresses, hoping to slip through defensive measures. In essence by claiming to originate from these email networks, they hope to hide within the massive amounts of email sent by legitimate users.

If you're a business user (or anyone who really wants their email delivered to others) then I strongly suggest that you avoid using such email accounts entirely.

Too Much Effort?

While following these suggestions will likely require effort on your part, and maybe even result in changing your Internet Service Provider, if you want as much of your outgoing email delivered as possible, then the results are worth the effort.

As you contemplate implementing these suggestions, keep in mind the potential cost of having any of your outgoing emails stopped by someone else's junk-email filters, or by those used by their ISP, and the real economic impact this could have on any one of your business relationships.


Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale