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How can I avoid my email being classified as spam

Posted on 2009-05-07
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Hi!

I was assigned to the task to research how our clients news mail can avoid being marked as as spam. The emails requires use of HTML and showing images. Ive read alot of guidelines on the HTML and CSS when used in emails. But I haven't seen to many regarding the setup of the emails. I understand that pictures and links will increase the chance of being classified as spam. But what other factors are there? Does it matter from which SMTP server you are sending it? Does it matter if SMTP server relates to the sender email domain? I.e smtp:smtp.mydomain.com sender:john.doe@mydomain.com.

It's important to support a wide range of email clients. Should attached images be avoided completly?
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Question by:IntPtr
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abel earned 500 total points
ID: 24323446
There are only a couple of basic things to take care of to prevent your mail being marked as spam, but the most important one is to tell your users something like "if you do not see our news letters, please check your spam box".

Spam filters exist in many varieties. The strongest filter is the "exclude everything and only let my trusted list through". In which case there's little you can do. Then come the wide range of filters where keywords, combinations of keywords and certain way of "mangled" mail are recognized. Amongst those are the famous self-taught filters. Again, if as the result of user action, the filter is set too tight, there is little you can do.

On the easy level there are the filters from the providers, which are very complex, but have to let a lot of mail through. The advice that I can give you only applies to those filters, as these filters are somehow bound to rules.

This is important: never ever get your smtp server blacklisted. Make sure that relaying through your smtp server is not possible, which will get it blacklisted in no-time.

Do not use large mailers, like hotmail or gmail, for sending your mail (but I'm pretty sure you weren't even thinking of it). Aol and other very large providers should also be avoided if possible.

Having things like a Reply-To and a From that are different may mark your mail as spam, but not necessarily. It is not a necessity that the domains match with the referring smtp server as it is very common to use a different smtp server than your domain (like the one from your provider).

Spam is usually made up of little text and many images. Make sure you have significant content and that you are sparse on images. Also, do not use any javascript at all. Embed the images in the mail (external images can be traced and are usually banned). This causes a heavy load and you may choose against it later.

You are not alone: the largest and the smallest companies all end up in the spam filters (with my own, not-so-tight high-class filter, I occasiannally see Naxos, Amazon, EE and even Paypal ending up in the local and remote filters). It is impossible to prevent it, really. The only thing you can do is: behave, give the people the option to opt-in and opt-out, do not be tempted to just send newsletters unrequested (that will make you a candidate for blacklisting) and give the option to view the newsletter online and to subscribe to the newsletter in plaintext format.

Be neat and behave and you have the best chance to pass the filters.
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Expert Comment

by:hankknight
ID: 24323555
I understand that pictures and links will increase the chance of being classified as spam.
That is not entirely accurate.  Freinds send each other pictures and links all the time wihtout their emails being marked as spam.  A few links and/or pictures are good.  Excessive  links and/or pictures are problematic.  Use moderation.
Does it matter if SMTP server relates to the sender email domain?
What matters is that you have proporly configured the SPF records for the domain that the emails are being sent from.  If you have proporly set up good SPF records then the relationship of the SMTP record to the domain does not matter.
You MUST read the content on these links:
      http://www.openspf.org/
      http://www.openspf.org/Introduction
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sender_Policy_Framework
Should attached images be avoided?
No.  As I said earlier, freinds send each other attached images all the time and their messages don't get marked as spam.  Just don't do anything in excess.

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Expert Comment

by:shobinsun
ID: 24323657
Hi,

here is some tips for that:

1. Return-Path and From should have valid email addresses;

2. Better have the recipient NAME together with his email address;

3. Plain text email is reportedly safer than HTML;

4. Remove the X-Mailer header (saw this recommendation in some posting,
not sure if true).

5. Also your server needs to have a valid R(everse)DNS entry.


Also look at the following:

http://www.cdt.org/speech/spam/030319spamreport.shtml

Hope this will give you the idea.


Regards
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Author Comment

by:IntPtr
ID: 24324315
Thanks for the help!
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by:abel
ID: 24324359
glad we could be of help!

@IntPtr: I like the points, of course, and tx for that, but the other experts also provided valuable information. It is possible to split points at EE by using the Split Points button...
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Author Comment

by:IntPtr
ID: 24324454
Ok, this was my first question, so I was unsure of how that worked. Ill think of that to my next question.
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Expert Comment

by:abel
ID: 24324572
No problem, welcome at EE! It is a tad different from other forums. If you need some help, I'll be happy to assist. On closing questions, there's a short explanation here: http://www.experts-exchange.com/help.jsp?hi=407
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