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Data Doctors: Tips for avoiding spam filters

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Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to evtrib@datadoctors.com.

Posted: Saturday, November 10, 2012 10:00 am | Updated: 2:27 pm, Mon Nov 12, 2012.

Q: I find that unless I vocally tell people to look in their spam box for my messages they usually DO NOT get them as they are fazed out of regular mail. How can this be rectified? — Donna

A: You are experiencing the other side of the problem created by the sheer volume of junk email messages being sent every second of every day.

The statistics vary widely depending upon the research group, but they all agree that the vast majority of messages circulating the Internet are spam, which means you have to be careful when you are crafting your messages.

Every email program and mail service provider incorporates automatic spam filtering based on a number of factors. Your messages get scored based on the attributes that are commonly used by spammers.

The more of these attributes you may have inadvertently been using, the more likely your messages will get tagged as spam or worse, your email address gets blacklisted by mail systems.

Common things to avoid include:

• ALL CAPS or excessive use of punctuation, especially on the subject line or your ‘from’ address.

• Very large or very small text, especially in combination.

• Attachments.

• High image-to-text ratios (do you have an image in your signature?).

• Any common keyword used in pharmaceutical, financial or real estate spam.

• Lots of bold or different colored text (green and red are the worst).

• Using a background image.

• Excessive typos.

• No subject line.

• Excessive blank lines, especially between text lines.

• Email addresses that use numbers and letters, especially if they start with a number or don’t use any real words in the address.

None of these on their own will automatically get your message tagged as spam, but a combination will certainly raise your spam score.

Another way to get your message caught in spam filters is to copy text from Microsoft Word into your message when it’s set up to send in HTML (which is the default for most email programs).

Microsoft Word documents will insert lots of extra code that you don’t see but makes your message look like it’s loaded with hidden code to a spam filter. Learning how to send messages in plain text, especially when you want to copy/paste from websites or a Word document is helpful (search your help menu for ‘plain text messages’).

If you include links in your messages, always make sure that the http:// is included (spammers routinely create fake links that say one thing, but send you somewhere completely different if you click on it).

The simpler the message, the more likely it won’t create red flags for spam filters. You can do some testing with one of your friends that you know is having a problem by sending a simple text message with no images.

If it still gets thrown into their spam filter, have them add your address to their ‘whitelist’ and address book to see if it finally gets through.

If nothing you try helps you improve your deliverability, your best bet might be to create a new email address (for personal use, I prefer Gmail) and avoid the known causes when setting up and using the new address.

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Ken Colburn
  • Ken Colburn
  • E-mail: evtrib@datadoctors.com
  • Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio
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