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Are you an innocent spammer?

Common mistakes which can get your emails marked as Spam

Spam has been a fact of internet life for a number of years now, and it’s not just the receiving Printof large amounts of spam in your inbox that’s the problem – there are some practices which, while they may be done perfectly innocently, can get your email address, domain name, or IP address on spam blacklists.

When you can’t trust an email is going to get to your intended recipient your business can be losing money, so it’s worth thinking about some of the ways you can avoid getting blacklisted!

  • BCC via your email client. Mailing to a large list of recipients using an email client (Outlook, Mail, Thunderbird)  is usually quick and simple – you just add a load of email addresses to the BCC field and click “Send”.  Unfortunately because it’s free and simple it’s exactly what a lot of spammers do. You may find that you can send to 20 or so recipients at once but remember that some Internet Service Providers (the company who supply your broadband) will block more than a certain number of emails sent at once.
  • Multiple recipients in ‘To’ field.  It is OK to have multiple email addresses in the To or the CC field, but keep this under 20 (max) to avoid being blocked by your ISP.  Never, ever use this method to send to a group of people who do not know each other as you are allowing each person to see everyone’s email address.  You could be breaking the law by sharing this information without permission!  If the recipients do not know each other, either use the BCC field (as above) or use a 3rd party email provider.
  • Opting in. You should not add people to a mailing list who haven’t asked to receive mail.  Even if you know them well, they could easily be annoyed by your unsolicited email and if they click the “Mark as Spam” button you get a black mark against your name.  This is the same as if you had bought their email address off a bloke round the back of the pub: dodgy!  It only takes a few moment to ask people if they are happy to receive your emails.  Or better still, use a 3rd party email software provider which makes it easy for people to opt in to your mailings themselves.
  • Unknown Sender / email address. If you use an email marketing system and use “” as the sender then you immediately look suspicious to the spam filters.  If you or your company has its own domain name (  you should use an email address relating to this.  It is better to use a proper mailbox as well, not just one that is set up as a forwarder.
  • Vague Subject. Avoid using vague subject lines, for example “September Newsletter”.  Your not ‘spamming’ as such but you’re not tell the reader what they will see when they click on your mail.  Also spammers use vaugeness to hide behind.  So be as descriptive as possible.  For example, if this post were going out as an email the subject line might be: “How to avoid getting your email marked as spam”.  If you mislead someone with an untruthful subject line, the  recipients can often reach for the “Mark as Spam” button…
  • Using “Test” in the subject line.  This may come as a surprise, but it’s something which can trigger a spam filter to leap into action.  Do a final proof-read (ideally get someone else to do it) to make sure you’ve removed ‘test’ from the email before sending it out to your mailing list.
  • Send too many emails to the same company.  If you have more than one contact working for the same company, and their spam filter notices that several people are regularly getting exactly the same email, this can cause you to be flagged.  Make sure you know who should be receiving the email and narrow down the recipients to just one or two per company.
  • Using “Dear” in the introduction of your email.  – another surprising one, but possibly due to the slightly more “informal” nature of emails, very few legitimate emails start with the salutation “Dear Fred” or whatever. However, most of us have received spam addressed to something like “Dear PayPal Customer” (to pick the first email in my junk folder completely at random). It’s probably easier to use “Dear” when you really don’t know someone’s name – and you’ll only usually do that when you’re spamming them. Use “Hi Chris” or even simply their first name when addressing your mailout

At the end of the day, spam filters are here to help us and they are here to stay, so we need to learn how to live with them.  The above points are by no means exhaustive, but should get you thinking in the right way.

To help keep us ‘clean’ when it comes to sending out emails we use 3rd party email software, such as Mailchimp (

These systems are easy to use, accessible from any computer (because they’re hosted in the cloud) and often free of charge.  You set up a template, insert content and merge it with your mailing list.  They then take care of the rest.  They have spam ratings built in so you can hone your email to be as people-friendly as possible.  And you can do A/B split testing on email subject lines to get the best open rates.  Best of all they provide statistics on who has received your emails, who has opened them and who has clicked on links from within the email.  This turns the email into a powerful sales tool.

There are hundreds of providers out there.  Here are just a few of the most popular ones:

  • Mailchimp
  • Constant Contact
  • Communigator
  • dotMailer

All of these offer free trials and some of them are free for life for smaller volume mailouts.  They are all powerful and feature-rich so choosing which one is a matter of trying them out to see whose interface you like best.