Spam and Email Filters: Reader Solutions

Readers have responded to several recent columns about spam, filtering, email blocking, and other related topics with the anticipated horror stories. More important, many shared ideas and approaches that help.

Whether you’re a publisher sending opt-in newsletters, a marketer responding to requests for information, or you’re engaged in other email distribution activities, you’ll want to take note. As a group, we must take steps to address the issues at hand.

It’s more important now than ever. Based on your responses, it’s evident far more email than I ever imagined is blocked and filtered. Al Bredenberg, publisher of, lists over 20 examples he knows to be blocked by typical filtering systems. Many are messages Al actually wants, including CNN Breaking News, Motley Fool’s Foolwatch, eMarketer Daily, Musician’s Friend Newsletter, and EarthLink’s weekly newsletter, bLink.

What I want to know is, are CNN, iVillage, and MapQuest aware this is happening? If they are, what are they doing about it?

Here are ideas from ClickZ readers. Some may work for you:

  • One major email service bureau works with major ISPs in an attempt to adjust “settings,” the rules that determine what email is placed in bulk mail folders versus what gets through to recipients’ mailboxes.
  • Sit down with your ISP — in person. Tell them about your business. Explain the issues you face. In this world of phone/fax/email communications, we often don’t take time to have face-to-face meetings and develop relationships. Perhaps your ISP classifies business activity and placed you in the wrong category simply because they didn’t know enough about you.
  • The owner of a Web-hosting service reminds us of specific words that result in blocked emails. A subject line with the word “guaranteed” won’t make it through Road Runner. We’re all aware of what happens to email with “free,” “new,” and other promotional words. (I’d like to start compiling a list of “problem” words for a future column. Be as specific as possible and send them to me here.)
  • A Christian newsletter offering a daily prayer had a 5 to 20 percent rate of undelivered email. Removing the words “God Bless” and “prayer” seemed to help. Go figure that one out.
  • Yahoo and Cloudmark users wrote about services that let users determine what is and isn’t spam. This may be the best idea we’ve heard — let recipients decide what they want and don’t want to receive!
  • Allow email recipients to create a “whitelist” of acceptable emailers, regardless of what’s sent. Though I may block email from, you might not. It’s another way to put control in the hands of the people.
  • Here’s a more vigilante-type approach. One reader suggests, “Go out and buy a mass mailer for 50 bucks and send [spammers” a hundred thousand emails. That will jam their servers so bad they will be forced to stop. It only takes about 15 minutes, and, boy, does it feel good. Watch the spam stop, too.”

I personally believe putting control in recipients’ hands has real merit. Companies such as Yahoo are currently testing it. By providing the consumer with the option to identify mail as spam, that consumer is in control. If she chooses to mark a piece of mail as spam, she will no longer receive email from the underlying address of the mail sender.

Also, as Adam Kalsey suggests: “If [you want” to truly help email marketers, [you” should write a column on how to prevent your email from triggering spam filters.” That’s being researched as you read this.

When you come right down to it, no marketer should send email to people who expressly say they don’t want it. He should be overjoyed to send email to people who expressly say they do want it. Putting control in the hands of the consumer is something I will focus more on in the future. Keep reading.

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