Monday, February 9, 2009

Email Legitimacy – Spam or Legit?

Email has become a great method of keeping in touch with donors and constituents. Email is fast, cheap and easy, or is it? If you have done everything that you are supposed to do, to get your subscribers to “opt in” and have found that your emails are not necessarily making it to their destination, you are not alone. Every time an angry recipient hits the “Report Spam” button your reputation is tarnished. You work very hard to get email addresses from qualified “opted in” recipients only to have them “unsubscribe” when you send them the “special offers” that they told you they would like to receive. Your email list is continually dropping out members. Join the club.

There are two big problems that you need to be aware of: 1) recipients are inundated with too much email; 2) spam filters are getting ever more sophisticated.

Everyone is receiving so much correspondence by email that they feel overwhelmed and use the “Report Spam” button as the easiest way to get rid of a lot of “advertisements”. They believe that their name has been sold and that they are receiving emails that they did not really want. If you are selling your lists you may want to reconsider whether this practice is helping or hurting your efforts.

Another issue that you can’t really do anything about is Bayesian spam filtering, named after Rev. Thomas Bayes that is a form of e-mail filtering that processes email using a classifier to identify spam email. It is one of the techniques used by search engines to distinguish illegitimate, spam email from legitimate email. Much modern mail client software has implemented Bayesian spam filtering. Users can also install separate server-side email filters. The way they work is by identifying particular words that have a high probability of occurring in spam email and in legitimate email. If your email has the words that have been identified as spam words in it, your emails may be filtered. They may never make it to their intended destination.

Are you experiencing problems getting legitimate email to your members? Let us know what tactics you are employing to cope with this issue.