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“Don’t believe everything you hear.” This wise old saying certainly applies to many things, and email marketing is no exception. From spam legislation, fi lters, email client rendering issues to response rates - there is frequently a lot of confl icting and confusing information fl oating around the industry. So in this month’s article we are going to try and straighten out a couple of common misconceptions in email marketing.

Misconception: “An incorrect interpretation or understanding.” So with that defi nition in mind, I’ve whittled a number of misconceptions
down to the three I hear propagated most often.
• Never Use the Word Free
• Don’t Send Emails on Weekends
• Improve Results by Growing Your List

While there are varying levels of truth to each of the above statements, they are not universal truths. As some product warnings state,
“your results may differ.” So let’s look a little deeper at these three commonly held email-marketing truisms.

Never Use the Word “Free” - Perhaps the most common misconception in email marketing is that you should “never use the word free.” By itself, the word free will not cause any of the major spam or content fi lters to reject your email. (Though it is possible that some corporations or user-driven spam fi lters might be set to delete emails containing the word “free”) So why then would you risk using free when there
is a chance, albeit small, your email might be fi ltered? Quite simply, better results. In our experience across various clients, when used correctly, the word free can provide a powerful boost to your results. Not convinced? Ok, let’s look at two popular spam content fi lters to see how they actually work and treat your free-laden emails.

Spam Assassin - Spam Assassin is one of the leading “test-based” spam fi lters and many of the large ISPs model their own fi lters after Spam Assassin’s test algorithm. The Spam Assassin fi lter assigns points - positive and negative - to the content and coding of an email.

An email is run through the fi lter and is assigned positive points (in this case positive means potential spam) and negative points (content and coding believed not generally used by spammers). (A legitimate email that is fi ltered as a result of these positive scores is referred to as a “false-positive.”) The score is totaled and if it exceeds a certain level it is fi ltered. Users of Spam Assassin can change the test score values and determine the level at which emails are fi ltered. It is generally believed that most companies/ISPs use a total score of around 10, but that some may go as low as 4.

So, what does this mean when using free? Review the Spam Assassin list and you will see that a number of phrases that use free do receive fairly high scores of 1 and higher. But phrases commonly used by legitimate marketers such as “free shipping,” “free e-book” and “free white paper” are not affected.

Microsoft Outlook 2000 Junk E-mail Filter - Outlook 2000 contains a default Junk fifi lter that looks for certain “junk and adult” content- that when triggered automatically routes the email to your Outlook’s Deleted Items folder. This fi lter must be turned on and as a result it is unclear how many Outlook users have activated this function. But unlike the test score-based fi lters, Outlook uses a pass/fail method. This fi lter addresses a few uses of free, but the most common usage that triggers the fi lter is the use of an exclamation point and free in your
subject line.

Your Take Away - Yes, you should be careful when using free in your email communications - but when used correctly and strategically, you will generally see greater results than by not using this powerful word. The bottom line - test, test, test. Additionally, to help you navigate the complex world of spam fi lters, EmailLabs has added a spam content checker in the latest version of our application. This feature enables you to test your message for potential problems prior to distribution.
by Loren McDonald


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