Spam filters: Is your message zap-proof?

Just about every e-mail program has built-in spam filters that route unwanted messages to a separate folder, often called a “bulk” folder, whose contents are routinely deleted by either the program or the owner of the account. Following the suggestions above for avoiding spam-type messages will go a long way toward ensuring your autoresponders don’t get diverted to an early grave. Here are more tips on beating spam filters and verification programs:

• Subject line don’ts: Never begin your subject line with ADV: or include the word “advertisement.” Do not state “this e-mail sent in compliance with…” And never use the word “free” in the subject line—especially in all caps.
• In fact, never use the word FREE (in all caps) anywhere in the message. If possible, avoid using all caps altogether.
• From address: When you set up your web site and associated e-mail accounts, do not name any account sales@yourdomainname.com – this guarantees you an automatic trip to the bulk folder.
• Within the message: Never say “for free?” or “for free!” or use the words “extra income” in the body of your message. Recently, many internet marketers attempting to bypass spam filters have begun breaking up the word “free” anywhere it appears in their sales copy: f-ree or fr.ee are the most commonly used methods.

Keep your messages out of spam oblivion by adhering to these guidelines, and you will see your sales and response rates climb.


Formatting your autoresponder messages

If you use the internet regularly, you have probably received at least a few e-mails that look something like this:

Dear Friend,
Congratulations! You have been selected
>>to receive a free
>>>laptop,
>during our promotional giveaway here at
>XYX Company…

This is either the result of multiple forwarding, or poor formatting on the part of the sender. Not many people would try to interpret this kind of mess if it was sent to them by a stranger, even if the information was requested. How can you avoid giving your autoresponder messages that choppy, I-can’t-use-a-computer feel?

First, you should understand why this occurs. Every e-mail program is different, allowing different line lengths for their viewing windows. If your e-mail program allows 75 characters per line, it may look fine on your screen—but when you send it to someone whose program allows only 70 characters per line, those last five characters get moved to the next line and break up your message with those pesky > signs. Another potential problem is the font you choose. Fonts like Courier New are fixed-width: every character takes up the same amount of space. But fonts like Times New Roman (the default font for most word processing programs) and Arial have varying width according to the character: an “i” takes up less space than a “w” and so forth. This variance in space creates the same broken effect as the line length problem.

Keep your messages in a fixed-width font (10-point size is best in nearly every case) and make sure each line is 60 to 65 characters long. When you reach the limit, use a hard return to start the next line rather than allowing your word processing program to wrap the text. If you’re using Microsoft Word to compose your messages, there is a counter at the bottom of the window that tells you what line and character number you’re on as you type (this reads Ln ## Col ##) which you can use to ensure you’re staying at 65 or less. You can also create a guide at the top of the page you’re working on (you will delete the guide after you finish your message) that will allow you to determine your line length at a glance. Your guide should look like this:

———1———2———3———4———5———6—–

Another way to avoid sending garbled messages is to save them in a universal format. Many people mistakenly believe ASCII works on all computers, but this is not the case. You should save (and copy and paste) your messages in either Plain Text (this is almost always in Courier New font) or Rich Text format (the format every word processing program can open, which allows you to preserve color, bold and italicized text). You will find these file formats listed in the Save As drop-down box on your Save window.