Don't Be Superstitious About Content Blocks.
A long time ago, someone put forth the plausible-sounding notion that the use of certain words in e-mail will trip all kinds of spam alarms at the recipients’ ISP and get mail blocked. That might have been true for a few weeks in 1996, but it certainly isn’t now; ISPs today rely far more on sender reputation when they make delivery decisions. Nonetheless, there still seems to be a significant amount of superstition regarding content filtering.
I have a friend whom I’ll call Christine (since that’s her name). She’s a brilliant, energetic, one-person social media consulting firm, and she sends terrific mail – pithy, engaging, with great voice and compelling offers. But she insists on misspelling (or “munging”) the word “free” in her creative to put the spin move on content filters. “F.R.E.E. 5-Part E-Course”, “Fr*ee Teleseminar”, and “a half-hour of F-RE-E consulting” were all on offer in her last send. I tried to talk her out of mangling her creative a few months ago, but like some some habits, superstitions die hard.
That’s not to say that ISPs don’t perform some types of content filtering – they do, but not in the way Christine and others think. ISPs look at links in the body of the e-mail to catch two species of spam in particular: “phishers”, who are trying to collect log-in credentials for, say, on-line banking or social media accounts; and spam that sends clicks through to web sites that will surreptitiously load a worm, a virus, or other malware onto the computers of unsuspecting visitors.
Many ISPs and private inbound mail servers use a content filtering package called Spam Assassin. Spam Assassin assigns a cumulative score to the content of an e-mail message based on a wide range of criteria, all of which are highly configurable by the servers’ owners. If the score crosses a threshold – which is also configurable by the owner – the message might be rejected as spam based on content. But since the score is cumulative and weighted, the presence or absence of any single word – like “Free!” – is not sufficient to block mail.
The take-away: senders with good reputation shouldn’t feel hampered by content filters when assembling their creative. Senders should feel free (see what I did there?) to use the language they need to present the sharpest offer possible.