When you think of spam, you may think of the canned food that can survive even the apocalypse, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Simply put, spam, also known as unsolicited commercial email, is email you don’t want to receive.
You either didn’t sign up for it, the email is abusive, or the email is misleading — or all of the above. Spam is sent by spammers, who can send unsolicited commercial email on behalf of advertisers for their products, or for their own.
In 2003, spam was so widespread that Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. This law “prohibits the inclusion of deceptive or misleading information and subject headings, requires identifying information such as a return address in email messages, and prohibits sending emails to a recipient after an explicit response that the recipient does not want to continue receiving messages,” according to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School.
What is a spam filter?
A spam filter is software built into an email program that automatically deletes or diverts spam into a “junk” folder, according to PC Magazine.
Spam costs businesses and individuals time and bandwidth (which translates to money, in many cases) to take care of spam email. Spam email accounts for 50% of the 269 billion email messages sent each day, according to Entrepreneur.com.
Spam is determined by different data points, including the content in the email, the sender, the reputation of the sender, and permission filters, according to Return Path from Validity. For instance, content filters review the email copy looking for any inappropriate language, whereas reputation filters prevent known spammers from reaching your email (hopefully).
Basically all of the email you don’t want to receive, because you didn’t sign up to receive said email, should theoretically end up in the spam filter. If you didn’t sign up for the email, it should not be coming to your inbox. But just like all things in life, the spam filter doesn’t always work exactly as it is meant to.
But you’re not a spammer, so why is your email getting caught in spam filters?
This is an excellent question with a long answer. You can review the main requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 here.
This is straight from the Federal Trade Commission, and it means business. For every email in violation of this law, one can be subject to penalties of up to $42,530. Review each of these requirements carefully. It’s worth noting that Square includes your address in the footer of your email and allows buyers to opt out.
Sometimes spam filters can incorrectly identify your email as spam. This may happen because the email is poorly written, there are too many symbols (!@#$%^), or there is inappropriate language in the email.
So, how can you avoid spam filters?
Keep it interesting
Send well-written email with interesting content. Great content is important, because the more engaging your content is, the more likely your users are to click through. When readers click through, filters know that you’re not sending spam.
Follow the rules
Follow basic grammar rules. This means using sentence and title case where appropriate (read: not ALL CAPS) and ensuring your spelling is correct.
Keep it clean
Keep it simple with one font, and avoid different font sizes and colors.
Update lists regularly
Review your email list on a regular basis, and don’t be afraid to purge your list of users who aren’t reading your email or haven’t visited your business lately. If you keep users on your email list who aren’t engaging with your content, then this signals to the spam filters that you’re sending content that people don’t want to read, and you may be a spammer.
(Please note, this action is specific to email addresses you collect through a Square email collection tool or on your own. At this time you can’t remove an email captured automatically through the Square network.)
Avoid spam filter trigger words
Mequoda put together a list of words that spam filters search for to indicate spam. Do your best to avoid using these words, especially in the subject line, and you should (hopefully) be able to avoid getting caught in spam filters.