A. For some reason, more e-mail that I am sending out seems to be getting caught in spam filters, which is a major problem in my business. What am I doing wrong, or what can I do to avoid getting my messages trapped in spam filters?
Q. We all hate spam and want our e-mail programs to do a better job of fending off all the junk that pollutes our inbox, but the flip side of the story is that it’s getting more likely that real messages (I refer to as 'ham’) will get caught in the gauntlet of filters.
To make things worse, it’s entirely possible that your Internet service provider (ISP) or mail service is stripping out messages before your local spam or junk mail filter can do its inspection.
When this happens, you will have no idea that a message was ever sent, because it won’t ever make it into any of your locally accessible traps.
To be fair, mail systems have to deal with an enormous quantity of mail, the vast majority of which is junk messages. In every test of our mail servers over the years, more than 94 percent of all messages were tagged as spam and another 3 percent were tagged as “suspected” spam.
This means that on average, only 3 percent of the messages coming to our mail servers have passed all the tests to be considered legitimate mail.
With this absurd ratio of “spam to ham” it’s no wonder so many messages get mishandled.
Set the spam filter too low and lots of junk gets in; set it too high and lots of legit mail won’t get through.
The battle rages on between spammers and spam filtering technology, but there are a number of things you can do to reduce the chances of getting your messages filtered.
The first is kind of obvious; don’t be a spammer. When I say this, I mean don’t ever send mass e-mails to everyone in your address book. If you need to send large groups of people a single message, look into services such as ConstantContact.com that know how to do it without being tagged as a spammer.
Since you are a business, never send mass e-mail to anyone that has not “opted in” to your dispatches. If you are trying to connect with an individual, send an individual, personalized e-mail.
Many ISPs will automatically tag any message that goes simultaneously to a large number of their users as spam unless all of the technical details of mass mailing messages are being followed (and these rules are constantly changing).
It’s possible that the format of your e-mail or signature is increasing your spam score before you even begin typing your message. Images or certain keywords can instantly increase the spam score of your message.
If you want to see if the base structure of your message is causing problems, send it to email@example.com and you will get a detailed report highlighting any content that could cause your message to be tagged as spam.
If you send a lot of mail out, you can also install a free program from www.mailingcheck.com that can scan your messages to give you an idea of the spam score before you send them.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the “Computer Corner” radio show, which can be heard at noon Saturdays on 92.3 KTAR-FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org