Tech@Work: Me? A Spammer?!

You could get blacklisted if you aren’t mindful.

August 1, 2005

As spam, viruses, and worms clog computer mailboxes, both users and Internet service providers are finding more effective ways to combat unwanted e-mail. Sounds great, right? But what if your carefully crafted e-newsletter to prospects is being filtered out along with the instant weight-loss tips and ads for low-cost pharmaceuticals? Before you panic, try these tips to keep your message from being junked.

  1. Be sure your audience wants to receive your communications. Use opt-in sign-ups through which prospects must actively sign up at your site to receive a newsletter. You can even set up a double opt-in, in which you send a confirmation e-mail to new subscribers letting them know they’ll be receiving your newsletter. Also provide an opt-out option at the bottom of your newsletter, on your Web site, and on any paper forms you use to register new prospects.
  2. To ensure that recipients who want your message don’t get it kicked out by their spam filter, encourage them to add you to their Outlook address books. Also be sure vendors and cooperating brokerages put your e-mail address on their company’s spam filter “white list” of e-mail addresses they’ll accept.
  3. Structure your electronic correspondence to avoid rejection by today’s sophisticated spam filters. Many Internet service providers’ filters rank an e-mail or e-newsletter by assigning weight to three characteristics:

    • Content. Since filters can reject e-mail on the basis of its number of trigger words and phrases, neither the subject line nor the body should contain such words as free, maximize, guaranteed, profit, or amazing. Even the too frequent use of such real estate–specific terms as mortgage or interest rate could get noticed. Avoid overuse of punctuation, capitalization, exclamation points, dollar signs, currency values, and special characters in all parts of the e-mail as well as in attachments.
    • Blacklists. Unfortunately, ISP blacklists work on the assumption that once you’re reported as a spammer, you’re guilty until you prove yourself innocent. If you get blacklisted, contact your ISP and explain your situation. (This is where your opt-in strategy can come in handy.) Before sending out your first newsletter, ask your ISP what sets off its spam alarms.
    • Volume. ISPs use volume-based filters, which stop transmissions if they exceed a certain bandwidth or number of messages per second. Rest assured your ISP will notice if you send more than 100 e-mails; it could decide you should be blacklisted. Use an e-mail management program, such as PowerMTA (www.port25.com) or Email Marketing Director (www.arialsoftware.com), which allows you to phase the delivery of large e-mail lists.

Run a test before sending a new or significantly changed newsletter. To do so, set up e-mail ac counts at several providers, including America On line, MSN, and Hotmail. Then send yourself copies of the newsletter to see whether it’s rejected. On the basis of the results, you may need to tweak the content of your communication for better results.

Most of your clients will welcome your news and advice about real estate. And by following these tips, you can help ensure they’ll actually receive them.

Keep it legal

The CAN-SPAM Act requires that all commercial e-mail messages have clear and accurate header information, an originating e-mail address, and accurate domain names. If e-mail is intended as advertising or promotion, it must indicate so. Business-related promotional e-mail must provide a “clear and conspicuous” way for recipients to opt out, and the sender must honor those requests within 10 days. Senders must provide their physical postal address in the e-mail copy. CAN-SPAM provides for both civil and criminal penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and forfeiture of property.

Todd Costigan is the former senior manager of industry relations for the Center for REALTOR® Technology at the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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