Spam mailbox management is a team effort

Spam mailbox management is a team effort

Spam emails are annoying, there’s no doubt about that. While we do our best to implement the correct mechanisms for our customers and maintain them regularly, a portion of mailbox management lies with you, the user. Understanding how spam management systems work may ease your frustration and empower you with the steps you can take to help mitigate this annoyance from your inbox.

In this article, we cover some of the most common spam frustrations, such as:

  • Receiving a lot of spam
  • Legitimate emails being incorrectly flagged as spam
  • Having your outgoing emails marked as spam
  • Outgoing email delays

What is spam?
First, let’s understand what spam is. Spam is defined as an email that is sent to a large number of recipients, where the recipients have not explicitly given their permission to be emailed, and the purpose of the email is to solicit a commercial activity, like buying a product.

What constitutes spam is subjective, which makes it tricky to define all the generic characteristics of spam emails.

What one person views as an interesting newsletter may be perceived by someone else as spam.

Spam filters

Mail servers use spam filters in an attempt to prevent spam from reaching your inbox. These filters use a variety of techniques to determine whether an email is spam or not, saving you from receiving all the junk mail sent to you daily. Many of these spam filter ‘rules’ are based on words or characters that are commonly used.

These techniques are reviewed and revised regularly to ensure they stay relevant and useful: spam emails are constantly evolving in nature and content in an attempt to bypass these filters. For this reason, try as we might, there is no complete list of rules to guarantee that an email will pass all the spam checks.

Common spam frustrations:

1. Receiving a lot of spam

We all receive too many emails every day.  If you notice that you’re receiving a lot more spam than usual, check this list of email ‘don’ts’:

  • Don’t click on an unsubscribe link in a spam email. Doing so only confirms that someone (you) reads the spam they’ve sent – encouraging them to sell your email address to other spammers.
  • Don’t expose your email address. Consider using a mail form on your website instead. Spammers harvest email addresses using special programs.
  • Don’t leave your email address on public forums. Again, these details can be harvested and used to send spam.
  • Don’t be shy to blacklist email addresses. If you keep receiving spam from a few email addresses, blacklist them. This means their mails will be rejected by the mail server before it reaches your mailbox.

In case you’re not aware, there’s a Spam Filter tool available in our control panel that can be manually adjusted (to your preferences) at any time.

You can also contact us to report an increase in spam. This helps us improve our systems and may help minimise the spam you receive.

2. Legitimate emails being incorrectly flagged as spam

Having legitimate mail being directed to your spam folder accidentally is just as inconvenient as spam mails in your inbox. All incoming emails are scanned by a spam filter, and sometimes legitimate emails contain characteristics the spam filter identifies as spam. This means the email will be automatically sent to your spam or junk folder.

You can help us improve our mechanisms by reporting legitimate mail that’s been marked as spam: we call them ‘false positives’. Here’s how to report them.

One way to prevent this from happening is whitelisting an email address or adjusting the Spam Filter using our control panel. Use the whitelisting tool if you want to unconditionally accept any emails from this email address. Doing so will ensure these emails will bypass the spam filter.

The opposite is also true: if you keep receiving emails from a certain email address, and you’d like to reject them before they even reach your mailbox, you can blacklist the email address. These emails will be permanently deleted.

3. Having your outgoing emails marked as spam

There are some best practices you can follow to lessen the chance of your email inadvertently being classified as spam.

When writing an email, avoid:

  • Using all capitals in your subject and the body of your email
  • Using punctuation in the subject line
  • Using excessive punctuation in the body of your email, eg. !??
  • Substituting letters with numbers, eg. w3b h0sting
  • Having gaps between the letters in words, eg. l e t t e r s
  • Using many different font colours in your email.
  • Using large font sizes.
  • Using gimmicky words or phrases that are commonly found in spam emails, eg: Click Here, Buy Now, Make Money, Pre-Approved, etc
  • Using inappropriate  language or poor spelling

Best practices to follow:

  • Include a text version of your email if you are sending an email in HTML format. Most mail clients automatically include a plain text version of your email, unless this setting has been disabled.
  • Ensure that the internet IP address assigned to you by your service provider is not listed on a spam blacklist
  • Add an accurate SPF record to your domain

Bear in mind, even if you do follow all the email best practices, there may still be a chance that an email you have sent ends up in the recipient’s junk or spam folder.

Spam filter administrators do not publicise their filtering techniques, understandably, in a bid to stop spammers from circumventing these filters. This makes spam management rather tricky.

It’s always recommended that you follow up on your sent emails if you do not receive a response in a reasonable time.

4. Outgoing email delays

Another common frustration is outgoing mail delays. A potential reason for this is something called greylisting. Greylisting is another spam defence mechanism that temporarily rejects mail from a sender it doesn’t recognize. The sending mail server will keep trying to deliver the mail, and after some time has lapsed, if the email is a legitimate one, the email will be accepted. All future emails from the same email address will be accepted immediately. While the greylisting process plays out, you may experience outgoing mail delays.

You can help us improve the spam filters we have in place for you by reporting the spam emails you receive – send us your ‘real-life’ examples. Please also send us the legitimate mails that may have been incorrectly marked as spam.

We’re always trying to make mail management as simple as possible for our customers. When it comes to spam, we need your help.