Terry Zink's Cyber Security Blog

Discussing Internet security in (mostly) plain English

Direct marketing and spam techniques

Direct marketing and spam techniques

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I was reading the following article entitled "Classic DM Tactics are Spam for Filters."  It's by an account planner for a marketing company.  In it, the author goes through the rationale of why spam filters will flag messages as spam - it's because the words and phrases that marketers include in their messages are the same ones that spam filters use to look for messages.

When I came to the list of example subject lines, I agreed that all of the subject lines were spammy.  Just for fun, I decided to classify them in order of spamminess (from my point of view):

  1. Contains “FREE” in CAPS
  2. Starts with “Buy” or “Buying”
  3. Is all capitals
  4. Contains “For only”
  5. Starts with “Free”
  6. Starts with dollar amount
  7. Contains “Your own”
  8. Contains “Your family”
  9. Starts with “Hello”

The interesting thing about all capitals (number 3) is that when I started, I used to think that only 419ers would send out mail like that.  Later, I learned that a number of our users have broken caps-lock keys in which they are permanently switched on and they can't turn them off.  Later on following that, I discovered that a number of companies send out automated reports and it is not unusual to print subject lines in upper caps.

The problem is not so much that direct marketers use spammy phrases, it's that spammers copy the direct marketers' phrases and the marketers get caught in the cross-fire.  As the writer of the original post writes, a marketing company might want to check with somebody who is familiar with spam filters to make sure their email is protected from being flagged as spam.

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