[Downloadable] The Words to Avoid if You Don’t Want Your Emails Flagged as Spam

spam-words

spam-words

There’s much information online on starting an email list and then growing it as one of the main parts of your online business.

This isn’t one of those articles.

The harsh truth is that no matter how good your marketing is, and your individual tactics are, a big portion of your email messages will still get filtered out into spam folders.

People won’t even see them in their inboxes.

“So I spend all this time trying to get subscribers and then my email tool fails to deliver? Really?!”

Well, yeah.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly the case.

MailChimp actually reports that on average, 10-20 percent of email gets killed off by spam filters.

And this concerns legitimate businesses, not spammers. Heck, if you’re a genuine spammer then the numbers are probably more like 95 percent, but I digress.

So why after learning all those great list-growing-techniques we still end up defeated by a script that calls itself the spam filter?

The answer:

You’re using the wrong words

There are two sides to writing proper email copy:

  1. Writing copy that converts and convinces your people to take action on what you’re saying. This is something guys like Derek Halpern and Neil Patel will teach you.
  2. Writing copy that doesn’t get flagged as spam by an automated piece of software – a spam filter. This is what I will be talking about here.

We can argue which of these aspects email copywriting is more important, but frankly you can’t have one without the other.

That being said, if your copy doesn’t check out with spam filters then the fact how good it is conversion-wise won’t even matter.

Let’s try to understand how spam filters work and how we can defeat them.


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What’s a spam filter?

A spam filter is a small piece of software that’s installed on every email server.

The only task it has is to read (yes, read) all email coming in and decide whether it’s spam or not.

Spam filters use complex math to make that decision.

At the core of this math, there’s a database of phrases, expressions, and the relationships between them, along with specific point values for each entry.

Having this data, the spam filter calculates the individual message’s spam score and checks if it exceeds a given threshold. If it does, off to the spam folder the message goes.

The difficult part is that there’s no single internet-wide threshold. Every server has its own, so you can never know what’s a safe spam score.

How to defeat the spam filter?

Since we do know what’s the spam filter’s game, we can adjust our copy to get thee lowest score possible.

Now, spam filter algorithms are not secret (like Google’s). If you go to http://spamassassin.apache.org/tests_3_0_x.html you will get the complete list of factors with their exact spam values.

The list is long and complicated, though, so what I’ve done here is I’ve taken the most crucial expressions and put them on the following typography chart.

How to read this thing? Generally, the higher up the list the expression is, the more you should avoid using it.

Note. I’m excluding a big part of Viagra, porn, dating, and pharmacy -related stuff. Those are the biggest spam factors, but I figured no one here is in this business anyway. If you do want the full list, however, feel free to contact me through the contact form.


95 most spam-filter-visible things to avoid in your newsletter emails

 

Tier 1 (spam factors of 2.5-2.0) “the high risk list”

Message body mentions many internet domains · Subject starts with dollar amount · Offers an alert about a stock · Contains a URL with an affiliate ID code · “University Diplomas” · “What are you waiting for” · Subject contains lots of white space · Contains a URL in the BIZ top-level domain · Tiny font size (HTML) · Talks about a million North American dollars · Claims to honor removal requests · “Money back guarantee” · Claims you registered with a partner

Tier 2 (spam factors of 1.9-1.6) “the avoid if possible list”

“Confidentiality on all orders” · HTML includes a form which sends mail · Claims you have provided permission · Stock Disclaimer Statement · Subject includes “life insurance” · Incorporates a tracking ID number · HTML font size is huge · Describes body fat loss · Subject contains “Your Bills” or similar · Subject “GUARANTEED” · HTML has a low ratio of text to image area · Contains a URL in the INFO top-level domain · Talks about quotes with an exclamation! · Message body has 70-80% blank lines · Subject contains “Your Family” · HTML link text says “push here” or similar · “No Claim Forms” · “Free Preview” · “Home refinancing” · “Compete for your business”

Tier 3 (spam factors of 1.5-1.1) “the better not do list”

Talks about millions of dollars · Send real mail to be unsubscribed · Claims compliance with spam regulations · Prestigious Non-Accredited Universities · “Be your own boss” · Domain name containing a “4u” variant · “Buy Direct” · Message body has 90-100% blank lines · They have selected you for something · Talks about exercise with an exclamation! · Claims you can be removed from the list · Claims you wanted this ad · Contains mail-in order form · Subject starts with “Hello” · “Get Paid” · HTML font size is large · “You can search for anyone” · “Freedom of a financial nature” · Subject: contains G.a.p.p.y-T.e.x.t · Contains “earn (dollar) something per week” · Weird repeated double-quotation marks · “Have you been turned down?” · “Home refinancing” · Talks about free mobile phones · Talks about “starting now” with capitals · “People just leave money laying around” · “Why Pay More?” · “Eliminate Bad Credit” · Claims you can be removed from the list · “Receive a special offer”

Tier 4 (spam factors of 1.0-0.3) “the quiet killers list”

Contains “Dear (something)” · HTML has a low ratio of text to image area · HTML font color similar to background · List removal information · Subject contains “As Seen” · Possible mention of bill 1618 (anti-spam bill) · “Amazing Stuff” · Information on mortgages · “Save big money” · “There is no obligation” · “Consolidate debt, credit, or bills” · “Lowest Price” · Mail guarantees satisfaction · Subject contains “Your Own” · “While you Sleep” · Offers a full refund · Subject is all capitals · Doing something with my income · Talks about Oprah with an exclamation! · Subject contains “For Only” · “One hundred percent guaranteed” · HTML is extremely short · Subject line starts with Buy or Buying · Describes weight loss · “See for yourself” · “Dear Friend?” That’s not very dear! · “Free Membership” · HTML has very strong “shouting” markup · “Requires Initial Investment” · “As seen on national TV!” · “Accepting credit cards” · Mentions millions of dollars

Quick fixes

Okay, so the obvious path would be to not do any of the above, but that will rarely be possible. So here are some quick fixes that you should look into.

First of all, there’s one fix (to rule them all) that allows you to never worry about ending up in the spam folder ever again. That fix is convincing your subscribers to add you to their white lists.

The value of this fix, according to Spam Assassin, is -100 (negative 100). This basically makes you invisible to spam filters even if you’re selling Viagra.

Other things worth doing:

  • If possible, mention only one URL in your message.
  • If you can set up your email service provider to not say anything along the lines of “you’re receiving this message because you opted in yada yada” then do so.
  • Don’t say anything about spam in the email.
  • Don’t say anything about actions required for unsubscribing.
  • Don’t start the subject line with “Hi”
  • Don’t start your email with “Dear [someone]”
  • Don’t claim compliance with any spam regulations.

Compiling this list gave me a lot of insight into what I should be doing with my own emails, so I hope you will get similar value as well.

For convenience, if you’d like a more printer-friendly version of this chart then it’s on the “thank you” page of my email newsletter signup (hint!).

Get the thing here:

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Let’s grow our businesses together!

[Downloadable] The Words to Avoid if You Don’t Want Your Emails Flagged as Spam | NewInternetOrder.com

How Often Should an Online Business Redesign Their Website

new-designFor some websites, big redesigns tend to turn into major events in the online community. For instance, every time YouTube rolled out an update, there were tons of people commenting it, expressing their opinions, and being ultra-interested in the whole thing in general.

But YouTube is YouTube, it has millions of users, and even the slightest change can be reflected by a rise or fall in the number of overall video views. So what about small online businesses? Do they need to change their designs too, or is sticking with one design for a number of years perfectly okay? In other words, should an online business redesign their website often?

Unfortunately, it isn’t okay… And I’m using the word unfortunately because changing the design usually involves some investments. However, sometimes it’s inevitable. Here are the reasons and the best moments to change your current design.

Follow the trends

Even though following the trends doesn’t have the best publicity among people (many don’t believe that following trends brings any improvements to our lives), the internet is a constantly evolving environment, and if you want your site to be successful, you need to let it evolve too.

Now, I’m not trying to say that you should try out every new practice in online business design, but if one day your site is the only one left using some outdated solutions then it’s most certainly about time to introduce something new.

The thing with online trends is that with time, the best of them become the new standard, and you should never let your website fall below the standard.

Change is good

Sometimes change is good just for the sake of it.

For example, have you noticed how your local stores and supermarkets change their layouts every once in six months or every year? They don’t do it because the previous layout was not performing well. They do it just in order to introduce some change, and to force people to walk around the store more when searching for stuff.

Just one thing that’s different when it comes to online business is that confusing your visitors is not a good idea, so your new design can’t be any less intuitive. Other than that, launching a new design will always restore your site’s freshness and make it more attractive.

Act when your goals change

Business goals change for every business at some point. Unless you’re Coca-Cola or something.

And when it comes to online business, the website needs to reflect these goals very precisely. This mainly depends on two areas:

  • The way you’re making money as a business.
  • The way your visitors interact with the website (more on this in a minute).

For instance, it’s really difficult to sell anything using a standard blog-like design (with two sidebars, big header and footer), so if your website started as a traditional blog, but later on it shifted to a product-based model, a change is required.

For instance, take a look at what happened at Copyblogger – one of the top copywriting blogs on the internet.

A couple of years ago the site was constructed as a standard blog. Here’s a screenshot via archive.org:

copyblogger-old

And here’s a current screenshot:

copyblogger-new

As you can see, the site has changed substantially. Right now, the homepage presents the different elements of Copyblogger Media, instead of just displaying the latest blog posts. Currently, Copyblogger is mostly a product company, and their site makes it as clear as it can be.

Getting rid of an outdated structure

The internet is really quite a lively environment (like I said a moment ago). Literally everything changes. Technologies change, Google changes, WordPress changes, SEO changes, user interface design changes, and so on.

Every website is built with a specific piece of web engineering. For instance, a number of years ago everyone was using HTML tables as the pillar of layout building. Then <div> tags got introduced and HTML tables became an outdated and underperforming technology.

These days, HTML 5 is the new player. I’m sure that in a year or two every website will have to support HTML 5 just to be compatible with the web, so to speak.

The rule of thumb is therefore simple: If your site’s structure is based on technologies and approaches that no one uses these days, it’s time for a change.

New WordPress features

It’s no surprise that WordPress evolves quite rapidly as well. There are new features being introduced in every version. However, an outdated theme will not allow you to use any of them.

The best thing to do is to build your site with a quality theme framework (like Genesis or ThemeFuse). Such frameworks get updated almost as frequently as WordPress itself, giving you the possibility to take full advantage of the new features.

In the meantime, if your site still doesn’t support things like the custom menus, widgets, responsive layouts, and other basic WordPress functionality then it really is about time to make some changes.

Your user interaction model changes

Sounds fancy, but what I actually mean here is the way visitors interact with your site. Depending on the nature of your business, some forms of interaction might perform better than the others.

For instance, customer reviews and bonuses work well for all kinds of online stores. In a completely different scenario, some Instagram integration with the possibility to comment is the thing for most photo blogs.

Basically, whenever you set some new goals for your online business, make sure to enable the possibility for your readers to take part in those goals. In most cases, this calls for a new design.

How old is your current design? Are you planning to change it anytime soon, or is it still working perfectly well for your business?


How Often Should an Online Business Redesign Their Website | newInternetOrder.com

How to Write a Properly Usable Review

reviewReviews are like flyers in your local travel agency – some have no impact on you whatsoever, but some make you want to visit a certain place so bad that you literally can’t wait to reserve a flight and a hotel.

Now, let me clarify one thing. Writing a review is not about convincing anyone to do anything. It’s about giving some honest opinions about a given product and listing its pros and cons. In the end, whatever you write should only provide new knowledge to your readers so they can have an easier time making their own decision.

That being said, reviews can have a tremendous impact on our product-buying decisions. Reviews create massive social proof. Let me give you an example, which coffee grinder are you more likely to buy: one that has no reviews, or one that has 20 reviews, 17 of which being positive and 3 negative?

If you’re like most people you will go for the second one despite the fact that 3 people consider it a bad product.

So at least this one thing’s clear – reviews are powerful. But what’s in it for us – online entrepreneurs, and for our online businesses?

Reviews and online businesses

Reviews are a great way of selling affiliate products. This is a practice well known in the affiliate space.

There are basically three stages of buying a product (at least for most people):

  1. Looking for a solution. This is where people start googling their problem and searching for possible solutions. An example: “how to learn guitar chords.” As a result of such a query one will probably stumble upon some guitar playing products, guides or books. That’s where they move to the second stage.
  2. Reviewing available solutions. This is where the reviews come into play. Once someone becomes interested in a given product, they will probably start searching for reviews and opinions to make sure that the product is indeed a quality one.
  3. Buying. In this last stage someone simply makes the final move and buys the product.

Now, a smart affiliate will completely take over the stages #2 and #3.

If someone is in the stage #2, they are at least considering spending some money. This is a very good moment to provide some insights about the product they’re considering and either lead them towards buying it or listing a range of alternatives.

If after reading your review the person becomes convinced to buy the product, you can capitalize on this by providing an affiliate link. This way, the person doesn’t have to leave your site to move to the stage #3 because it’s all in one place.

Disclaimer. I really don’t advise to write a fake review just to get someone to buy what you’re promoting. This is not the point of a review. People will see through your intentions immediately, and they will never ever believe another review of yours. In a word: be honest.

Okay, it’s time to talk business. Here are the steps and elements of writing a properly usable product review.

get the product

Get the product

Writing a review without actually having the product can be hard… And by hard I mean impossible.

When it comes to digital products, you can get a downloadable copy of the product (you don’t have to get the DVDs or whatever else the product consists of), but when it comes to physical products you absolutely have to lay your hands on them.

How are you going to review the new iPad without ever holding it in your hand, right?

There are a couple of ways to get a review copy of a product. First of all, you can plainly ask for it. Some companies realize the power of reviews so they tend to respond to such requests. Secondly, you can buy it through your own affiliate link, which can allow you to get it for even 75% off. Thirdly, you can borrow it from someone who already has it.

Be honest

I briefly mentioned this just a minute ago, but I want to stress it out here one more time.

The only good review is an honest review. Building credibility and trust takes time, and you can lose it all with just one fake review.

Always give your honest opinion. Here’s an interesting fact. People will not necessarily give up on buying the product just because you’ve listed some disadvantages of it. But they will surely notice that you’re being honest.

What? Why? For whom?

Essentially, people don’t care. However, if you do a good job at answering these three questions you can make them care.

What?

This is the question you should start your review with. Begin by saying what the product is. You can use some of the sales material provided by the product owner for this.

However, make sure to use a conversational and non-pitchy tone. Talk to your readers like you want to provide genuine information, not like you want to sell them something.

Why?

Why is the product useful? Why are you reviewing it? Why someone would consider using it? Essentially, every why that stumbles your mind will most likely also stumble the minds of your readers. If you leave those “whys” unanswered people will simply find another reviewer.

For whom?

Every product has a target group of customers. You need to say who those people are and why they should be particularly interested in the product.

If someone from the target group reads your review, they should feel that it’s been created specifically for them.

Besides, people outside of the target group will rarely end up buying the product anyway.

images

Include images/videos

Depending on the product you’re reviewing (if it’s a physical product, for example) you can use some images/photos or even videos of the product.

The best approach here is to take the photos yourself, or shoot the videos yourself. This is a big credibility boost and it shows your professionalism like nothing else.

Besides, a picture tells a thousand words, right? People simply like to see the product from different angles.

Additionally, once you have some photos or a video you can share them through social sites like Flickr or YouTube. This will give you additional visibility and probably new traffic to your review. (When you’re uploading the video or the photos make sure to provide a link to the review on your site.)

List the benefits/features

There’s been quite a fierce talk going on online regarding features, benefits and their use for online marketing.

Some people think that listing benefits is crucial for marketing success, others say that features are good enough because people can imagine the benefits on their own.

Essentially, a feature is something the product does. A benefit is something that feature means to the user/customer.

I, personally, think that benefits are a must when constructing any sort of marketing message.

For reviews, you should find a good combination of features and benefits and mention them in a visible part of your review. Don’t focus on benefits or features alone.

List the pros

Every product has those. If no, why are you even bothering to review the damn thing?

When describing the pros focus on what they mean to the customer (list the benefits). Give the reader a reason to be interested in the product. But be careful not to sound pitchy, like a marketer. Instead, go for the conversational and honest (again) tone.

List the cons

Listing cons is what makes your review real. Every product has cons, there’s no perfect stuff.

Make the cons real. If there really is something wrong with the product then you absolutely must mention this in your review. Don’t be afraid that you’re kissing your affiliate commission goodbye. People will only acknowledge you for being honest and treat your review seriously.

Present price points

Some products have different price points and different options a customer can choose.

List the pros and cons of each offer individually and say which one you consider bringing the most value.

Also, mention any bonuses, guarantees or other extra information that might be important to the customer.

Show some alternatives

This is optional, but it might be a good idea in some scenarios, especially if there are a lot of alternatives available. Listing them along with affiliate links can make you some additional money even if the reader decides not to buy the main product.

You don’t even have to describe each alternative. Just the name and a one-sentence description will be enough.

Your verdict

You should always share your final opinion. Tell whether the product is worth its price or not. Of course, this is just your personal opinion, but it’s always good to have one.

However, if you say that the product is not any good then you should reconsider using an affiliate link…

OR

You can simply not review anything you don’t consider valuable.

For me, crafting a good review is more science than art. Reviews are not about being catchy and telling a story, they are about describing the basic characteristics of a given product and telling whether you find it worth its price or not.

What’s your take here? Have you stumbled upon any reviews lately that you knew were fake right away?

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How to Write a Properly Usable Review | newInternetOrder.com