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July 29, 2019
Email's Seven Dirty Words
The late great comedian George Carlin identified and joked about the seven dirty words that would prompt sanctions from the FCC. Now Emma Email Marketing has discerned the seven dirty words that trigger SPAM filters.

Email is the preferred channel for both B2C and B2B commercial communication. Approximately 205 billion emails are sent and received each day. It’s estimated that 45 percent of emails transmitted are SPAM. This torrent is expected to grow between three to five percent over the next few years. The average person has two email accounts and receives over 100 emails each day. 

Getting an email through to a targeted customer is a lot like finessing a multi-layered missile defense system. Internet Service Providers, like Google and Hotmail, pro-actively police against SPAM maintaining complex and changing filters. They maintain sender scores and are quick to ding suspected spammers. Email Service Provides, like Emma, also screen for SPAM as do email clients. And in some cases, browsers have their own SPAM filters. Getting through this thicket of defenses and maintaining a pristine sender score is a specialized art form.

The seven dirty words reflect the sensibilities of anti-spammers and are designed to weed out obvious scams and worst practices.   The primary focus of spam filters is the SUBJ line, which to a greater extent, signals the contents and commercial thrust of an email. In many cases, the terms that trigger SPAM filters are the most obvious and common calls to action many of which have been co-opted by scammers and spammers. This puts an added burden on marketers who have to communicate urgency and offers without using the easiest and most familiar language. 

Come-ons dominate the dirty word list. FreeGreat OfferGuarantee,Risk-Freeall suggest things that are too good to be true or are over used retail lures. Click hereis verboten because it’s a generic call to action captured by spammers. The use of Re or Fwdimplies an existing interaction or relationship which doesn’t really exist. These terms are used to trick recipients into opening an email. And the lack of personalization or a generic Dear Friendgreeting is content usually associated with unwanted or unsolicited messaging. 

Emma also found that using random characters or ALL CAPS in SUBJ lines tend to be SPAM. Retail hyperbole words like discount, big bucks, fast cash, or extra income are broadly used by spammers. Urgency words like apply now, don’t hesitate, or join millions can easily be filtered out. 

Using these terms are most likely to trigger SPAM filters and void the impact of an email campaign and negatively impact a brand’s online reputation or sender score. It's a puzzle for marketers and copywriters to get persuasive and compelling offers, urgency messages, and calls to action across without self-destructing. 

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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