Those of us who make our living working primarily online know full well how pervasive the scourge of spam has become. Whether you are an online publisher like me, or just dealing with the hoards of junk emails that come your way everyday you know the problem is real.

Junk MailBut did you know marking that email newsletter as spam is probably not the best way to keep it out of your in box?

In fact you could even be causing problems for other folks by doing that.

Unwanted Newsletters

From a marketing perspective the email newsletter is a wonderful way to reach out to potential clients and keep a recurring contact with past customers. Because the costs per message are incredibly low this is a marketing tool of choice for just about everyone from the solo entrepreneur to the major corporation.

Trouble is, it is usually pretty easy to add email addresses to the mailing list. Because of that it’s easy to get on to mailing lists that we really don’t want to be a part of, whether we unwittingly “agreed” to be on the list at one point or not.

Being bombarded with unwanted email can be frustrating. And the temptation is to just “make it go away” by hitting the “mark as spam” or “junk” button. But you might want to think before you do that and here’s why.

How Many Spam Filters Work

Some of the best spam filters out there use a collective system to determine what is spam and what is not. I know it sounds a little borg-like, but basically what happens in these spam filters is that every time someone marks a message as spam that action gets annotated in some central database.

When enough people mark similar emails as spam then the filter “learns” and starts diverting all similar emails for everyone on that email system into their spam boxes.

If you are using one of these systems then what you choose to mark as spam can affect how that newsletter gets delivered for lots of other folks and not just yourself. Trouble is many of those affected people might actually want to get that newsletter, as hard as that might be for you to believe.

Unsubscribe – A Better Way

There is a better way to stop getting that unwanted newsletter that won’t cause problems for other people.

Most reputable email marketers have a link near the bottom of every email they send out that will allow the recipient to unsubscribe from that mailing. By clicking this link you can get your email address removed from that mailing list all together.

When you unsubscribe in this way everyone wins. You win because you don’t get those frustrating emails anymore. The organization marketing wins because they aren’t getting continuing negative exposure with you each time you get frustrated by receiving their emails. And other people on the mailing list win because you aren’t helping to push messages they want to receive into their spam boxes.

Make Easy to Unsubscribe

The smart marketer will make it easy for people to both subscribe and unsubscribe to their newsletters. Why would you want to be annoying people by sending them stuff they don’t want? Which is more effective – sending out 100 emails to people who are passionate about your product or service; or sending out 10000 emails that annoy 9000 people, are ignored by 900 and are received well by 100?

You might find that a 100% positive response is more effective than a than a 90% negative one.

If your organization is sending out newsletters that don’t have an unsubscribe button then you are opening yourself up to big problems. People are even more likely to just mark your newsletter as spam if you don’t have an unsubscribe button, especially if they don’t have any recollection of how they got on your mailing list. They might end up keeping even your passionate followers from receiving their emails and annoying them as well!

Use a Newsletter Service

You might look at purchasing a newsletter service. There are many reputable ones out there that are relatively easy to use. Constant Contact and aWeber are a couple I’m familiar with that have a good reputation. There are many more out there you can find with a little research.

Not only will using a service will probably increase your deliverable rate, but most services will also give you some level of stats about the emails you are sending out. Depending on the service you use you can learn things like how many of your newsletters were opened, what links readers clicked, how many emails bounced back because of bad email addresses , etc.

Blog Comments

A quick note about blog comments. The same principle applies. It is a good idea to keep an eye on your comment spam filter, especially if you are using Akismet or Defensio. These spam filters also learn in the same way.

So take a moment and look through your spam comments to rescue legitimate ones. I’ve known several bloggers who have inadvertently been trapped in “Akismet Hell”. Every blog using Akismet they commented on would shove their comments into the spam filter. And it took a long time and a concentrated effort for them to get that problem resolved.

Don’t be part of the problem by marking items as spam unless they really are.

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