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Don't be a Victim in the Graymail War

Posted on 12.19.2011

Providers of email services have made significant strides in reducing the amount of unsolicited messages (spam) in users inboxes but all of the attention is causing problems for legitimate email marketers.

Hotmail indicated recently that it had reduced "true spam" in the inbox to fewer than 3 percent using its SmartScreen filtering technology. That's great and all, but 75 percent of the messages that people actually reported as spam were really legitimate content in the form of newsletters, offers or notifications. That’s a problem.

Hotmail's newly released one-click unsubscribe feature enables users to click just once to ban a particular newsletter from the inbox. "Just select (or open) a newsletter, and then choose Unsubscribe on the Sweep menu. Hotmail takes care of all the details like telling the sender to take you off their list, setting up a rule to block messages from that sender, and even cleaning up your inbox if you want," read the Microsoft/Hotmail announcement.

Fortunately, several strategies are available which may help email marketers counter the issue.

For starters, it may just be time to start sending fewer emails and at times of the day when recipients are more likely to open them. According to Marketlive, 39% of consumers would like to receive emails weekly from retailers with whom they have opted in. Data from the “2011 Merchant Guide to Maximizing Sales” indicates that this is more than double the proportion indicating the second-most preferred option, twice a month, and triple that of the third-most preferred choice, 2-6 times a week.

Subscriber-level filtering is also being introduced at a faster rate. Many ISP's are using new data points in their deliverability algorithm. Some of those factors might be if the sender is in the recipients address book, if the message has been deleted without being opened as well as the length of the view rate. To counter these measures, email marketers need to revert back to requests for whitelisting, focus on proper targeting, and the compelling nature of their subject lines, and keep pumping out fresh, relevant and meaningful content.

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