Skip to content

Basics of SPAM: How it works and resources to avoid it

Índice de contenidos

The fear of an email marketing campaign is falling into SPAM, so it is important to know more in depth and how it works to avoid having underperforming campaigns in your arrival and opening. 


1. What is the CAN-SPAM Act and how does it work?

The CAN-SPAM Act governs commercial email, that is, any email sent by a company that attempts to promote or sell a product or service, and is present to protect users from companies with unclear messages and with bad intentions. 

CAN-SPAM is governed by a series of rules that fulfill its meticulous work for the care of the user, which are: 

  • Do not use false or misleading information
  • Not using a misleading subject line
  • Tell subscribers where you are
  • Offer subscribers an easy way to cancel their emails
  • Respect all exclusion options quickly

Noncompliance penalties can add up to $16,000 by email, so it’s important to follow the rules. For more information on the CAN-SPAM Act, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.

There are different algorithms and systems that scan the content of the mail and contrast it with the given word list. Thanks to machine learning they can understand if the word is used to deceive (for example, the mail is full of phrases like “100% more”, “Become a member”, “No credit check”, etc.) or it is a mere coincidence that it is there.

In most cases it refers to Bayesian spam filtering, a technique that usually gives few false positives in spam detection, is one of the oldest ways of doing filtering, with roots in the 1990s.


2. A little history of SPAM

Spam (from the contraction of «Spiced Ham«, in Spanish «ham with spices») was the food of Soviet and British soldiers in World War II. Later, the British comedy group Monty Python began to make fun of canned meat for its low quality and extensive use.

The typical menu of a cafe of that time contained this product to replace bacon and other more expensive types of meat, it is worth seeing the sketch, they are only 2 minutes.

Years later, with the growth and accessibility to the internet, some novice users mistakenly sent personal messages to a whole contact list or discussion groups, which generated hassle and waste of time (and even money) other users who received such irrelevant and unwanted traffic.

In 1993 someone likened those unwanted intrusions to spam: the messages were like canned meat, nothing could be eaten without stumbling upon the stiff.

Photo by Hannes Johnson on Unsplash

3. Legal terms of SPAM

The most common is that spammers usually get email addresses from legal sources, in many cases users leave their data everywhere, accepting terms and conditions unread, something that is very common with online forms. 

Some of the main sources of addresses to then send spam are:

  • The websites themselves, which often contain the address of their creator, or their visitors (on forums, blogs, etc.).
  • Usenet newsgroups, whose messages usually include the sender’s address.
  • Mailing lists: simply sign up and write down the addresses of your users.
  • Emails with jokes, chains, etc, that internet users usually forward without hiding addresses, and that can accumulate dozens of addresses in the body of the message, being able to be captured by a Trojan or, more rarely, by a malicious user.
  • Pages requesting your email address (or that of «your friends» to send them the page in an email) to access a certain service or download.
  • WHOIS databases.
  • Illegal entry into servers.
  • By trial and error: addresses are randomly generated, and then checked if messages have arrived, a common method is to make a list of domains, and add them usual «prefixes», for example, for the domain, try [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], etc.

In addition, it is common for the spam sender to control the reading of emails to know which addresses work and which do not.

It is made with famous web bugs or pixels – they are small images 1 1 pixels in the HTML code of the message, so every time someone reads the mail, your computer requests the image to the sending server, which automatically registers the request.


4. Firewalls and detection systems 

Pixels, are one of the signs for firewalls that mail can contain junk information, so if you do not want to fall there when sending your email marketing campaigns it is advisable to avoid them to the maximum. 

Other signs for algorithms include:

  • Excessive use of caps or characters.
  • Exclamation marks and questions (?, !), especially if many are put in a row.
  • Bold fonts in different sizes.
  • Emoticons.
  • Errors in the HTML code.

Nowadays it is not so strict thanks to Machine Learning. For example, platforms like Gmail or Hotmail attach great importance to the historical relationship between a sender and a receiver to consider whether a message is spam or not.

That is, if they have not had contact with the person to whom they send the mail, it is more likely that the message will not pass the filter if it contains a suspicious word.

And instead, if you send an email to a frequent recipient, it doesn’t matter if you include the entire list of “bad” expressions, your message will still be fine.

5. How does reputation work?

The reputation in email marketing is little recognized, it must generate a very good content value to enable users to gain trust and loyalty with this means of communication. 

Email providers consider many metrics to determine the reputation of their senders, including spam complaints, how many unknown users you contact by email, if you’re on an industry blacklist, and more. All this is reflected in a number from 0 to 100 which is called Sender Score.

  • 0-70: VERY BAD. You have to improve your score as soon as possible, take care of your domain, warm it up, do not send invalid emails and check the DMARC, DKIM and SPF indicators.
  • 70-80: The worst is behind, but keep improving and perfecting your campaigns.
  • 80-100: Congratulations =)

For example, in the long run it is very important that prospects:

  • open your emails
  • don’t mark them as spam
  • don’t erase them without reading
  • add your address to your contact book

6. The Spamtraps

They are one of the most likely causes that metrics such as deliverability, open rate or CTR are low or have drastically decreased campaign after campaign.

Spamtraps, or “trap emails”, are those that are created not for communication, but to attract spam.

There are two distinct types.

  1. Pure spamtraps. They are specially created to detect the pure spammer, which is the one who sends mailing lists that they create themselves. These lists are made up of addresses that have never been published and that is why these types of spammers are the most dangerous, as they may even have entered our database via crawling or troyan.
  2. Recycled spamtraps. The second type are, as the name suggests, mail accounts that have been used previously and that were abandoned by their users (by changing jobs, etc). Here the email provider makes them their own to identify spammers and uses them in a very curious way in two phases:

In the first phase these accounts will report a hard bounce (hard bounce), and so will be reflected in the statistics of campaigns, hard bounce means that the account or domain does not exist or that the provider has blocked delivery.

These accounts are then formally activated as spamtraps and point out those senders who do not clean up and manage their databases.


Artículos relacionados

Centro de conocimientos

Recursos prácticos y valiosos para profesionales B2B que quieren mejorar su eficiencia diaria. Optimiza tu trabajo en áreas de marketing, ventas, database e inteligencia de negocio utilizando nuestros contenidos.

¿Necesitas Leads?

Mejoramos las ventas de tu empresa aunque tengas los recursos limitados. Concertamos reuniones todos los días con personas interesadas en tu producto que pertenezcan a tu target objetivo.

+ Información