In the past month, the average number of spam emails sent daily was a staggering 250 billion, as reported by Cisco’s SenderBase. This indicates that spam emails make up over 85% of all global email traffic. The term “spam” has been with us for a while, but where did it originate from? And how did it become so prevalent?
Spam was first used to describe unwanted emails and was officially recognized in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1998. It quickly became the primary definition. Today, ‘spam’ is defined as unsolicited messages sent over the internet, often to many users, for various purposes such as advertising, phishing, or spreading malware. It can also be used as a verb to send the same message to many internet users without discrimination.
The origin - As luncheon meat
The term ‘spam’ was used to refer to a canned meat product that was introduced by Hormel Foods Corporation in 1937. This product was designed to boost the sales of pork shoulder, a cut that was not selling well. The name “Spam” is thought to be a shortened version of “spiced ham”. The product became globally recognized after its use during World War II, when the U.S. military bought a variety of canned meats, including spam, to feed soldiers overseas.
Monty python sketch
The word “spam” was made famous by a Monty Python comedy troupe skit. In a scene set in a restaurant, a woman is trying to order from a menu filled with dishes made with Spam canned meat. The menu items repeatedly mention spam as an ingredient, like “Spam Spam Spam Spam sausage eggs and Spam.” A group of Vikings then starts singing “Spam, spam, spam, spam” in a loop, which overpowers the conversation and causes the woman to become increasingly frustrated.
‘Spam’ in emails
“Spam” in the context of emails was introduced in the late 1980s or early 1990s to describe disruptive, repetitive messages on Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes), Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs), and in early online chat rooms. As the internet became more accessible to American households in the early 1990s, “spam” became a widely recognized term for unsolicited internet posts and junk emails sent out to many people at once.
Email vs spam email - How to differentiate?
Spam emails can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from legitimate ones because they often imitate the style and format of regular emails. However, several key indicators can help you tell the difference between the two.
For instance, spam emails are typically unsolicited, meaning they are sent to many people without their consent. In contrast, legitimate emails are usually solicited, meaning they are sent to someone who has consented to receive them.
Another common characteristic of spam emails is their repetitive content. They often send the same message to thousands of people simultaneously, which is different from legitimate emails. These emails are usually unique and relevant to the recipient.
Spam emails often contain grammar and spelling errors different from legitimate emails. Professionals usually write these and do not contain such errors.
Spam emails often create a sense of urgency or threats to encourage immediate action from the recipient. This is only sometimes the case with legitimate emails.
Spam emails often have misleading subject lines or false sender addresses. Legitimate emails, on the other hand, have clear and truthful subject lines and sender addresses.
Spam emails often contain attachments or links that can infect the recipient’s computer with malware. Legitimate emails do not usually contain such attachments or links.
One key fact to highlight is while all spam emails are unsolicited and often contain irrelevant or misleading content, not all unsolicited emails are spam. Regular emails can also be unsolicited, but they are usually sent to a few people and contain relevant content.
Why do your emails end up in the spam folder?
Emails can end up in the spam folder for various reasons:
- Attachments: Emails with attachments, especially those with multiple attachments, are more likely to be flagged as spam. This is because spam filters often associate attachments with malware and phishing attempts.
- Recipient marking: If a recipient marks your email as spam, it can influence spam filters and cause your email to be sent to the spam folder for others.
- Sender reputation: If you have a poor sender reputation, your emails will likely be flagged as spam. This can be due to a history of sending spam emails or emails to inactive email addresses.
- Authentication failure: Failing to set up email authentication protocols like DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), SPF (Sender Policy Framework), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) can flag your emails as suspicious.
- Spam trigger words: Using spam trigger words like “Free,” “Win,” or “Exclusive Offer” excessively can be a red flag for spam filters.
- Incomplete ‘From’ information: A vague or missing ‘From’ field can signal to spam filters that your email may not be legitimate.
- Irrelevant or Missing subject line: Subject lines that don’t match the email content or are missing altogether can trigger spam filters.
- Overuse of capital letters or special characters, emojis: Excessive use of caps or special characters can look spammy and trigger filters.
- Misspelled words, Incorrect grammar, and Punctuation errors: Errors in spelling and grammar are red flags for spam filters.
- Lack of an unsubscribe link: Failure to include an easy-to-find unsubscribe link violates CAN-SPAM laws and can lead recipients to mark your emails as spam manually.
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Impact of spam emails
Sending spam emails can severely damage a business’s reputation and hinder its success. It annoys recipients, diminishes trust, and tarnishes the brand image. Spam negatively impacts email deliverability, risking messages being marked as junk or blocked. This results in reduced engagement, hampered customer relationships, and potential legal consequences. Avoiding spam practices is crucial for maintaining a positive brand perception, fostering customer loyalty, and ensuring effective communication.
Best practices to protect your emails from being marked as spam
To avoid your emails going to spam, you can follow these steps:
Avoid spam triggers
Certain phrases and words can trigger spam filters. Avoid using phrases like “free” and “sale” and excessive exclamation points in your subject lines. Also, avoid phishing attempts, unnecessary attachments, and incomplete ‘From’ information.
Use an online mail tester
Before you send an email, use an online mail tester or email spam checker to highlight issues that could get your email categorized as spam.
Set up authentication for custom domains
If using a custom domain, ensure you’ve set up authentication protocols like DKIM and SPF. This proves to the recipient server that your emails aren’t malicious.
Choose a reputable email service
Using a trustworthy email service like Spotzee ensures you comply with legal requirements such as the GDPR and CAN-SPAM Act.
Ask recipients to whitelist your emails
Another way to ensure your emails don’t end up in the spam folder is to ask recipients to whitelist your email address. This means adding your email address to their contact list or safe sender’s list, which will tell their email client not to send your messages to the spam folder automatically.
Include unsubscribe links
Always provide a clear option for recipients to opt out of your mailing list. Include unsubscribe links within the header or footer of your emails.
Check your spelling and grammar
Emails that contain spelling errors or poor grammar are often flagged as spam. Use writing assistants like Grammarly to ensure your language is up to par.
Use a professional email address
A professional email address is the first step in building customer trust. A business mailbox gives your email legitimacy, letting customers know they can trust the email’s source.
Go for a double opt-in approach
A “double opt-in” approach helps you record subscribers’ consent and signal their ESPs that your emails shouldn’t be marked as spam. When someone submits their information on your website, send them a welcome email that requires an action, usually a checkbox or a link to your policies. Subscribers will only be added to your mailing list if they confirm this.
Maintaining a good sender reputation is crucial to avoid landing in spam folders. Always include accurate sender information, adhere to regulations, and always include a physical address at the bottom of every email to build and maintain trust.
In the 1980s, the computer industry adopted the term ‘spam’ to describe unwanted messages or emails. Spam is now a significant issue in the digital world, with businesses and individuals facing the risk of their emails being marked as spam. This can lead to decreased productivity, security risks, and damage to reputation.
To avoid being marked as spam, it’s crucial to add the sender’s email to contacts, avoid spam triggers, use an online mail tester, set up authentication for custom domains, choose a reputable email service, ask recipients to whitelist your emails, include unsubscribe links, check your spelling and grammar, use a professional email address, and go for a double opt-in approach.