As I write this, over 125,000 people have my email address. Probably more, but that’s the number of people subscribed to my newsletter. Right there on the “From:” line is an email address.
Naturally, some of them will forward me jokes, virus warnings and other hoaxes or urban legends. I know that they mean well and do so with the best of intentions.
But, I mark them all as spam. I have to.
Because that’s what they are.
Even if I don’t, others may, and because of that, there’s a very important lesson here in making sure that the rest of your email keeps getting delivered.
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What is SPAM?
In its purest form, SPAM is simply email that you didn’t ask for.
It’s a very simple definition.
An even more common definition – however inaccurate you might feel it to be – is that SPAM is any email that the recipient didn’t want.
You can argue about it all you want (I know I often do), but the fact is that people will push the “Report Spam” button on just about anything that they don’t like.
“Report Spam” and Getting Your Email Delivered
I’ll use Google’s Gmail as my example here.
Of course, one of the biggest things that Google can look at as part of some definition of what “looks like” spam is the email address that the message was from.
If that happens often enough or happens from enough different recipients on Google, then Google will start automatically marking email that looks like that as spam without needing to be told further.
In other words, your email won’t get delivered; that includes not getting delivered to all the other people on Gmail that never once called it spam.
This applies to Gmail recipients as well as those on Yahoo, Hotmail, and just about any email system that has a “Report Spam” or “Junk” reporting system.
“But I just sent something important/funny/pretty, not spam!”
It doesn’t matter. You don’t get to define what is and is not spam; your recipient does.
And by reporting spam, your recipients ultimately can affect whether or not your email makes it to others.
I know that this doesn’t feel right, but it is what it is. People want control over what shows up in their inbox and marking any unsolicited email as spam is one way to do it.
Why I Have To
I tried replying and asking people to stop forwarding me stuff.
Not only does that take time, people got angry with me for daring to do so. No one wants to deal with angry people, but I still want to stop getting their forwards.
So, one click and it’s marked as spam. I get on with my life. If it’s a one-shot email, it probably doesn’t affect anything. If it’s a repeat offender eventually Google will get the message and mark it as spam for me, removing it from the email that I need to see.
This Isn’t About Me
As I said, people get angry when I reply. I expect that there are those who will get annoyed at what I’ve said here, blaming me for being too draconian in my approach to email I didn’t ask for.
This isn’t about me.
This is about all your other recipients who are doing exactly the same thing without telling you.
If you find that your email isn’t getting delivered to people, ask yourself this: have I been sending them things that they didn’t ask for? Lots of humor? Petitions? Warnings? Irresistible pictures and videos?
If the answer is yes, then it’s very possible that by using the “Report Spam” button, they’ve convinced their email provider that email from you is spam.