Getting Your Online Survey Delivered: How to Avoid Having Your Email Filtered Out Like Spam

Offering incentives. Sending out reminder emails. Creating a catchy email subject line. Addressing the respondent by name. These are some of the things that many marketing researchers might think to do when trying to increase the response rate on an online survey.

What many researchers may not consider is that it won�t matter how catchy the email line is or how great an incentive you�re offering if the potential respondent doesn�t even get to see it. In an era where most people get more unwanted email than they do wanted email, individuals are getting smarter and smarter about which emails they allow to enter their inbox. Many Internet Service Providers have special routers for their email domains that can filter email for different key words, phrases, formatting, and writing styles that have been frequently linked to Spam messages.

But even if your message gets past the router on your customer�s ISP, it still has to get past the filter on your customer�s email box. Individuals can set their mailboxes to automatically delete messages that have trigger words in the subject lines, or even go to such extreme measures as filtering out all email where the sender is unknown. There are several ways to increase the likelihood that your email will not be undeliverable or end up in someone�s junk mail box.

Let your customers know that the email is coming. Send out a letter or an email informing your customers of the upcoming study. Provide clear, step-by-step instructions on how recipients can add the email address that the survey link will be coming from to their address book. Inform them of when the email will be sent out, and tell them to check their junk mail if they don�t see the email in their inbox. Give them a phone number to call if they still don�t receive anything.

Make sure your email doesn�t look like Spam. Using symbols such as dollar signs and excessive punctuation in your subject lines will frequently trigger mail filters, as well as using all capital letters. You should also never put a toll-free number in the subject line or use a large font size or colored font. Don�t use the words �free,� �act now,� �win,� or any other Spam-like word. Other things that may make your email look like Spam are an email that has a large or very long message that exceeds the recipient�s limit, an attachment (.pdf, .zip), or a colored background.

Test your email message. There are several companies such as SPAMAssassin and SBI that will give your email a �Spam Score� and recommendations on how to reduce the likelihood of your email being filtered -- for free. Get your email tested, and substitute synonyms for Spam-like words until your score is low enough for your email to be sent worry-free.

Do all these things and your email still may end up in a cyber-black hole, but at least this way, you�ll have a fighting chance.

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