Even the big boys sometimes shoot themselves in the foot. Something Shawn Casey is doing is hurting his email deliverability and probably his response rates, and while I know why he's doing it, there is a better way...

Hi Shawn,

I tried to get this message to you through your help desk, but I got the impression that my message wasn't going to make it to you, and I'm sure other people will be able to benefit from what I wanted to tell you, so I've decided to post it here.

Last week, I was looking through my GMail spam folder for a message I knew had been sent to me but which I'd never received, and I saw a bunch of messages from you there. I marked them all "not spam", figuring that would teach GMail that I want to receive your messages, but a few days later, I noticed that more messages from you had gone into my spam folder. That got me curious, so I finally got around to reading one of the messages, and saw immediately what was causing the problem.

Both GMail and Thunderbird (I get my GMail in Thunderbird using POP3) warned me that they thought your message wasa scam. What's happening is that in your HTML emails, you've got some links which go to a different URL when clicked than the one that's displayed to the reader. That's a technique commonly used in phishing scams.

I understand that you're doing it because you want to display "nice looking" URLs, but you want the clicks to run through a system that does click tracking for you. But it's causing you two problems: it's triggering spam filters for people like me who haven't gone through the trouble of adding you to our contact lists, and when we do manage to find your emails, it's causing those scam warnings.

If the click-tracking links are getting generated automatically by your list management software, then you need to contact whoever runs that and get them to fix the problem. But if you are in control of the process, I can think of three solutions. 1) Sacrifice having "nice looking" URLs displayed in your emails -- just display the link to your click tracker. 2) Don't display a URL as the link text -- if the link text isn't a URL, spam/scam filters aren't going to freak out about the mistmatch between the text and the actual link. 3) If you really want "nice looking URLs" to send people through your click tracking system:

Reader Comment:
Sandra said:
I agree with the person who commented about wanting to get something for nothing from a "millionaire" Just because they are a "millionaire" How entitled one must be to expect such a thing. It takes hard work and a lot of sweat and blood and time to c...
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1) Create a nice looking URL pointing to your server, and put it in your email -- display that URL to the reader, and have them go to that URL when they click.

2) At the click target location, put a simple redirector that sends the reader to your click-tracking URL.

3) Have the click tracking URL redirect the reader to the desired final destination URL.

I'm guessing that it won't be as simple as this, since I'm assuming the tracking links are being generated automatically by your mailing list manager. However, there's still a reasonably simple solution, if you can get your list manager to cooperate. Here's how.

1) Configure your web server to trigger a script when someone tries to load a page that doesn't exit (ie. set up a custom 404 page, and point it to a script rather than a static page) -- OR -- use URL rewriting to accomplish the same thing.

2) Have the script check (if you're using the 404 method -- if you're using URL rewriting, you can skip this part) the start of the request URI to see whether the link is pointing to a particular directory (for example, if your site is "http://example.com/", you could reserve all URLs beginning with "http://example.com/link/" for this use). If not, just display a normal 404 page.

3) Have the script redirect to your click tracker, and put the rest of the request URI in the click tracker link, along with something to identify you as the click tracker user (for example, if the link was "http://example.com/link/whizbang-1", and your user ID with your click tracker is "foo", have it redirect to "http://click-track.example.org/track.cgi?user=foo&link=whizbang-1").

4) Your click tracker tracks the click and redirects back to the desired target destination.

Your mailing list manager/click tracker would have to enable you to specify two things for each link: your final target distination, and the "nice looking URL" that the reader initially clicks through to.

Best of luck to you in maximizing your deliverability and click-thru rates.

Antone Roundy