The Origin of the Word “Spam” – And What Makes an Email Spam

The term “spam” is widely recognized today as unsolicited or irrelevant messages sent over the internet, primarily through email. But have you ever wondered where this term originated?

The Origin of “Spam”

The word “spam” as it relates to email has an interesting history. It originates from a 1970 sketch by the British comedy group Monty Python. In the sketch, a group of Vikings repeatedly sing a chorus of “Spam, spam, spam, spam,” drowning out other conversation. The incessant, repetitive nature of their song mirrored the nature of unsolicited email messages.

The term was later adopted in the early days of the internet to describe the flood of unsolicited emails that were beginning to clog users’ inboxes. It was an apt metaphor, capturing the way these messages overwhelmed the intended communication channels.

What Makes an Email Spam?

Not all unwanted emails are considered spam, and understanding the characteristics that define spam is crucial for maintaining good email practices:

  1. Unsolicited: Spam emails are sent without the recipient’s permission. They often come from sources with whom the recipient has no prior relationship.
  2. Irrelevant: These emails typically promote products or services that are irrelevant to the recipient, making them unwelcome and annoying.
  3. Mass Sent: Spam emails are usually sent in bulk to a large number of recipients, rather than being targeted to a specific audience.
  4. Deceptive Content: Many spam emails contain misleading information or deceptive subject lines designed to trick the recipient into opening the email.
  5. Poor Quality Lists: Spam often arises from the use of low-quality or purchased email lists that have not been properly vetted for accuracy or relevance.

Understanding these characteristics helps marketers and lead generation agencies avoid practices that could inadvertently classify their legitimate marketing efforts as spam.

Best Ways to Avoid Spam 

Even if you strive to follow ethical email marketing practices, there’s still a risk of your emails landing in the spam folder. It’s crucial to understand why emails go to spam and how email validation can help mitigate this risk.

Understanding the reasons behind spam classification is crucial for any marketer. For more insights on this topic, you can read detailed articles that explain the nuances of spam filters and email deliverability.

What Can You Do to Avoid Your Emails Going to Spam?

To keep your emails out of the spam folder, follow these best practices:

  1. Include an Unsubscribe Button: Make it easy for recipients to opt-out if they choose. If they can’t find a quick way to unsubscribe, they might mark your email as spam out of frustration.
  2. Careful Subject Line Wording: Avoid using words or phrases in your subject line that could be associated with spam. This helps prevent your emails from being flagged by spam filters.
  3. Obtain Explicit Permission: Only add people to your email list who have explicitly given you permission. Even a small number of spam complaints can harm your sender reputation.
  4. Maintain a Consistent Sending Schedule: Spammers often send emails erratically. By maintaining a regular sending schedule, you can distinguish your emails from those of spammers.
  5. Regular Email List Validation: Use an email validation tool like Scrubby to regularly clean your email lists. This helps identify and remove abandoned or harmful email addresses, reducing the risk of being marked as spam. Cleaning your list quarterly, or even monthly, can significantly improve your deliverability rates.
  6. Implement Email Validation API: Integrate an email validation API into every form that collects email addresses. This ensures that only valid emails enter your list from the start.

The Impact of Spam on Businesses

When Ray Tomlinson sent the first email, he likely didn’t foresee how vital email would become to modern communication and marketing. Today, email is the backbone of critical business communications, including transactional emails, receipts, confirmations, and reminders. Moreover, email marketing remains the most effective marketing channel.

However, spam can severely impact businesses by:

  • Damaging Sender Reputation: A poor sender reputation can lead to lower deliverability rates, meaning fewer of your emails reach their intended recipients.
  • Wasting Resources: Sending emails to invalid addresses wastes time and money. Cleaning your lists ensures your marketing efforts are directed towards genuine, interested recipients.
  • Legal Consequences: Non-compliance with email marketing regulations can lead to legal penalties. Ensuring your lists are valid and permissions are obtained can help you stay compliant.

But, how can businesses avoid this negative impact? 

The most effective solution is to validate their emails and maintain clean email lists. Email validation is crucial for any business involved in email marketing. By keeping your email lists accurate and up-to-date, you can substantially reduce bounce rates, enhance deliverability, and boost engagement rates.

The Role of Email Validation in Reducing Spam

Email validation is a proactive step in reducing the risk of your emails ending up in the spam folder. Here’s how it works:

  • Eliminating Invalid Addresses: By removing invalid or non-existent email addresses, you reduce bounce rates and improve your sender reputation. High bounce rates are a red flag for ISPs, often leading to emails being marked as spam.
  • Identifying Role-based Addresses: Role-based emails like info@ or sales@ are more likely to be flagged as spam. Email validation can help identify and remove these addresses from your lists.
  • Preventing Spam Traps: ISPs and email service providers set up spam traps to catch spammers. Validating your email list helps identify and eliminate potential spam traps, protecting your sender reputation.
  • Removing Complainer Emails: Some users frequently mark emails as spam, even if they are legitimate. Email validation tools can help identify these complainers and remove them from your list, reducing the risk of spam complaints.
  • Catch-All Emails: One issue many marketers face when managing an email list is the presence of catch-all email addresses. Companies use catch-all emails to send emails to their domain land in one place. If your email address list has many catch-all emails, this could be a reason for low engagement: catch-all email addresses are rarely checked.

Catch-All Emails: What Are They?

Sometimes known as a wildcard email address, these are useful because they can catch emails that otherwise would have bounced completely. For example, let us say you intend to contact the email address ‘alansmith@yourtargetbusiness.com’ – but, on your email list, the email address spells the name ‘allansmith’ instead – this would mean that the alansmith email address would not receive the email. The catch-all email, though, would.

Catch-all emails are useful because they can help companies see emails that otherwise would have been lost due to a typo. Due to typos, companies take advantage of sponsorship and partnership requests or customer support queries. While useful, catch-all emails tend to go long periods without being checked. You could use your email marketing platforms to send marketing material to a catch-all email address that gets checked only a few times yearly, hurting your engagement massively.

Since catch-all collects their fair share of spam and nonsense, they are less regularly checked than an individual’s email address. However, they are still relatively common, and if they are part of your email marketing list, they should be used as effectively as possible. To do this, you need to verify the email.

Why do you have catch-all emails in your list? It could be for a few reasons, including:

  • An individual from this company joined your mailing list but made a typo signing up
  • An individual from this company joined your mailing list using the catch-all instead
  • You have purchased an email list that has catch-all emails included within the list

If you mostly use email marketing as a cold marketing tactic, bought lists often have catch-all emails within. Therefore, you need to ensure that you verify these email addresses.

Catch-All Email Validation: Why Does This Matter?

Traditionally, using most standard email verification tools, you cannot verify a catch-all email specifically. you can use an email validation tool to see which emails in your list are part of a catch-all domain. However, one tool available on the market today allows for this functionality: Scrubby. If you clean your email list using Scrubby, you can validate catch-all emails and maintain a healthy email list.. 

What is Scrubby and How Does It Help?

Scrubby is an email validation tool that stands out with its advanced ability to validate catch-all and risky emails. Unlike most email validation tools, which typically categorize emails into valid, invalid, or catch-all/risky and often lead to discarding the latter due to high bounce rates, Scrubby empowers users to reclaim up to 50% of their email list that would otherwise be lost. 

Best Practices for Using Scrubby

To maximize the benefits of Scrubby, it’s essential to follow best practices in email validation and list management. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Regular Validation: Set up automated validation checks to ensure your email lists remain clean over time. Regular validation helps you maintain high deliverability and engagement rates.
  2. Segment Your Lists: Use Scrubby’s validation results to segment your email lists. Focus your marketing efforts on the most engaged and active segments for better results.
  3. Monitor Key Metrics: Keep an eye on key metrics such as bounce rates, open rates, and click-through rates. Use Scrubby’s reports to identify trends and adjust your strategies accordingly.
  4. Educate Your Team: Ensure your marketing team understands the importance of email validation and how to use Scrubby effectively. 
  5. Stay Compliant: Adhere to data protection regulations and best practices in email marketing. Scrubby’s compliance features can help you maintaining high-quality email lists.

Conclusion: Avoiding Spam Emails and Reducing Their Impact on Businesses

Avoiding spam emails and mitigating their effects on your business is crucial for maintaining a strong email marketing strategy. The key lies in maintaining clean and validated email lists. As demonstrated, cleaning up your email lists can be more complex than it seems, but employing best practices and advanced tools can simplify the process.
By incorporating email validation into your regular practices, you can prevent the risk of damaging your sender reputation. In essence, regular email validation helps businesses avoid the pitfalls of spam emails, ensuring better deliverability, reduced bounce rates, and enhanced engagement. Embrace tools like Scrubby to streamline your email validation process, protect your sender reputation, and maximize the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. By doing so, you can safeguard your business from the negative impacts of spam emails and focus on achieving your marketing goals.

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Amit Singh

Amit Singh is a seasoned digital marketing professional with diverse experience across multiple industries, including IT, travel, entertainment, publishing, and digital marketing agencies. He serves as a Growth Manager for Vendisys, Scrubby, Golden Leads, Inboxy, and other Vendisys entities, where he leverages his extensive expertise to drive growth and achieve business objectives.