8 Tips for Keeping Your Texts from Being Marked as Spam
You want your SMS campaigns to reach all your contacts so you can promote deals, earn more online reviews, improve customer service, and ultimately increase profits. But that won’t happen if you trigger spam filters that keep you from reaching your audience!
Typically it's pretty easy to make sure a text gets through to your end recipient when you're sending just one or a few messages. But if you’re sending texts in large volumes (like thousands or tens of thousands) this becomes much trickier.
We've all said or heard someone say, "I don't know why my email didn't make it to you!" It happens because email service providers sometimes filter out messages that look spammy. Mobile carriers like Verizon, AT&T, etc., do the same thing for text messages, and it's crucial you understand how it works so you can reach the contacts who want to hear from you!
That’s why we’ve made a list of the top eight most common things that trigger their spam filters, so you have a heads up on what to avoid.
Why do carriers ping your messages as spam?
Carriers want to protect their users from spammers so they don’t lose them as customers.
Spammers are abusers who:
- Don’t have a prior chat history with users
- Typically send high volume messages at a ridiculous pace
- Include dangerous or annoying links
- Write messages that are long, unhelpful, and confusing
- Are coercive instead of supportive
Carriers want to prevent users from coming into contact with these abusers, which is why they filter messages with these annoying characteristics.
This filtering process is all automated, which means you have to be careful to avoid looking and sounding like those same abusers.
Why does this matter to you?
Aside from just triggering spam filters, you also put yourself at risk of losing your audience’s interest when your messages look like a spammer's. Even if the carrier doesn’t catch your spammy messages, a contact can always choose to block your number, or opt out of receiving future messages from you, on their own if they’re displeased.
One of the worst things that can happen, which we’ll show you how to avoid, is for your phone number to be “blacklisted.”
A “blacklisted” number is one that has been blocked by a mobile carrier’s user and can no longer text any number owned by that same carrier. So if Verizon blacklists you, for example, you can’t text anymore people who have Verizon phones. This completely cuts you off from being able to engage with those customers, and it’s a clear sign that you’ve hurt your reputation with them.
So to avoid being blocked, you need to:
- Offer contacts a way to opt-out of messages
- Stop messaging contacts if they do opt-out of messages
- Only text contacts who consented to being messaged
The only time it is okay to message contacts who didn’t opt-in to be messaged is if it is for non-commercial and nonprofit purposes.
Doing these things on top of writing spammy looking messages will certainly put you in the red. But what does a spammy text even look like?
Here are eight things we know will trigger mobile carrier spam filters and annoy your customers.
8 Common Spam Indicators You Should Avoid
Most of these tips apply to high volume texts you send within a short time frame (and not to texts that are sent on an individual basis).
For example, texting a picture with a link to one person every hour isn't going to catch a carrier’s attention, because that's what normal people do when communicating. But if you’re blasting a text to thousands of contacts, those images will become more suspicious to the carriers.
1. The message includes URLs.
Sharing links has become a part of how people text each other. It’s honestly just easier a lot of the time to send people directly to your webpage.
But repeat texts to multiple people with the same link makes carriers suspicious. They don’t want a large number of their carriers to be potentially spammed by a dangerous or cohersive link.
Shortened URLs (like http://bit.ly/txtrqst) are also a stronger indicator of potential spam because viewers can’t see where the link will take them (which you can with a normal, long URL). Shortened links can be great for individual or one-off messages, but you should avoid sending shortened URLs to large groups of people.
Our recommendation is to not send a link to more than 50 people at a time (though users have sent more and been okay), and to avoid placing URLs at the end of a sentence.
Text Request has group message features that automatically do this for you.
2. You type the message in all caps.
Sometimes you want to make a certain word stand out without using other characters, or call attention to a certain piece of information. Writing parts of a message in ALL CAPS can easily achieve this, but it can also trigger spam filters when you send a message with any words or phrases in ALL CAPS to a large group of people.
Spammers and scammers use the same technique to grab people's attention and get them to take action. So to avoid looking like them, it’s best to not use ALL CAPS in any part of a message that is intended to go out to a large number of people.
3. The message includes images or other files.
Sending images or attachments to individual contacts is perfectly fine (and even recommended for engagement), but sending images or message attachments to large groups of people can trigger spam filters.
Since spam filters can’t accurately interpret the content of an image or attachment, spammers often try to abuse them and send crude or scammy material. Sending pictures also means you have more content flowing through a carrier at any time, so it's easier to stand out to carriers based on your volume alone.
Space your messages out when you need to deliver images or attachments to a mass audience. Sending fewer messages at once in exchange for engaging your audience with impactful images (like flyers or infographics) that get them to take action is well worth the wait.
4. You use special characters.
Any Unicode text characters become spam indicators when sent to large groups of people.
Carriers look for things that are atypical compared to how one person texts with another. Unicode characters stand out because they change your data limit per text from 160 characters to 72 characters.
So one message with Unicode will look like two, meaning you will reach the carrier's volume thresholds for spam much more quickly.
What’s a Unicode character?
They’re essentially characters that are universally accepted across the world, including emojis, roman numerals, and subscripts. Dollar signs in particular are a Unicode character that have been found to trigger spam filters, so make it a point to avoid them.
It’s fine to use Unicode characters and emojis in one-on-one conversations, but you should remove them before sending large group messages.
Check out our Spam Scanner below to see how you can identify whether you've got Unicode characters in your texts before you send them! That's a lot easier than memorizing all the characters.
5. The messages you send are identical to previous ones.
Sending the exact same message to a large group of people repeatedly can get you labeled as a spammer.
A normal person using a 10-digit phone number isn't manually texting thousands of people the exact same thing in a few minutes. That's a sign that a spammer or a bot is sending those messages without permission.
Make sure your messages are distinct from each other and always offering new information or updates.
Text Request offers a Text Merge feature that makes this easy, because it changes the name or other details on a per message basis, so every text you send is unique.
6. You send back to back messages.
Sending too many messages back to back will trigger spam filters, but it’ll also annoy your contacts and potentially cause them to block you.
Create schedules for your message campaigns, so you can evenly distribute them. One to two messages a week is a reasonable amount to send during a huge volume campaign, while twice in the same day (unless there is a major event going on) is definitely not.
This, of course, isn't true for messages sent at an individual or conversational scale.
7. The message is too long.
Really long messages can cause problems when sent to large groups. Carriers get suspicious because a normal human wouldn’t be able to type really long messages and send it over and over again at that fast of a rate.
Long messages also dramatically up your total texts sent volume, making it easier to stand out as a potential threat.
In general you want to keep messages shorter instead of longer, not only to avoid spam filters but to also keep your audience engaged.
There’s really no need for a mass text to be longer than two to three sentences (the point of texts is that they’re short, right?). But if you do need to send a longer message, you may want to consider emailing your contacts instead, or direct them to a place where they can learn more details.
8. Your message takes on a robotic or inhuman voice.
Mobile carriers use atypical sentence structure or words as spam indicators.
What does this mean?
It means they can tell if words or phrases are misspelled, or if your sentence would be incoherent to read. It's all automated, no one is personally reading your texts, but the filters can register incorrect grammar and spelling.
Want some extra help avoiding spam filters?
Text Request includes a SpamScan that alerts you if your group messages have any elements that might trigger a carrier’s spam filter. It's perfect for teams texting hundreds or thousands of people at once!
We can help you improve your delivery rates by avoiding spam filters, plus increase engagement with message templates and best practice guides.
Our team will even walk you through how to get started, plus give you the best tips on how to get the most impact out of your SMS campaigns!