Why are spam filters automatically opening and clicking through links in my emails?

Why are spam filters automatically opening and clicking through links in my emails?

Why do I have unusually high open rates and click-through rates in my email campaigns? 

Sometimes, recipient spam filters may click-through links in emails to verify that they are safe for the receiver of the email to click on.
This is good because spam filters are doing their job and protecting recipients.
However, it's also created an industry-wide problem: skewing the results of the marketing analytics data, because open rates and click-through rates are being inflated. This results in false data for marketing automation users.
No matter what software is being used, or what server you are using to send out your tracked emails, there is no way around the impact that these spam filters have on the metrics sent back to the tracking software sending emails.

How does email tracking work--and is there a way to avoid this?

Email tracking is the recording of data that is collected from email marketing campaigns.  Email tracking works through a couple of different procedures that aim to collect data on open rates, click through rates, click to open, and click to send rates. Email tracking also monitors unsubscribes, soft and hard bounces, and delivery rates, just to name a few more metrics. This tracking is used by marketers to measure the effectiveness of campaigns, and to create future plans. Ultimately, email tracking can give the user a tremendous amount of data regarding their marketing efforts and the effectiveness of those efforts. 

The two most common metrics tracked by email tracking software–also impacted by spam filters–are open rates and click through rates: 

Open rates:
The most common way to monitor open rates is embedding one pixel image in the email. Once the email is opened, this image loads and sends that data back to the tracking software, thus giving us the data behind if and when the email was opened. This is not 100% accurate in practice as some email softwares do not automatically load images without consent from the recipient. In this case, the image is never loaded and cannot record the necessary data to accurately track the open rate. Ultimately, this is the most commonly used practice as it does bring the most consistent results. 

Click through rates:
The tracking of an email's click-through rate is recorded through the use of a trackable link within the email. Every tracking software will wrap a link in a redirect, which helps to record when a link is clicked, sending this data back to the software.
 

How can you prevent these opens and clicks from impacting your perception of results?

The best way to improve your experience is to work with your Marketing and Sales Enablement consultant to identify the ideal strategy for your company. Below are common tips your Consultant will suggest, or you may adopt on your own:
Important to note: Tweaking your scoring model to help combat automated click-throughs will be a work in progress. You will need to work together with your Marketing Automation and Sales Enablement Consultant to understand how you can adjust scoring rules and campaigns to get the best results.
The simplest way to try to identify the false data effects that spam filters cause is to view when the links were clicked through your tracking software.
If your email has multiple links, you can view when these links were clicked by clicking on a contact and checking the contact feed (pictured below).
Hover over the date in the contact feed and check the timestamp. Did the clicks happen just seconds apart, repeatedly?
  1. If the data shows they were clicked seconds apart from one another, it is safe to assume that this was a spam filter clicking through your links as it isn’t possible for a human to navigate through the links that quickly.
  2. Once you identify what was most likely the work of a spam filter, you can disregard these clicks and the impact they have on your data. 

Adjust scoring 

  1. Knowing that spam filters are most likely going to play a role in skewing your data, there is potential to change your scoring model.
  2. This can be changed so the open rates and  clicking of links do not carry as much weight when qualifying your leads and their interest levels.
  3. You can also adjust the other factors in your scoring model to compensate for this. Whether that be putting more weight on website activity, form fills, or other metrics, it is possible to adjust your scoring so you are not losing out on potential leads.

Smart lists

  1. Creating smart lists to ensure you are documenting the spam filters is important. If you see suspicious activity like the multiple links clicked within seconds or the opening of the email and immediate clicks with a variety of links, place these contacts into a smartlist to not contact, or remove them from the current smart list you are using. Ensuring that you are staying up-to-date with monitoring your smart lists for these contacts will be important when deciding who should and should not receive marketing emails. 
  1. Using a bait link is the practice of including a “fake link” in your email that only the spam filter can detect when it scans the HTML of the email.
  2. If this link is clicked, you can most likely disregard any of the further links clicked in the email. However, like the other methods and practices, nothing is a perfect solution, so there is a chance that a human can find and click this bait link.
  3. The link can lead them to a special landing page that hosts a form to fill out just to ensure no one is following this link to a page where nothing exists. You will still have a chance to collect additional information if they decide to complete the form. 
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