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Email text obfuscation

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Sunday February 3, 2008 )

It’s still surprising how many marketing emails I get from folks trying to get around email filters by using obfuscated text.


You may have seen the term obfuscate mentioned in relation to security and spamming – so what does it mean?

To obfuscate something is to make it confusing and harder to interpret. In the programming world, obfuscating code makes it harder reverse engineer. When mentioned in relation to email and spamming, it’s usually relating an attempt to get around mail filters by making trigger words more difficult to be detected.

Here’s a few of common examples:

Free: F*re_e
Bonus: B0nus
Guarantee: Guarant33
Unsubscribe: Unsubcr1be

While words like free, bonus and guarantee can attract the attention of spam filters, if used sparingly, the score applied won’t be enough to prevent your email going through. However, obfuscation is a well known spammer’s trick and if detected can have your note absolutely clobbered.

Obfuscation worked pretty well a while back, and some Internet marketing “gurus” instructed folks to use the strategy. Email filtering systems have evolved greatly since those days and unfortunately, some people continue to use the practice even though it is no longer effective.

Additionally, using obfuscated text makes your communication look like spam to the person reading it – it’s considered by many to be amateurish and impacts on credibility.

I’ve just updated my article on email delivery and filtering issues – check it out; it contains a stack of tips to help you get your email communications through to your members and subscribers.


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