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Hotmail SmartScreen Set To Paranoid?

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Thursday March 15, 2012 )

Microsoft’s SmartScreen filter seemed to have a grudge against Twitter and Facebook the other day.

I was testing a newsletter mailout against various services as I usually do and all went well with GMail and Yahoo. When I checked Hotmail, above the email was a brightly colored alert box stating “This message looks very suspicious to our SmartScreen filters, so we’ve blocked attachments, pictures and links for your safety.”

Eeek! I’ve never struck that before with any of my mailouts. I started looking for the usual spam flag suspects and removing content in order to try and narrow it down. But time and again, the same message. So I tried a test with a communication from a few weeks back that didn’t experience the same problem. Bang – Smartscreen filter again.

As this seemed to indicate the issue was in the template, I basically had to deconstruct the entire email and then start testing.

The alert would certainly have some folks reaching for the delete key and with @hotmail, @msn and @live subscribers a sizable chunk of the list, it wasn’t going to be a case of just hoping for the best in the live send.

The culprit turned out to be a Twitter and Facebook profile link – the same ones I’ve been using week after week without drama.

I’m not sure if others have experienced the same, but I hope this was just some MS tech fiddling with filter dials to see what would happen. Anyway, I’m making mention of it in case you’ve struck the same sort of issue.

You may be able to save yourself a great deal of time in tracking down the problem by removing any social media profile links and giving that a whirl; but a better test may be an older message using the same template that has already had the tick of approval previously as a starting point.

(Update: the following week I was able to send out the same newsletter with Twitter and Facebook links without hitting the same problem)


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