Best practices to avoid being flagged as spam

SMS marketing is a powerful tool for contacting your customers directly. According to statistics, 90% SMS messages are read within minutes of being received. More than 50% of consumers say that they prefer to receive transactional and promotional messages via SMS.

This makes SMS messaging a handy tool for scammers. Hence carriers are very alert and proactive about protecting their consumers from such messages. This also means that if your message triggers a perceived violation according to the carrier, the message will not be delivered. Sending too many messages over a short duration can also result in your messages being marked as spam. Over time, if many of your messages are marked as spam by the carrier, your number could be blacklisted or even banned.

To avoid having messages flagged as spam, you should familiarize yourself with the different types of sender IDs and the corresponding laws and regulations you must comply with. Also take a look at the best practices to get compliance right.

Here are some best practices and tips that will help you to avoid messages being flagged as spam by various carriers.

1. Use a registered sender ID

Use a short code or a registered long code (10DLC) to send messages. This ensures that your brand is vetted and your campaigns/use cases are approved. For more information, see SMS Sender Types.

2. Message customers who have opted-in

Send messages only to customers who have opted-in. Maintain an updated list of subscribers. Use the double opt-in method to add customers to your mailing list only when they explicitly subscribe or opt-in to receive messages.

3. Scale up your sends

If you are using a new sender ID or have moved to a new carrier, slowly ramp up your sends and build your sending reputation.

For example, send 100 messages on the first day, 500 on the second day and ramp up slowly to the full volume.

4. Inform customers before you migrate to a new sender ID

Customers are more likely to block your messages if they come from an unfamiliar number. If your number is blocked by too many customers, carriers might blacklist your number. If you are migrating to a new sender ID, ensure that you send a final message from your current Sender ID and then send a message from your new Sender ID.

5. Send a limited number of messages

Other than any required transactional messages, limit the number of promotional messages that you send to customers per month. Never send more than one message in a day. Message frequency is directly related to unsubscribe rate and you must figure out the best send frequency that maximizes message  impact while minimizing customer opt-outs.

For example, you can start with 2-4 messages a month and increase messages based on the response from customers.

6. Identify yourself

Identify your brand clearly in the messages you send. If you don’t identify your brand, the message looks suspicious and could be viewed as spam by your customers. 

You can include a Virtual contact card in the message so that customers can easily add you to their contacts. This gives customers the peace of mind to engage with your business.

7. Write short messages

Keep your messages short, under 160 characters. Longer texts are split into multiple SMS messages which could be annoying to customers and could be viewed as spamming by carriers.

8. Write clear and personalized messages

Short messages with personalization are viewed favorably by customers. Customers prefer to receive messages that are catered to them and provide value. 

Ensure that your messages do not sound robotic and do not have spelling or grammatical errors. If your messages contain typos, or if you send the same message repeatedly without variation, it can be filtered by carriers as spam. 

9. Mind your URLs

If you use URLs in the messages, ensure that you are using a domain specific to your brand. Always include the “https://www.” part of the UR to avoid spam filters.

When possible, include shortened URLs. Long URLs can result in a message longer than 160 characters. However, do not use shared public URL shorteners. Instead use a dedicated short domain.

Always explain the purpose of the URL and the expectation from the customer.

Note: As a best practice, do not include email addresses in the SMS messages as carriers might filter them.

10. Don't include too many emojis or special characters

Don't include too many emojis or special characters in your messages. These are usually used by scammers to obfuscate messages. Dollar signs in particular have a high chance of triggering spam filters. For example, do not include Save $$$, $$$ discount! and so on.

11. Don't include all caps and flag words

Including all caps in messages or flag words in messages can trigger spam filtering. All caps, exaggeration and words conveying a sense of urgency are used by scammers. Avoid using this type of phrasing in your messages.

For example, words like gift, VIP, rewards, ACT NOW, FREE!, No cost, No fees, Limited offer, Bonus, You’ve been selected, can be flagged by spam filters.

12. Provide a way for customers to opt-out

Always provide a way for customers to opt-out from receiving messages. If customers are unable to opt-out easily, they might reach out to carriers to block you. This could damage your standing with the carrier.

Note: Always use standard keywords like STOP, UNSUBSCRIBE, OPT-OUT, CANCEL, SUBSCRIBE, START, OPT-IN for customers to opt-out or opt-in. Check with your SMS provider for approved keywords.

13. Use 2-way SMS messages and encourage users to reply

If your message asks for specific replies to specific questions, these help the carriers identify that your message is expected and welcomed by the recipient.

For example, including “Reply YES for more info” allows you to provide value first and sell later.


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