On the dangers of personalising email subject lines

h1 October 16th, 2008

Over the years I’ve use the fact that spambots don’t know who I am to help immediately identify spam. Any message that includes by email username (usually mbaker) in the subject is almost certainly spam. However today I received an email with the subject: Hi Michael Please read this document!

This was to an address of the form Michael.Baker at domain. Until today I had not received spam with my first name in it. Lots of emails from marketing lists I’m on include my first name, but no spam. That’s probably because until recently the name part of most of my email addresses has been mbaker. Almost invariably I send any email with mbaker in the subject line straight to my spam folder unopened.

My first thought was that this was new, that spambots have recently learnt (some one has written one) to extract a first name from a dotted email address. While I’ve had the email address mbaker at pobox dot com for over ten years, I’ve only recently been using a michael.baker at domain email address, so have not received such spam before.

In Subject Line Customization: Too Much Like Spam? Karlyn Morissette points out that she and many others are likely to send any email with their first name in the subject line stright to their spam folder unopened, or at least not open it.

What are your thoughts on effective subject lines?

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