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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Judging spam comments

Having just deleted another batch of spam from my blog, I thought I’d share how obvious some of it is – and how you can avoid your comments being filtered out as spam.

  1. Flattery is common “this is the best blog”, “you write so well man” and “you must be an expert on this” are some recent examples in my spam folder. Genuine compliments are a good strategy, fake flattery is likely to get your comment deleted quickly
  2. Sounding impressed but never giving any specifics is also a common spam technique so they can use the same message in many blog posts. “I’ve been searching for this information” and “I was just discussing this topic the other day with my cousin” have been in my comments innumerable times; a genuine message would be specific and relevant, such as “I needed to know about clear communications” or “Some friends and I were just discussing keywords
  3. there is a discrepancy between the name, email address and URL usually means it is spam. If your name is Mary why wouldn’t your email address be mary@ or m.smith@? However, if the domain of email and URL disagree, I refuse to click on the link or accept the comment. So to get comments accepted, be honest and transparent.
  4. multiple links will be picked up by spam filters, but even the inclusion of one link in a comment makes me wary unless I know the person commenting. I look carefully at any comment with a link and decide if it looks safe enough to try the link myself – I certainly won’t accept a link without checking its content. Sometimes I will accept the comment but disable the link first, and I don’t think I’ve ever added a link in a comment I’ve left elsewhere unless they have the ‘latest blog post’ facility provided.
  5. really poor English is often a give away, too – and the ones that are obviously nonsense made up of part sentences should need no explanation. Poor writing of course is not 100% proof of spam so I do read these comments to assess if they are genuine or not. My tip is to make your comments read well to avoid being thought spam and to give your comment more credibility and weight.
Do you have any other tips for spotting spam comments for what they are?

Avoiding writer’s block…

Blocked door in a wallHave you had that sinking feeling of not being able to write when you need to?  Time seems to tick by so slowly… but yet the deadline approaches so quickly.

A few weeks ago I gave some ideas on overcoming writer’s block but the ideal is obviously to avoid it rather than deal with it. The following steps can be taken whenever you have the chance to reduce the odds of reaching that situation again. I won’t say you will never face writer’s block again because sometimes it is just too hard to get motivated despite any preparation, but you can reduce the frequency of it!

Here are my ideas for avoiding writer’s block, but I’d love to hear your ideas as well in the comments below…

  1. keep a list of writing ideas so when you have time to write (for a blog, newsletter, articles, etc) you don’t have to waste time thinking of topics as well
  2. if you know you need to write a report, jot down notes as you think of them. For example, every time I write major news items for a particular client, I copy it into a document that will form the basis of their annual report in July. Having those topics already in place makes the annual report much easier to deal with.
  3. set specific times for writing so you know there is a deadline and you don’t have time to sit and worry. Make a separate specific time for editing and rewriting so your writing time is exactly that – writing time.
  4. try making a regular time to write. If you don’t consistently have things you need to write you could still use this time – rewrite web content, write parts of reports you know are coming up, write some standard email/letter responses for customers and so on. Being in the habit of writing at a certain time will make it easier to write when you have to.
  5. know your limitations, and do something about them before crunch time. That could be learning some writing skills (such as reading through my blog once a week), starting bigger projects ahead of time if you can’t write for hours at a time, or researching a writer/editor to help you.
  6. look after yourself leading up to your writing project – get a good night’s sleep, drink plenty of water, grab some fresh air and exercise, and so on. Being run down and uncomfortable within yourself won’t help you write efficiently or effectively

What else have you done to avoid being unable to write when it’s important?

Keep your emails out of junk folders…

note: we're sick of spamLast week, I wrote about reducing the amount of spam you receive in your inbox. The other side of the issue is having your legitimate emails being caught by a spam filter and not reaching the recipient.

isp providers and email programs both use rules to sort out real emails from spam – that’s how some emails never reach you and others go into your junk folder instead of your inbox. That’s great for keeping your inbox clear, but not so good when your emails aren’t arriving…

I spoke this morning at a seminar for the Yarra Ranges council and mentioned how certain words can get your email classed as spam even if you use those words in an innocent way. Many mass email tools can review your emails and tell you which words may cause a problem, which is handy. Alternatively, you can find lists of such words online (some examples are here  and here.)

For words that are in the spam rules, you have a few choices:

  • use the word where necessary  as some words are just too hard to avoid – for example if you sell fishing rods it is very hard to avoid writing ‘fishing’ (yes, fishing is a word to avoid!) If you only use one or two words and otherwise pass the spam tests, your email has a fair chance of getting through
  • find an alternative word to use. For example, use ‘go to’ instead of ‘visit’ or ‘click here’
  • write the sentence differently – to stay with our fishing example, we could write ‘we went to catch some fish’ to replace ‘we went fishing’
  • break the word with symbol (this is why you see ‘V.isit us for a f.ree valu.ation’ and the like.) This divides trigger words into two part words which spam filters don’t worry about, although some are also being added to rules. I hate the look of doing this but am coming to accept the necessity of it unfortunately.

Avoiding the use of such trigger words can help you get past spam filters, but these are not the only rules to be aware of. Spam assassin provides some tips for keeping your emails out of spam folders, as does Bob Thomson.