What's the deal with "f.ree"

31 replies
Every once in a while I get an email from internet marketers who for some reason can't spell out certain words.

It's not a typo - apparently, because they are consistent with the spelling throughout the document.

Why say f.ree, and not free?
#deal #free
  • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
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  • Profile picture of the author dlucca
    Every time I receive an email like this, I unsubscribe to the list that sent it...
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  • Profile picture of the author B3n
    Originally Posted by MostlyHarmless View Post

    Why say f.ree, and not free?
    Because the sender is an idiot.
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  • Profile picture of the author SuiteJ
    Yeah, it's lame. What's even more lame is bumping down the unsubscribe link with dashes forcing it "out of sight", so that subscribers don't see it/think about it. What's that say about the confidence you have in your content? lol

    I used f.ree a couple times after advice from schmurus early on, but it felt so stupid. Now, if I want to press a certain aspect of a deal, or whatever, I'll use words like complimentary, gift, etc. I guess that doesn't have the same power as "free", but I also don't look like a tool putting a period inside the word. lol
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    • Profile picture of the author Melani
      Originally Posted by SuiteJ View Post

      Yeah, it's lame. What's even more lame is bumping down the unsubscribe link with dashes forcing it "out of sight", so that subscribers don't see it/think about it. What's that say about the confidence you have in your content? lol
      Oh I have two marketers that do that! I counted how many dashes there are once and had 863!!!
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  • Profile picture of the author joetheseo
    Yes this is becoming more and more popular. Also more and more annoying.
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  • Profile picture of the author jaybaker
    I agree with everyone here. That is so lame. When I see something like that it automatically goes in the trash.
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  • Profile picture of the author Hyphen
    It's just a measure people take to avoid spam filters, you'll notice methods like "VlAGRA" as well.
    Any decent spam filter should be able to strip special characters though...
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    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      It's just a measure people take to avoid spam filters
      Yep. And they're outsmarting themselves. Current filtering doesn't trigger on those words much. It weighs much more heavily on the punctuated versions.

      So, they're adding to the likelihood that their mail will get filtered, while simultaneously making people think they have something to hide. (Or just can't spell, or are trying to get attention with artificial gimmicks, or whatever other conclusions they might draw.)


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      • Profile picture of the author Tyson Faulkner
        Originally Posted by Paul Myers View Post

        Yep. And they're outsmarting themselves. Current filtering doesn't trigger on those words much. It weighs much more heavily on the punctuated versions.
        I laugh a little bit when I see words like f.ree in email. I don't freak out over it and unsubscribe immediately or anything, but it's kinda funny. Like the big mail servers haven't caught on to the fact that this is going on. Ha...

        I think I first read about doing that in an email marketing ebook from 2002 or something. Back when you could put a dash or a period in a word and 'trick' the spam filters into thinking you had something good to say.

        Just like you can't keyword stuff to trick Google anymore, doing silly things like this won't help your deliverability, and like Paul said, it's likely to make it worse.

        Writing like a normal person and using a good email system is a better idea than making yourself look like you're trying to hide something.

        I mean really, if your friend emails you and says, "Hey, are you free this weekend to help me out and earn some cash?" do you think that will get filtered into the spam folder because it has "spam words?" There's much more to email filtering than simple word search.
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  • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
    "at no cost" <---

    i am always amazed getting those "recommended" swipes for emails from the vendors, almost NONE of them would pass spam filters.

    NEVER use works like free, cash, etc.. in your email.

    Biggest mistake: Your email or name even contains terms like "marketing". Best way to end up in the spam folder right away.
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    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      "at no cost" <---

      i am always amazed getting those "recommended" swipes for emails from the vendors, almost NONE of them would pass spam filters.

      NEVER use works like free, cash, etc.. in your email.

      Biggest mistake: Your email or name even contains terms like "marketing". Best way to end up in the spam folder right away.
      Folks, this is bad advice. Don't take it.

      Before anyone decides to jump me about this, consider: I send out newsletter issues that are packed with terms like this, sometimes 12 and 16 pages of plain text on the subject of marketing. Other than hitting Outlook's filters occasionally, I rarely hear about things getting filtered. When it happens, it's not because of the words used.

      There are a few phrases that normal businesses might use that will get you hit, but not single words. "Free membership" and "no questions asked" are the most common I see. The latter because it's usually only used in an ad, and the former because it's so common in porn spam.


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      • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
        Originally Posted by Paul Myers View Post

        Folks, this is bad advice. Don't take it.

        Before anyone decides to jump me about this, consider: I send out newsletter issues that are packed with terms like this, sometimes 12 and 16 pages of plain text on the subject of marketing. Other than hitting Outlook's filters occasionally, I rarely hear about things getting filtered. When it happens, it's not because of the words used.

        There are a few phrases that normal businesses might use that will get you hit, but not single words. "Free membership" and "no questions asked" are the most common I see. The latter because it's usually only used in an ad, and the former because it's so common in porn spam.


        Paul

        I can only go with the software i have here, that is

        a) Interspire email marketer, which has an option to "check for spam keywords"

        b) thunderbird is my email client. I dont even have an extra anti-spam/AV tool running.

        I see whats being inboxed and whats going right into trash. Not long ago i bought some direct mailing, and the owner of the list sent out the emails with his email address something like list@xyzmarketing.com

        it IMMEDIATELY landed in my spam folder. I told the guy about this and he changed his name to something more generic...and low and behold those emails arrived.

        So...i am by no means a email marketing pro, but i understand its all about open rate and do anything possible to make sure the recipients actually get the mails in the first place. "Free" i didn't use since interspire complained it being a spam keyword.

        And you see, others might have a reason to use "f.ree" because they know it would otherwise trigger a spam altert somewhere.
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        • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
          Thunderbird uses a Bayesian filter. You have to train it. That sounds amazingly aggressive for a default setting.

          Is it possible the problem wasn't with the word marketing, but rather the domain being in a URIBL? Or have you trained it and possibly created that weighting?

          As far as Interspire... They need to update their filter checker if they said 'free' was going to hurt you.


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          • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
            I just sent myself an email with the word Free as the subject line, and no content but the same word repeated three times in the body.

            SpamAssassin 3.2.5 (an admittedly old version, from 2008) scored it -1.25. No points for the word. Note that it takes a positive score (user set - usually 5-7) to get tagged as spam.

            Edit: Just sent the same email, but with the word spelled f.ree. Score: -0.8. So, even the 2-year old version of SA that I'm using knows to score misspellings of the word higher than the normal spelling (which it basically ignores).


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            • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
              There's much more to email filtering than simple word search.
              Way complex. Content filtering is usually the last step in the process, and the least useful. IP reputation is much more effective and reliable.

              The Spamhaus SBL/XBL combo gets rid of better than 90% of my spam, with zero (or very near it) false positives. The Bayesian filter in my emailer handles most of the rest, although not nearly as accurately. Some stuff still ends up in my spam folder, but I normally catch it.


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  • Profile picture of the author Dave Owen
    Plenty of legit marketers with legit products do this to avoid over-zealous spam filters.

    Just because they write "f.ree" does not mean that they are peddling bad products.
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    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      Dave,
      Just because they write "f.ree" does not mean that they are peddling bad products.
      True. It only means that they don't understand the current process of spam filtering. The only product I'd judge based on that is stuff that professes to keep you out of the junk folder.

      It does look bad, though. People wonder when they see things that don't fit, and they'll invent explanations if they can't readily find them. Such "explanations" are rarely positive.


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  • Profile picture of the author liite
    I always thought it was because some end up not being free so by spelling it f.ree it technically doesn't count.

    Looks like i was wrong.......
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  • Profile picture of the author MisterMunch
    I also thing we have to asume that the largest email services have cracked this code by now.

    They spend their entire day working with email stuff, and still have not noticed the f.ree trick?
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  • Profile picture of the author Daredevilpwn
    In my opinion I think it's a poor attempt by some marketers to sell you there products. I'm not saying all of them are bad some of them are actually pretty decent
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    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      In my opinion I think it's a poor attempt by some marketers to sell you there products. I'm not saying all of them are bad some of them are actually pretty decent
      How benevolent of you to acknowledge that we're not all scum. But what has the spelling of the word free got to do with it?


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      • Profile picture of the author mlevenhagen
        It's always amazing to me what people freak out about.. unsubscribing because someone uses a dot within a word; that's one I hadn't heard of. The entire message is gold, dynamite, life changing .. accept for that darn dot. I can't look past that.. no, a dot?? I'm out of here. :p
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        • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
          Matt,

          They're doing themselves and us a favor when they do that. Themselves, because they wouldn't do anything with the info anyway, so they recover the time. Us, by not wasting our time and bandwidth sending mail to people who would most likely tag it as spam, out of simple ignorance.


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          • Profile picture of the author oneplusone
            I usually write no charge instead of free.

            No charge implies I could have charged for the information, but I didn't.

            So the information is valuable in the prospects mind rather than just another freebie.
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          • Profile picture of the author Bill Farnham
            Holy cow, I had no idea using a dot on the internet was such a no-no.

            I have been using dots for years on every one of my websites.

            Right before the 'com'.

            I guess I'll have to stop that practice...:p

            ~Bill
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