Outlook 2013 Junk Email Filter

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Back in July, Justine blogged about Outlook 2013 and her insights on this newest version of Outlook. Her perceptions were that because Outlook 2013 uses Microsoft Word as its rendering engine, HTML and CSS support has essentially remained unchanged between versions 2007, 2010, and 2013. In addition, here are some other elements that she remarked on:

  • Unimpressive User Interface – stark & white and doesn’t put much emphasis or hierarchy on individual elements.
  • Emails with mostly text and a predominantly white background may fight to be distinguished against this new User Interface.
  • Images are disabled by default.
  • The deeper preview pane (about 320px) makes the from name, subject line, and preview text that much more important.

However, none of those design elements matter if your subscribers never see your emails because they — GASP — get sent to the infamous Junk Email folder.

How does Outlook 2013’s Junk Email Filter work?

There are five different user-controlled lists that can determine whether your email will hit the junk folder or not:

  • Safe Senders List – Email addresses and domain names in this list are never treated as junk. All names and addresses in the global address list (GAL) in a Microsoft Exchange Server account are automatically considered safe.
  • Safe Recipients List – Users can add the mailing lists and distribution lists that they are part of to this list so that they will never be marked as spam.
  • Blocked Senders List – Once users add an email address or domain to this list, messages from that source are automatically sent to the Junk Email folder.
  • Blocked Top-Level Domains List – To block messages from another country or region, users can add country/region codes to this list.
  • Blocked Encodings List – To block messages that contain another character set or alphabet, users can add encodings to this list.

By default, the Junk Email Filter is turned onto the “No Automatic Filtering” level. However, users have the ability to easily change the level of protection and make it more or less aggressive. Here are the options given:

  • No Automatic Filtering – Turns off the automatic Junk Email Filter, but messages are evaluated using the domain names and email addresses in users’ Blocked Senders Lists.
  • Low – Filters only messages that are most obviously junk.
  • High – Filters all messages suspected as junk.
  • Safe Lists Only – Any message that is sent from someone not on your Safe Senders List or to a mailing list on your Safe Recipients List is automatically classified as junk.
  • Delete All – Users also have the option to delete all suspected junk messages instead of having them moved to the Junk Email folder.

In addition, if users have an Exchange account, they have two other junk-fighting tools:

  • Cached Exchange Mode or download to an Outlook Data File (.pst) – If you use either of these, your Junk Email Filters Lists are available from any computer and used by the server to evaluate messages.
  • Working Offline – If you work offline, your Junk Email Filters Lists will still be saved on your server and are available from any computer if you have the Junk Email feature enabled in Outlook Web Access or Outlook Web App.

How to Update Junk Email Filter Settings

Users can update their Junk Email Filters by clicking on the “Junk” dropdown.

Junk Email Drop Down

If an email is selected when the user clicks on the “Junk” dropdown, they will have the options to “Block Sender,” “Never Block Sender,” “Never Block Sender’s Domain (@example.com),” and “Never Block this Group or Mailing List” for that particular email. In addition, users can click on “Junk Email Options” to edit their settings. Once this option is clicked, the following box will appear:

Junk Email Options

Within this box is where users have the option to change the level of protection to make it more or less aggressive. At the top of the box, there are four additional tabs besides “Options” – “Safe Senders,” “Safe Recipients,” “Blocked Recipients,” and “International.” When users click on the “Safe Senders,” “Safe Recipients,” or “Blocked Recipients” tabs they are brought to a tab that looks like this:

Safe Senders List

In these three tabs, users have the ability to add email addresses & domain names to the Safe Sender, Safe Recipients, or Blocked Senders lists. In the fifth tab in the box, “International,” users have the ability to add country/region codes to the “Blocked Top-Level Domains List” and add encodings to the Blocked Encodings List.”

International Junk Filter

What’s an Email Marketer To Do?

Like numerous other email clients, images are turned off by default in Outlook 2013. Outlook 2013 users have the ability to configure automatic picture download; in addition, any emails received from “trusted” sources, such as those on a Safe Senders List, Safe Recipients List or contacts in the user’s address book, will have their images automatically downloaded.

Frequently, email marketers will ask subscribers to add the sender’s email address to their address book/safe senders list to ensure delivery and automatic picture download. This request is usually in either the email itself or during the subscription process to receive emails. In addition, they can *hope* that their subscribers have changed their default settings and have enabled automatic picture download. However, according to this study by Jared Spool, less than 5% of users had changed their default settings, even when prompted.

So what’s an email marketer to do? They must expect the worst and test their emails with default settings on — since people rarely change their settings. This means that with Outlook 2013 they must ensure that their emails are optimized for images off. Tactics for designing for images-off optimization include styling ALT text and avoiding solely image-based designs.

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