Microsoft Office 365 Throws Email Marketers A Curve Ball

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Email Marketing

Marketers doing email campaigns are struggling with a serious issue: Communications with Outlook users have become problematic, often going straight to the junk folder or being quarantined.

  • If you use Outlook yourself, you’ve probably noticed your marketing emails are being classified as spam.
  • If you don’t use Outlook yourself but email to small and mid-sized businesses and you’ve noticed some strange patterns in your email campaign results lately, that may well be due to a Microsoft issue.

Microsoft Outlook is the second most popular email client, with 17% of the market. That’s almost one out of every five potential email recipients … potentially a big chunk of your email subscribers.

Background: Microsoft Office 365 is a cloud-based platform which allows users to access their Microsoft Office Software (including Outlook) on any device: PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet. The biggest users of Microsoft Office 365 are small to mid-sized companies. Microsoft launched the platform in 2010 and has made ongoing major changes to benefit users. Most notably (for email marketers, anyway), back in February 2013 a new version of Office 365 was released. Since then marketers have noticeably seen more email campaign messages hitting junk folders and quarantines.

The culprit is Microsoft’s use of its Spam Confidence Level (SCL) email header. This particular header is used to score emails as they come into each system. It evaluates an email message’s spam threat level by filtering and subsequently provides a score of 1-9. A score of 1 indicates low spam threat while a number 9 represents high risk. Anecdotal evidence suggests inaccurate readings; one Act-On staffer reported messages from her CPA and other professionals going into the junk folder.

If you’re a marketer whose company uses a Microsoft Exchange server, here’s one possible solution:

Log into your Exchange Admin Center and create a new rule. (For those of you who came from the previous version of Office 365, this is an equivalent of Exchange Control Panel.) This rule will create an exception for the Spam Confidence Level (SCL) problem that has made whitelisting ineffective.

For the administration interface:

  • Log into
  • From the Admin menu click on Exchange
  • On the left, click on Mail Flow, then click on Rules
  • Next click on the + (plus) then Create New Rule….
  • Enter a name for the new rule
  • Click on More Options… this will add functionality to the rule you’re going to create
  • In the Apply This Rule If… select The Sender is and then Address Includes Any of These Words
  • In the dialog box that appears enter  (Could add all and then click on the + [plus], then click OK
  • Next click Add Condition
  • In the new box that appears select The Recipient Is and then Address  Includes Any of These Words
  • In the dialog box that appears enter your email address/domain and click on the + (plus) then click OK
  • In  Do the Following… select Modify the Message Properties
  • Select Set the Spam Confidence Level (SCL), then select Bypass Spam Filtering
  • Click Save

Note: The link to EAC is not exposed by default in the new SMB management console; however, you still have access.  Here’s how:

First, make sure you’re using the account that has admin rights, then:

  • Log into Outlook Web App
  • Modify the URL in your browser to say “/ecp” instead of “/owa”; the format of the URL will be similar to “https://<PodNumber>

screen shot Exchange




  • Press ENTER
  • The Exchange admin center (EAC) will then open…

Screen short Exchange





…and  you can proceed. Good luck!