How Spam Complaints Hurt Your Emailing Efforts


As an avid email user you may feel frustrated when your inbox gets overwhelmed with too many massages. Although at one point it’s likely you opted in to the newsletters, but you just get tired of seeing them and decide to click ‘report as spam’ to help clear up your inbox. However what really happens is that you are damaging the email sender’s reputation.

When you hit the ‘report as spam’ button on an email message this information gets packaged up and sent back to the email service provider that originally sent the message. The recipient’s inbox also immediately adds the email message to a filter forcing any incoming emails from that sender to go into a junk/spam folder. The ESP that hosts the recipient’s inbox also logs how many times their users are marking messages from the same sender as spam.

If multiple email messages have been marked as spam from a particular sender then the ESP that hosts the recipient’s inbox may choose to create a global rule which automatically sends all email messages from that sender into the spam/junk folder. This can be very damaging because genuine interested users of your mailing list will not get your email communications.

An email service provider generally decides to apply the global rule when the senders IP reputation is low. This is based on a calculation of how many emails were delivered and how many of them generated spam complaints. Once this is analyzed this is how the complaint rate amount is determined. Your goal should be less than 0.01% on your spam rate which means you need to have less than 1 spam complaint per 1,000 emails.

Once an email has been reported as spam the email service provider also logs the IP address of the sender, the domain name of the sender, and URLs placed inside of the email. That means that even if the URLs are pointing to the same domain from a completely different sender they can choose to block that sender also for associating to those URLs.

Not only can ESPs use the sender score to decide if they are going to push your message into the spam folder, but they may also choose to ban your email messages all together. This means that your email messages will not get delivered to the inbox or to the spam folder, they will be outright rejected. As a sender if this happens to you there is really no good way to ‘undo’ it. You may have to scrap your current marketing plan and start from scratch.

If you are planning to do email marketing at a high volume it is important for you to setup a Feedback Loop (FBL). This is a way that you can immediately identify which recipient marked your email communication as spam and you can then unsubscribe them from your list. This way less of your emails sent hit the bulk folder by default, and overall improves your sender’s reputation.

So what are some of the best ways that you can avoid spam complaints? Well you start by following some of the best practices by emailing to only opted in users. It’s also best to use a double opt in method to ensure the user is okay with getting messages from your site. You also want to be clear and put your company name as the sender, recipients often mark messages as spam if they don’t recognize the sender. Make sure in your email that you send you have an easy to find unsubscribe link, if you want to keep users in your email list prompt them to update their email settings to receive newsletters less frequently. Another best practice is to identify which recipients on your list have not opened your messages in several weeks, and send them an email asking if they are still interested. If no response, send another reminder mail and if again no response remove them from your list because dormant recipients also lower your senders score.

If you are looking to reduce your risk of getting spam complaints further you should check out XVerify to help you clean up your email list. They help you identify which email addresses are active or inactive but they also provide a very large suppression list of high frequency complainers. This way you can choose to eliminate them from your mailings before you run the risk of getting the spam button clicked.

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